There is no doubt that a National Football League fantasy season is fun. Major League Baseball's storied infatuation with statistics and the length of its season just happen to make the diamond's make-believe game infinitely better.
I mention this because I'm of the camp that believes our resultant addiction to fantasy baseball skews some current observations of the game.
One example appears to be the growing import of Spring Training numbers.
The process of the exhibition is obviously crucial, but the process often involves focusing on what is not working. Starters don't necessarily attack the zone to get a guy out, relievers aren't anchored in their accustomed roles, and hitters don't always swing to situations.
Furthermore, the scorecards are littered with names who will not—as in never—see the daylight of the Big League regular season. In other words, not all March numbers are created equally.
It's great to use them as relevant-not-probative pieces of evidence to justify the revelation that is los Gigantes' Darren Ford as a posssible gem in the fantasy waiver-wire rough.
But to bank on the unheralded (for San Francisco's stocked farm system) 24-year-old shredding the real deal at his current clip is unrealistic. Despite the popularity of touting off-the-radar names in fantasy circles, it's incredibly rare for such insightful recommendations to pan out for even a month, so forget about a whole campaign.
Thus, I'm not doing cartwheels because the San Francisco Giants' 16-6 record leads the Show's preseason in both number of wins and winning percentage (.727). It's much rosier than the alternative, but the fact that the Giants' offense has been the engine powering the Spring surge hasn't convinced me it's out of the woods quite yet.
Nor am I in a state of panic because 20-year-"old" phenom Madison Bumgarner's sub-par showing, especially on the radar gun, earned him a trip down to Triple-A ball.
The quotes in the previous sentence are really the only explanation anyone should need for the muted reaction to MadBum's so-called demotion. Additionally, fans of the Orange and Black must love the kid's grounded reaction to the news as reported by another in the growing list of stand-out Bay Area sports media figures, Andrew Baggarly:
“I’m only 20. I’m ahead of the curve. That’s what I talked to my family about, and Rags [pitching coach Dave Righetti] and Boch [manager Bruce Bochy]. It’s a good thing.”
What's there to worry about when Bumgarner demonstrates that sort of enlightenment at such a tender age?
As for the fuss over his failure to replicate the velocity of a year ago, I'm swallowing the mechanical culprit hook, line, and sinker. Again, this man-child was born in 1989—he's most assuredly destined for stretches where everything gets funky on him. Shoot, a couple heavy lifting days might knock him all kinds of sideways.
Judging from his mentality, the youngster will be just fine.
Likewise, my optimism that the offense shares the same fate is swelling (which is not the same thing as being "convinced").
The aforementioned Ford—raking with a .476 average in 21 at-bats, 10 runs scored, six runs batted in, four stolen bases (his forte), two doubles, and a triple—is not the only hot lumber. Aaron Rowand, Aubrey Huff, Buster Posey, Matt Downs, and Bengie Molina are all torching the ball with equally blinding numbers.
Despite the cynical opening, even I have to acknowledge having so many guys so locked in bodes well even if it is merely Spring Training. All the more so when Pablo Sandoval doesn't pop up on the list—you know Little Money will loom large in the batter's box eventually.
Of course, the squad isn't free of red flags.
Mark DeRosa, Edgar Renteria, Nate Schierholtz, and Juan Uribe haven't found their ideal grooves to date. Freddy Sanchez won't be back for Opening Day...or the opening month, possibly.
Oh, and the starting rotation—which stumbled mightily out of the gates in 2009—has been unsteady.
Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez are either (A) scuffling, or (B) trying to smooth out the jagged edges. Barry Zito hasn't exactly been lights out and Matt Cain has been uneven, though he threw well in the Giants' latest victory.
Nevertheless, there's much more to like about the developing 2010 San Francisco season.
The rotation was the toast of baseball in 2009 so even if it regresses a bit in the new year, it should be fine. A stance fortified by the duel between Kevin Pucetas and Todd Wellemeyer for the fifth spot in the rotation—the veteran Wellemeyer has a slight edge in what has been a good battle.
If either right-hander can establish himself as a threat from the No. 5 spot on the bump, that should compensate for any ground given back by the Franchise, the Kid, Zito, and/or Sanchez.
The offense surely won't be this good, but the exhibition performance can't be a total mirage, either.
If the bats can simply retain a fraction of this potency, we should see a substantial improvement in run production, which is bad news for the rest of the National League West.
And music to the Bay Area's ears.
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