Bruce Bochy will need to do a lot of juggling in 2012
The San Francisco Giants have bolstered their roster and have a lot of flexible parts. Manager Bruce Bochy will need to juggle his lineup and will play the hot hand. He is very adept at utilizing his roster and getting the most out of his players, for the most part.
There are those who complain that Bochy does not play his younger players, such as Brandon Belt, with enough consistency, but you cannot argue with his methods. He led San Francisco to its first World Series title in history in 2010.
There are several players on the current roster who need to step up and start playing better. Some of the early-season disappointments include Tim Lincecum, Brandon Belt, Ryan Theriot and Aubrey Huff, all of whom have gotten off to very slow starts.
On the flip side, several Giants have started the 2012 campaign off well and the Giants need for them to continue their solid play. Let's take a closer look at who the Giants need to stay hot.
Angel Pagan is beginning to have some good at-bats
It's tough to say that a player hitting only .220 needs to stay hot, but Angel Pagan is that player. He started the season very poorly and appeared to be pressing. At one point, Pagan was batting only .111.
In his last five games, Pagan is hitting .333, with a five-game hitting streak. He also has three triples already this season.
Pagan seems to be a lot more comfortable and that's beginning to show on the field. It will be important for him to keep this positive trend going and continue to get on base at the top of the lineup.
Nate Schierholtz is an excellent defensive player
This winter, the San Francisco Giants had all but assured us that Nate Schierholtz would be starting in right field. However, Schierholtz struggled with some minor injuries in spring training and when he did play, he was not productive.
When the regular season started, Schierholtz found himself on the bench. His poor spring had cost him the starting job in right field.
When he finally did get a chance to play, Schierholtz showed what he can do. He is currently hitting .310 with two home runs and six RBI, in 29 at-bats. His production has warranted more playing time and manager Bruce Bochy has seen fit to get Schierholtz into the lineup.
If Schierholtz keeps hitting and earning regular playing time, it will benefit the Giants' defense also. He is one of the top defensive right fielders in the game. His defense is especially valuable at AT&T Park, with its cavernous area in right-center field.
Buster Posey is catching on a regular basis again
The San Francisco Giants have been very pleased with the return of star catcher Buster Posey, after suffering a season-ending injury in May of last year. Posey has been catching four of every five games, with Hector Sanchez catching Barry Zito.
Posey looks good behind the plate and offensively, he is still getting into a comfort zone. Posey is hitting .361, but it's a rather soft average. He has only one home run and three RBI. Posey also has only one double, so his hits have been mostly singles, not ideal for your clean-up hitter.
I do believe that Posey will start driving the ball with more authority. You must remember that he missed over four months of the season and is still getting his timing down.
Posey also does a great job handling the Giants' pitching staff and is a steadying influence both on the field and in the clubhouse.
Javier Lopez is a lefty specialist
Javier Lopez is the epitome of a left-handed relief specialist. His job is typically to get one or two left-handed hitters out.
Lopez does not throw a lot of innings, but when he enters the game, it's usually to face a top left-handed hitter with the game hanging in the balance.
Lopez is off to a very good start in 2012. He has appeared in five games, but only thrown two innings. Lopez has yet to allow a hit and has struck out three of the seven batters he's faced.
His continued success is critical to the Giants as they attempt to recapture the NL West crown.
Barry Zito has had two excellent starts
The most surprising player on this list has got to be Barry Zito. He has endured five poor seasons in San Francisco and was also lousy in spring training.
Amazingly, Zito was masterful and threw a complete-game shutout, his first in a Giants' uniform. Zito then threw seven strong innings against Pittsburgh, allowing only two earned runs.
Over 16 innings of work, Zito has allowed only 10 hits and two earned runs. I don't expect that Zito can continue to excel at this level, but if he can even be a .500 pitcher and approach 200 innings, Giants' manager Bruce Bochy would certainly take that.
Melky Cabrera is off to a great start
Melky Cabrera came to the Giants after a stellar season with the Kansas City Royals. The Giants acquired him for starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. Cabrera can play any of the three outfield spots and is on a roll offensively.
Cabrera is hitting .314 with one home run and eight RBI. He has fit in very well in San Francisco.
Giants' manager Bruce Bochy has Cabrera batting in the No. 2 spot in the order and Cabrera is thriving. If Cabrera can continue to have quality at-bats, he can duplicate the numbers he had in 2009.
Madison Bumgarner is only 22 years of age
The San Francisco Giants and GM Brian Sabean thought so highly of Madison Bumgarner, they recently signed him to a contract extension, locking him up through the 2017 season.
After a shaky first start against the Diamondbacks, Bumgarner has rebounded and thrown two excellent games. For the season, Bumgarner has thrown 17.1 innings,allowed 18 hits, with an ERA of 3.63 and WHIP of 1.327.
At only 22 years of age, Bumgarner has a bright future with the Giants.
Santiago Casilla will get opportunities to close
The San Francisco Giants were dealt a devastating blow when closer Brian Wilson was declared out for the season. Wilson will have Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow.
The loss of Wilson leaves a major void in the Giants' bullpen. Manager Bruce Bochy will use match-ups and have a closer-by-committee approach. However, the pitcher destined to get more of the save chances is Santiago Casilla.
Casilla has "closer's stuff" and has thrown the ball well, thus far in 2012. In 4.2 innings pitched, Casilla has allowed only three hits and has not allowed an earned run.
If Casilla continues to pitch well, he will continue to emerge as the primary option to fill the closer role.
Pablo Sandoval plays the game with a youthful exuberance
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval appears on the verge of having a monster year. He has done a good job of being more selective at the plate and swinging at strikes.
Sandoval is currently hitting .333 with two home runs and nine RBI, which leads the Giants.
Defensively, Sandoval has been shaky, already making four errors this season. Sandoval has put on a little of the weight he lost, back in 2011. I think the added weight adversely affects him more on defense. This is an area where Sandoval needs to improve.
I fully expect Sandoval to lead the Giants in several offensive categories, including home runs, RBI and batting average.
Matt Cain threw a one-hitter in the Giants' home opener
The Giants signed Matt Cain to a hefty contract extension just prior to the start of the 2012 season. Cain signed a five-year extension worth $112.5 million, guaranteeing his status as a Giant through 2017.
Cain had a shaky start against the Diamondbacks, but he has rebounded with two outstanding efforts. He threw a one-hitter in the Giants' home opener and followed that up with nine shutout innings against Philadelphia, as he and Cliff Lee dueled.
In 2012, Cain has thrown 24 innings, allowed only nine hits, walked three and struck out 19. Cain's ERA is 1.88, and his WHIP is an incredible 0.50.
Cain was the steadiest and most consistent of the Giants' starters in the past couple years, and he appears to be on his way to doing that again in 2012.
Tim Lincecum has struggled in his three starts
The San Francisco Giants will be in the race for the NL West crown all season. They have outstanding pitching and a much improved offense.
Staying healthy will be a key for the season. They have already lost closer Brian Wilson, and second baseman Freddy Sanchez will be out until sometime in May.
The other key player who needs to return to top form is Tim Lincecum. He has struggled in his three starts this year and has a record of 0-2 and an ERA of 10.54.
The division will be much tougher in 2012, as Arizona is very strong and the Dodgers are playing well, also. However, if Lincecum gets things back on track, I believe the Giants will not be denied.
The 2012 season has already been very exciting for Giants fans, and more thrills are on the horizon.