The Chronicle’s Five Giants Preseason Questions, Answered lord, is this the longest baseball season ever or what?

The preseason seems like a promise-filled, somewhat hopeful lifetime ago. March was a far cry from the doldrums of the tear-stained September we are experiencing now.

Remember when Brian Sabean compared this 2007 squad to the 1997 team? Sure, both versions had lots of turnover with established veterans coming in. Because we are masochists ’round these parts, let’s revisit the five biggest questions about the 2007 Giants, posed by the Chronicle back in the halcyon days of March. Oh, how full of hope the city was!

1. Does Barry Bonds still have it? The Giants invested up to $20 million for one more year of his potent bat, and they will need it if they hope to win.

Um, hope to win what?

Bonds was (and is) the Giants’ best hitter, by far. He’s played in just as many games as Ray Durham and Bengie Molina. He’s hit a more-than-respectable 28 home runs at the age of 43, which in this steroid-less era is good for the top 10 in the league. He hasn’t be incarcerated and has successfully avoided any new performance-enhancing drug scandals. His average (.278) is lower than expected, but his OBP and OPS are among the league-leaders. Perhaps Surely that $20 million could have been better spent, but Bonds–for all his faults–did his part this year. He wasn’t outstanding, but he was as good as could have been expected.

2. Will Barry Zito be a real difference-maker? The team gave him the richest contract ever for a pitcher on the premise that he is Jason Schmidt and then some.

Obviously, Zito had a terrible year with an even worse first couple months on this side of the Bay. He’s picked it up lately, but it’s pretty obvious that the only differences he made were negative.

The bright(ish) side is this: with the emergences of Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain (and the re-emergence of Noah Lowry) the Giants’ rotation is absolutely stacked. Plus, Zito has shown signs that next year won’t be as bad. The bottom line is this: he was an innings-eater on a bad team. He will end up with 25-plus decisions by the end of the year; put him on a good team and he easily notches 15 wins.

Also, Jason Schmidt was somehow even more of a disappointment for the Dodgers.

Three more questions, post-jump:

3. Will the bullpen be the Giants’ downfall? No Giants team in recent memory went into the season with more questions and worries about its relief corps, starting with who will close.

Despite this…


… the Giants’ bullpen wasn’t /technically/ all that bad. The bullpen’s ERA was a nice 3.82, good for 11th in the league. Of course, the Nationals’ pen was 7th and the Royals were 12th, so take that stat with a grain of salt.

After the Benitez fiasco (which, in many ways, was the turning point to the present hell) Brad Hennessey did a pretty good job as the closer, though it’s not like he was tested in the midst of a pressure-laden pennant race. We would’ve like to see more Jonathan Sanchez.

4. Can you really go home again? Former S.F. stalwarts Russ Ortiz and Rich Aurilia both have critical roles on the 2007 team.

A shame, since both Ortiz and Aurilia are such true Giants from the winning days, but … one could say that no, you cannot go home again. Does “critical roles” also mean that their roles got criticized?

5. Is Ray Durham a cleanup hitter? If he cannot succeed in his new role, even a productive Bonds batting third will have a limited impact.

Either Barry or Bochy nixed this idea right away. Ray Durham had a largely inconsequential season. Molina proved to be the best non-Bonds power hitter in the lineup and Randy Winn was more effective in the three-spot.

Durham played well enough to keep Kevin Frandsen out of the lineup, but not well enough to convince a playoff team to pick him up at the deadline. We like Ray, but Frandsen should have been in there for the majority of the season, just to see what he can do. We’re pretty sure the kid could’ve hit .218, which is where Ray-Ray stands.

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