5 Signs That San Francisco Giants Will Be a Powerhouse in 2012
Despite running the table to win the 2010 World Series and tightly contesting the NL West in the midst of crippling injuries during 2011, the Giants still don't receive the respect they deserve.
Yes, the offense has been very poor in the last few years. But the fact that San Francisco still boasts one of the best rotations and bullpens in the league seems to have been forgotten in the rush to crown Arizona the preseason division champion.
Regardless of how you feel about the magnitude of the Giants' moves this off-season, both the pitching and more importantly the lineup have improved significantly.
A telling statement, and one that will become evidently true as you read on for a look at the signs that point to the 2012 dominance of the San Francisco Giants, for the division and beyond.
The Starting Pitching Will Only Get Better
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Although San Francisco has the best pitching in the West already, the starters will be even better next season. After posting MLB bests in batting average against (.232), home runs allowed (96) and team ERA, along with strikeout numbers that were second in the National League, there is no reason to believe that the Giants starters will not continue to be the best in the business when the 2012 season comes around.
Lincecum and Cain are the attention grabbers in the rotation, but the pitcher to watch next year is Madison Bumgarner.
Bumgarner's 2011 record and ERA aren't indicative of how well he really pitched. And 2012 could be a breakout year for him considering his two detriments last year, the huge jump in innings pitched leading to arm fatigue and the worst run support in the NL.
The Significant Offensive Improvement
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The starting pitching has been the bread and butter for the Giants during the last several years.
Pitching gems and Cy Young-worthy performances have often been wasted because of an inept and low-powered lineup that ranked near the bottom of every offensive category in 2011. That will no longer be the case.
Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera will provide viable options at the top of the lineup who can get on base and also steal when necessary. Pablo Sandoval will continue to stay in shape and nimble, as he comes off a season with 23 home runs and a .315 average.
The infield will be crowded, but fans will see a mix of decent role players who can all contribute on some level. The disciplined, left-handed power bat of Brandon Belt will also see some major playing time in 2012, providing a welcome boost to the lineup.
With the pitching staff that San Francisco has, it isn't necessary to score 700-800 runs. Something in the mid 600s would be more than sufficient and the 2012 lineup is talented enough to get there.
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It seems that Posey still has a lot to prove. Despite a Rookie of the Year award and an All-Star worthy performance in his first season. After the major leg injury he sustained in 2011, detractors have only talked about how Posey is still unproven and will never be as good as he was again.
However, rehab for the young catcher has been going well and he is supposed to play some first base to reduce the wear and tear on his body. But whatever position he plays, the Giants will have their MVP back for 2012.
The Bullpen Returns
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Sometimes forgotten with the spotlight on the starting pitchers, the Giants bullpen is arguably just as valuable.
Also one of the best group of relievers in the game, San Francisco returns almost everyone from last year. Sergio Romo is developing into a candidate for closer as well as a top set-up man. Brian Wilson will be healthy for the start of the season and the bullpen could possibly be even better with Heath Hembree coming to the majors next year. A power pitcher with a mid 90s fastball and improving command, Hembree could be a surprise contributor for the SF staff.
Whatever tough outings or obstacles the team will run into, the increasingly skilled bullpen will be there to fix the damage and hold the line.
The NL West Has Not Gotten Much Better
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The State of the Giants' Opponents
San Diego: Shipped off their franchise cornerstone of a pitcher to bring some semblance of respectability to the lineup. The Padres are still not getting out of the division basement.
Los Angeles: The Dodgers are in disarray as the team is being sold. Hairston, Harang, and Capuano do not qualify as additions of note. Dee Gordon may bring rays of optimism to L.A.
Arizona: Cahill was a nice pickup for the rotation but it remains to be seen whether guys like Montero and Chris Young just got hot at the right time, or if they can fight the Giants for the division right from the start.
Colorado: A good offense, but do the Rockies have enough pitching to complement it?
Only Arizona poses a real challenge and although the Diamondbacks have improved, the acquisitions and healthy returns the Giants have will be too much, making a return to the playoffs virtually assured.