There are different categories of disappointment for teams looking back at 2011:
The Slow Burn of Suck
The Houston Astros were supposed to be bad, and they were! Right away. Don't collect $200, unless you're giving it to Carlos Lee. Here's where the Orioles and Cubs are too.
A Taste of Success Before the Pain
The Pirates were supposed to be bad, but they were good! Then they were bad. Really bad. So bad, it completely canceled out the good. The Indians would fit in this category, though on a much lesser scale.
Giants are in here. Probably the Dodgers and A's, too.
Scary-crazy injuries that make a team think they'll be screwed for the next decade
The Minnesota Twins kind of have their own category. Justin Morneau has freaky concussion problems that won't go away. He's owed $28 milllion over the next two seasons. Joe Mauer had bizarre leg-weakness issues, and he hit like vintage Luis Castillo without the speed in the half-season he did play. He's owed ... let's see ... carry the five ... $600 billion dollars until 3038. There are first-to-worst seasons, but it's hard to compete with the scorched earth of the Twins.
So there are several teams that had it as bad or worse than the Giants this year, and they couldn't wrap themselves in the Cloak of October Nostalgia like we could. The Twins might have the best argument for the worst of the lot, but don't count out the Rockies. Their season was absolute crap relative to preseason expectations. Consider what was to be one of the team's strengths heading into the season, the rotation:
Jorge De La Rosa
They were young and cost-controlled, for the most part. And then ...
Not so good, with worsening K/BB numbers
That's exactly 20% of the rotation doing as well as Rockies fans had hoped, with the other 80% residing in a land of surprising and/or discouraging news. There was good news for them, though! The Rockies had a pitching prospect who came up and did really well! Then he broke his freaking neck when he was hit with a line drive. It's appropriate to whine about Buster Posey whenever possible, but it was the Rockies who had to watch the most horrific injury on a baseball field this year.
All told, though, the Rockies haven't been that bad of a pitching team -- they do have a team ERA+ of 101 -- but the expectations were higher. I'm sure Rockies fans are pretty excited to watch Alex White and Drew Pomeranz, but Ubaldo was sort of their Matt Cain. It has to be hard for them to accept a team that's sans Ubaldo.
The Rockies have a team OPS+ of 90. The Giants' team OPS+ is 89. So on a park-adjusted level, the Rockies have been about as bad as the Giants. And the two cornerstones of the offense, who will be around for another ten years or so, fought through various nagging injuries all season. That's hardly encouraging for a couple of 25-year-olds to start showing signs of nomarification this year.
The point of this all isn't to make you feel sorry for the Rockies, or to have you point and laugh -- just a reminder that seasons don't always follow the narratives that we write in March. In just six months, the identity and short-term future of the Rockies is totally different from what it was. It's been a weird season.
Actually, the point of this should probably be to find some common ground with Rockies fans. Stupid Diamondbacks. We can all agree on that, right?
Hitter to watch
Well, not the usual guys. From Troy Renck
CarGo not going to play in series. Tulo available only in emergency
No word on Bonko, Starcho, and Floppo, but Cargo and Tulo being out is good news for the Giants' run at ... a lower draft pick or some crap.
Pitcher to watch
Alex White/Drew Pomeranz are just rookies. What, you think they're going to just waltz into AT&T Park and shut down the Giants' offense? Ha. Yeah, right. I'd like to see them try. Well, as long as there isn't a good cooking show on at the same time. Or maybe some "Fresh Prince" reruns. Or, actually, I could probably just read a book. But in theory, I'd like to see them try.
The Giants and Rockies will play three baseball games. Panda hats will be purchased, and pitchers will use rosin bags at their discretion. It'll be a blast.