By Michelle Dingley
I could write about the Cardinals’ astounding run and amazing World Series win. I could write about how the Rangers got oh-so-close for the second year in a row, just to disappoint Nolan Ryan, Ron Washington, and, of course, their fans. I could write about Tony La Russa’s surprise retirement, leaving on top after earning three championship rings.
I could write about the Gold Gloves or the Silver Sluggers.
But there is Giants news to report, so that’s what I’m going to do.
The Giants will be bringing back their lefty relievers, Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt. Lopez signed a two-year contract worth $8.5 million. Javy has a 7-2 record with a 2.38 ERA since joining the Giants in 2010 (5-2, 2.72 ERA in 2011). We acquired him to shore up the bullpen on our way to our World Championship. Lopez is lights-out against lefties, who hit only .163 against him in 2011. Not only a left-handed specialist, righties averaged .276 against the southpaw. Javy has never allowed a home run while in a Giants uniform. Bochy considered bringing him along to Phoenix for the All-Star Game, but middle relievers rarely make the team.
Jeremy Affeldt will also return to the city by the bay in 2012, as the club picked up his $5 million option. After a shaky 2010, his 2011 numbers surpass even Lopez. Lefties managed .144 against Affeldt; righties batted .248. Jeremy ended his season with a 2.63 ERA, well below 2010’s 4.14. Affeldt’s season ended abruptly on September 8 due to a freak injury. He cut his (non-pitching) hand while separating frozen hamburger patties, requiring surgery. Giants fans know Affeldt as a kind soul. He was the Giants’ nomination for the Roberto Clemente Award. From his speech at the Giants-Dodgers game after the attack on Bryan Stow, to his relationship with his young son as documented on The Franchise, to his work with non-profits preventing human trafficking, Affeldt is among the nicest guys in baseball.
Many thought that the Giants would bring back either Lopez or Affeldt, but not both. It is a definite boon to the bullpen to retain the pair. The team has many more decisions to make this offseason. Besides Jeremy and Javy, six Giants will become free agents, and 13 are eligible for arbitration. A few players – such as Lincecum and Sandoval – are virtually guaranteed to return, some are unlikely to return, and many are question marks. Despite the monetary windfall from the championship and 2011’s record-setting attendance, the Giants are unlikely to raise their yearly payroll to Yankee levels. They will not be signing a huge free agent like Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. They will probably continue gathering castoffs and misfits and forming them into a (hopefully) winning team. As long as we can keep our pitching staff largely intact, we will be able to compete, and we will have a chance to make it to the top again. Retaining our lefty relievers, Affeldt and Lopez, is a good start.