In 2010, a team with Aubrey Huff hitting third, Pat Burrell hitting fifth and Andres Torres leading off won the World Series. And that team just happened to be the San Francisco Giants.
Now, in 2012, the Giants have Angel Pagan leading off, Pablo Sandoval hitting third and Hunter Pence hitting fifth. Oh, and they've got some pretty good pitching too. Normally, with all of that, you'd have a surefire World Series contender.
But, thanks to one huge trade, lots of people don't see the Giants as a World Series contender anymore.
San Francisco's biggest rival, the L.A. Dodgers, traded for stars Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Carl Crawford. Crawford isn't going to play until next year (because of an elbow injury), and Beckett is among the worst in the league with a 5.23 ERA. However, Gonzalez is an amazing first baseman and a definite upgrade over James Loney.
Now, the Dodgers have Matt Kemp, Shane Victorino, Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez in their lineup, and that scares a lot of Giants fans. In April, May and June, the Dodgers were known as a surprising team who couldn't hit but could certainly pitch.
Unfortunately, the MLB's newest rich team has, well, struck it rich. And other teams are going to pay for that—but the Giants won't.
San Francisco is two games ahead of the Dodgers, and they have experience in this situation. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito make up arguably the best pitching staff in baseball. And, Sergio Romo, Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt are pretty good relievers.
The Giants had a five-game winning streak until they were defeated by the Braves Saturday afternoon. They swept the Dodgers and teed off on Joe Blanton and Chris Capuano earlier in the week. Cain, Lincecum and Bumgarner shut down the Dodgers' offense, although Gonzalez didn't play.
Even with Gonzalez, the Dodgers are beatable. They've got Clayton Kershaw, who owns a 2.84 ERA in 2012 and won the Cy Young award in 2011. They have Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, who have done well for the Dodgers. However, there are some concerning areas in L.A.'s pitching staff.
Joe Blanton and Josh Beckett have struggled. Lincecum has struggled for the Giants, but he's shown signs of improvement, unlike Beckett. San Francisco has no holes in its pitching staff; the Giants' worst pitcher won the Cy Young and is 10-8 with a 4.31 ERA.
Both teams have a solid bullpen, and while guys like Jeremy Affeldt, Eric Hacker and Clay Hensley have struggled out of the 'pen for San Francisco, they should have a solid bullpen come playoff time.
Because of the free-spending Dodgers, most people are predicting the Giants to fail to win the NL West. Not many people think the Giants have enough talent. However, even without Melky Cabrera, the Giants are a good team. Buster Posey and Angel Pagan have been on fire, and Pablo Sandoval and Marco Scutaro have been very reliable.
Just like in 2010, the Giants are using a mediocre offense and great pitching to power themselves to wins. Some guys have been up and down this year, and other guys like Hunter Pence are bound to get hot. The Giants have a ton of talent, and they lead the Dodgers by two games.
Both teams play a lot of divisional games, and both teams have two series left (after the Giants-Braves series ends) against non-NL West opponents. The Dodgers play the Nationals and Cardinals, who own a combined .579 winning percentage. The Giants play the Astros and Cubs, owners of a combined .349 winning percentage.
Los Angeles may look better on paper, but the Giants still have a slight edge. San Francisco is 7-5 against the Dodgers this year, and they have an easier schedule and better pitchers. It will be a tight, stressful race, but Giants fans must have confidence.
Because by the time October rolls around, it's all going to be alright.