Spring training is almost wrapped up. The Giants and their army of fans are eager to see how the squad bounces back after the 2011 turmoil. Coming off that incredible and underrated World Series championship in 2010, the Giants had a large target on their backs and were the team to beat in 2011.
The 2012 stint won't bring as much publicity as the 2011 season did—what with the entire coaching staff and five team members in the All-Star game—but it will be interesting and exciting down to the finish, just like 2011...
2011 NL West Standings:
|San Francisco Giants||.531|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||.509|
|San Diego Padres||.438|
Here are the five key reasons the San Francisco Giants will take the NL West crown.
Starters: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito
The staff is exactly the same as last year and still one that will dominate the weak bats of the NL West. Aside from MVP snub Matt Kemp, the NL West still possesses the likeness of Chris Young, Troy Tulowitzki, Justin Upton, Carlos Gonzalez and Paul Goldschmidt.
However, no NL West team has the depth at starting pitching even close to that of the Giants. With CY Young favorite Tim Lincecum as the ace, talents like Cain, Bumgarner and Vogelsong have a little less pressure—yet all will be eying a 20-win season.
Key Bullpen: Brian Wilson, Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt
The Giants have one of the best setup men in the league for one of the best closers in the league—a manager's dream.
The beards will be in full swing yet again—a big plus for the Giants, as recent successes have proven that a strong bullpen to rely on can go a long way.
The Giants had a tough time defending their World Series title with numerous injuries to their 40-man depth chart.
First was Panda. Pablo Sandoval broke his hand on April 30th, yet he returned strong to make his first All-Star game appearance.
After Sandoval's first injury came Buster Posey's. We all remember Kuiper's voice during that 12th inning Posey was steamrolled at the plate, but the best possible news is that Buster is back and motivated for the season.
Next to fall was infielder Freddy Sanchez, who broke his collarbone against the Cincinnati Reds diving for a ball.
The 2012 roster additions of a healthy Posey and Sanchez are extremely key on both offense and defense.
The awkward giraffe named Brandon Belt possesses the capability to be a great everyday first baseman, but he'll likely share his duties with ailing star Aubrey Huff. Last year, the 6'5'' Belt had a tough time at the dish, hitting just .225 with nine home runs and 18 RBI. The Giants will look to him for much-needed run support in 2012.
Brandon Crawford will hopefully live up to a bigger role at shortstop this season, as Orlando Cabrera and Miguel Tejada will not be back in the orange and black. However, it's not the most pressure-filled situation, as the Giants are stacked with versatile infielders in Mike Fontenot, Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Theriot.
Brett Pill is also a future first baseman for the Giants who came up to the majors late last season and impressed the front office with a home run in his first major league at-bat.
At the trade deadline last season, the Giants acquired some much-needed bats in Carlos Beltran and Orlando Cabrera. However, neither signed with the Giants for this season.
The Giants will have a fairly strong outfield, as it is likely that Pagan and Cabrera will start in the outfield along with Nate the Great Schierholtz; however, the Giants' retired jerseys feature a long list of great outfielders and these three are no comparison.
Cabrera is coming off of a career year in 2011, where he had 201 hits, 18 homers, four doubles and batted .306. The Giants' biggest question mark is run support, and Melky will hopefully be one of the sparks to bring it.
"Pablo's Power Supply Co." is back!
The Giants will need Pablo to play in more than the 117 games he had in 2011, so we can only hope that he stays healthy and free from injury. His transformation to a power hitter was truly special to see, as he lost over 30 pounds in the offseason after the Giants' World Series run in 2010.
During April/May, Aubrey Huff had an 0-for-20 slump that he ended with a solo home run in the 10th inning to beat the New York Mets 7-6. Hopefully the pitching staff isn't waiting on a slump like that this year...
However, the NL West does house its fair share of aces in reigning CY Young champ Clayton Kershaw, Ian Kennedy and new Diamondback Trevor Cahill. Both Kershaw and Kennedy were CY Young hopefuls with over 20 wins each last season, and Cahill comes in from Oakland to give Kennedy a bit of a cushion.