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MLB Playoffs 2012: Previewing the San Francisco Giants

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MLB Playoffs 2012: Previewing the San Francisco Giants
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The 2012 San Francisco Giants have a different playing style than the championship club of 2010, yet they will still pose a formidable threat in the postseason. The latter was a pitching-dominant team that shut down opposing offenses night after night in the playoffs.

This year’s team has only a middle-of-the-pack pitching staff, yet their offense is far superior to the one from two seasons ago. Their relievers also seem to be performing below the heights set during the championship run in 2010. 

Some of the players from the 2010 team are still making an impact on this squad. While playoff hero Cody Ross and enigmatic starter Jonathan Sanchez are gone, most of the other stars remain. Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are still around, and so is Tim Lincecum, despite being a shell of his former self this season. It has yet to be determined whether Ryan Vogelsong or Barry Zito will be the team's fourth starter, though neither faces high expectations.

Closer Brian Wilson is out for the season, so the teams in the National League playoffs will not have to fear the beard. But Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla still anchor an above-average bullpen filled with quality arms.

There will be problems if the starters don't go deep into games. Their stats weren't as impressive this season, but it appeared as though the team limited the innings of some of them in anticipation of making the postseason. 

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Offensive star Buster Posey is having an even better season than he had as a rookie. The young catcher won the batting title and is in contention for the NL MVP. Pablo Sandoval is also playing better than he did in 2010, though Aubrey Huff has not played the vital role he did that year.

The rest of the lineup has been overhauled completely. Marco Scutaro was brought over midseason and has been playing far better than expected. Angel Pagan and Brandon Belt are also fresh faces who have brought a bit of quality to the squad. Big-name acquisition Hunter Pence never found a rhythm after moving to the Giants, but all will be forgiven if he gets hot in October. 

In order to replicate that championship run, the Giants' starters will have to regain the stuff that propelled them through the 2010 postseason and made them look so good early this season. Going against some of the best pitching in the league, the Giants can't rely solely on offense to help them advance.

Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner, in particular, will be the horses that manager Bruce Bochy relies on, along with the hope that at least one of Lincecum or Vogelsong will prove good enough in a few starts to earn wins.

Anything can happen in postseason baseball, and Giants' fans can only hope lighting strikes again as it did two years ago. 

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