The Giants won 92 games in 2010. Assuming their starting rotation and bullpen stay healthy and productive, is it conceivable to have a 100-win season in 2011?
-- Derrick F., Livermore, Calif.
Reaching triple digits is possible but highly unlikely for the Giants. To win 100 games or more, they'd have to dominate the National League West, which is difficult to envision. Colorado will be formidable and the Dodgers have a knack of recovering from disappointments such as last year's.
Not only will the Giants face the inevitable challenge of trying to repeat as division champions, but they also must hope that they can avoid injuries, as they did last year. Though Mark DeRosa missed most of the season and Edgar Renteria went on the disabled list three times, the Giants, particularly the pitching staff, benefited from good health overall.
"We dodged some bullets," general manager Brian Sabean said. "Most seasons, you have somebody go by the wayside injury-wise and you have somebody under-perform."
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Fifth starter Todd Wellemeyer was that "wayside" guy, but Madison Bumgarner replaced him more than ably. Can Jeff Suppan or Elmer Dessens or Josh Banks provide similar support if they're summoned?
Interestingly, when the Giants last captured the NL pennant in 2002, they followed that up with a 100-win season. Then they didn't advance past the NL Division Series.
What do you think of Barry Zito's future with the Giants? He has three years left on his contract and he'll be making more than $18 million each season. I know he's not really a big trade option right now and it would be hard to get good value for him. And that's assuming he wouldn't use his veto power. Is there a way to buy out his contract? The Giants just can't continue bleeding $18 million-plus per year on a sub-200-innings, sub-.500, 4.00-plus-ERA pitcher when there are much better options. For his money, they could pick up three or four guys that contribute so much more.
-- Jason G., Clayton, Calif.
Zito's immediate future is indeed with the Giants. They'll need the depth he provides, however expensive it is, to safeguard them in case another starting pitcher is injured. As far as I can tell, the Giants can't buy out his contract until 2014, when they can decline an $18 million option for $7 million. By the way, the Giants will owe Zito the full $18 million in 2014 if he works 200 innings in 2013, 400 innings in 2012-13 or 600 innings from 2011-13.
It's a paradoxical situation. Assuming, as you said, that Zito would waive his no-trade clause, he'd have limited value unless his performance improved significantly. Yet, if that happened, the Giants might prefer to keep him. Either way, they must pray that Zito can recapture his past glory.
What are the chances that DeRosa will play left field? You can give Brandon Belt more time in the Minor Leagues, and Aubrey Huff looks like a much better first baseman than a left fielder.
-- Andy F., Martinez, Calif.
A scenario in which Belt opens the season in Triple-A appears likely, given Sabean's remarks to that effect last week. But that doesn't assure DeRosa of winning the left-field job. Pat Burrell will compete for that spot, possibly along with Aaron Rowand and Nate Schierholtz.
What's the skinny on Conor Gillaspie's development and possible future with the Giants?
-- Charlile R., Diamond Springs, Calif.
Though Gillaspie isn't rated a can't-miss prospect like Belt, he has commanded the Giants' attention. He has improved steadily, albeit not dramatically, during his relatively brief Minor League career. While Belt and Charlie Culberson drew most of the rave reviews in the Arizona Fall League last year, Gillaspie quietly recorded a .947 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) in 20 games with Scottsdale.
Now's the time for Gillaspie to make a more definite impression, because next offseason is likely to be a time of transition for the Giants. The contracts of Pat Burrell, DeRosa, Freddy Sanchez and Miguel Tejada will expire, and Mike Fontenot, Travis Ishikawa, Cody Ross, Pablo Sandoval, Nate Schierholtz and Andres Torres will be eligible for salary arbitration. Logic dictates that a significant number of these players won't return to the Giants in 2012, assuming they even finish this season with the club. Gillaspie could join the wave of players swept onto the 25-man roster.
Is the Giants' front office taking a look at the possibility of trading for Michael Young of the Rangers? He would be a marked improvement in production at third base over last year and the guy can flat-out hit. I'd hate to see a great hitter like that playing for a division rival like the Rockies or Dodgers.
-- Kevin H., Sunnyvale, Calif.
Finances are a convenient excuse, but they're also an essential factor. Young is owed $48 million through 2013. Even if Texas assumed a substantial portion of Young's contract, the team acquiring him still would have to accept a burdensome payroll obligation. The Giants simply can't afford him. Moreover, Young's OPS dipped dangerously last year to .774 from .892 in 2009, and his performance away from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was decidedly mediocre. Home: .307 batting average, 16 home runs, 55 RBIs, .361 on-base percentage and a .509 slugging percentage. Road: .260, 5, 36, .299, .380. Young supposedly would consider accepting trades to teams other than those on his list of eight (Rockies, Astros, Angels, Dodgers, Twins, Yankees, Cardinals and Padres). If the aforementioned statistics mean anything, he's in no position to be picky.
Why do baseball players spit so much?
-- Jeff B., Saratoga, Calif.
If you had paid attention in biology class, you'd know that humans with highly developed fast-twitch muscles, such as ballplayers, also have hyperactive salivary glands. And if you believe that one ... Here's a serious attempt at answering your question. They spit frequently (a) because they can (there's grass everywhere, after all), and (b) because most of these guys perpetually have something in their mouths, whether it's sunflower seeds, smokeless tobacco or gum. That tends to prompt expectoration. Cool?
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.