San Francisco Giants: 5 Questions They Face Entering the Playoffs
The Giants, despite the Dodgers' best efforts, have won their eighth NL West title. However, the fight doesn’t end here—there are still a number of questions facing the Giants as they enter the postseason.
Their success hinges on several players' performances and manager decisions throughout the playoffs.
1. What Will the Rotation Order Be?
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Of course Matt Cain will get the initial nod; how could he not? Every statistic you look at proves he is the best starting pitcher on the team. Also, Madison Bumgarner has been named the starter for Game 2.
However, in my opinion, Game 3 is wide open. Though manger Bruce Bochy has said he won’t name a starter until after Game 2, I’m sure he’s made the decision internally already. Most pundits would be quick to say Tim Lincecum should get the start, but he hasn’t been consistent or the Giants' third-best starter throughout the season.
Zito has been good at times, and not so good at others. Personally, I think he should start Game 3 in Cincinnati because of his affinity to give up weak fly balls. In an extreme hitters' park, such as the Great American Ballpark, this can be a great advantage.
Of course this would leave Lincecum available to start Game 4. The Giants starting pitching must stay sharp throughout the playoffs for the team to advance.
2. Besides Buster Posey, Who Will Step Up?
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Many believe Buster Posey will soon be crowned the NL MVP and there’s not much concern he will provide a much-needed bat to a relatively anemic offense.
However, who else will provide the much-needed run support?
Hunter Pence, since being traded to the Giants in August, hasn’t played up to par. Not only will the Giants benefit from him swinging a sharp bat, but it will also provide Posey with some protection and the ability to look at better pitches.
Pablo Sandoval also must make his presence felt in the lineup. Getting on base with Posey at the plate will ultimately provide the team with runs.
Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro provide essential speed at the top of the lineup. Their on-base percentage and speed will be crucial for getting them into scoring position when the middle of the order comes to the plate.
The Giants have struggled to score runs throughout the season, yet they find a way to win by playing small-ball and manufacturing runs. They cannot rely solely on Buster Posey to win a ballgame.
3. How Will the Giants Handle Their Bullpen and Closer Situation?
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The loss of closer Brian Wilson has reverberated throughout the season. No Giants closer this year has seen longtime success.
Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, and Jeremy Affeldt anchor the final innings of the game. But who will get the handshake in the ninth for the three most crucial outs?
I believe, especially against the Reds, manager Bruce Bochy will adamantly play the matchups. The Reds' lefty lineup, most notably previous MVP Joey Votto, will most likely not see a right-handed pitcher the entire series.
Also, given his trust and success this season, I feel Sergio Romo will get the majority of save chances in the postseason. However, Bochy will carefully measure his pitch count and not overwork him.
4. Will the Exclusion of Melky Cabrera Cost the Giants?
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Melky Cabrera, the quote/unquote NL batting title champion, was suspended 50 games for testing positive for a banned substance. However, his suspension will have ended during the postseason, yet the Giants chose to leave him off their roster. Will this exclusion cost the Giants another World Series pennant?
In place of Cabrera, Gregor Blanco and Xavier Nady will man left field. Neither of them are suitable replacements though. Many have questioned who will see the majority of playing time, but there hasn’t been an accepted consensus.
My colleague, John Coleman, jokingly teased, “Nady hits for power, Blanco hits for average. Or, let me rephrase that: Nady hopes for power, Blanco prays for hits.”
Therefore, with the loss of Cabrera, there is a huge three-headed hole: power, average, and defense. Will a lineup without Melky cost the Giants another title?
5. Which Tim Lincecum Shows Up?
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2012 has been the tale of two Lincecums. One looks to be the complete opposite of two-time Cy Young winner—once toting the highest ERA out of eligible starters. The other shows flashes of greatness with his violent delivery and missing bats.
If Lincecum can regain his old form, or even around 75 percent of it, the Giants have a good chance of going far into the postseason and even have a chance at the World Series. This would potentially give them three ace-caliber pitchers, more than nearly every other playoff team.
However, if Lincecum struggles against hitters and allows crooked numbers on the board, the Giants will struggle to win games. In my opinion, much of the fate of the Giants hinges on Lincecum’s performance.