Going into next season, the Giants should have a good idea of the production they'll get from some of their stalwarts: NL MVP Buster Posey will lead the offense, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner will again shut down opposing offenses and Brandon Crawford will dazzle with the glove.
But the Giants also have plenty of X-factors that will go a long way toward determining whether they can defend their World Series title or slide back in the NL West.
Some individual performances could make or break the team in 2013, as could a couple team stats.
Here is a look at five key statistics for next year's Giants.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be Lincecum’s ERA—the key number could be his WHIP, batting average against or the percentage of at-bats he falls behind in the count.
Whichever stat is used, the important thing is Lincecum’s effectiveness preventing runs.
So bad was Lincecum’s 2012 season, during which he posted a 5.18 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, that his career ERA ballooned from 2.98 to 3.31. His 1.47 WHIP last season was 0.42 higher than his career best in that category and 0.19 higher than his second-worst WHIP, which came during his rookie season. And he averaged a full inning per start less than his career average heading into 2012.
If Lincecum recaptures his dominant stuff that helped win two Cy Young awards—he showed he still can be that guy while pitching in relief during the playoffs—San Francisco’s rotation will again be as dominant as any unit in the National League.
Assuming Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong continue pitching at a high level in 2013, and optimistically projecting that Barry Zito will pitch more relaxed after a spectacular postseason in which he practically justified his enigmatic contract, the rotation could actually be better than it was in 2010.
A team's batting average with runners in scoring position would seem to be the key stat for any offense, since score runs is the ultimate goal in baseball.
But the Giants won the World Series despite hitting 13 less home runs than any other major league team during the 2012 regular season (103, compared the Dodgers’ 116), so timely hitting is especially important to their success.
And considering that the 2010 championship team also wasn’t much of a power-hitting squad, the Giants have twice proven that they don’t need home runs to win—just plenty of timely hitting.
These two numbers have some direct relation to one another, though they do not represent an exclusive correlation.
However, keeping Panda’s weight down and the games up will determine how formidable San Francisco’s offense will be in 2013.
The broken hamate bones that he suffered in successive years were basically freak accidents, so hopefully Sandoval doesn't have any other little bones break on his body anytime soon.
The weight problem, however, is the more chronic issue with Sandoval, whose waistline appears to fluctuate throughout the season.
Sandoval doesn't need to model swimsuits, but he does have to make sure he can run the bases, dive for hard grounders down the third base line and avoid nagging muscle injuries.
Sandoval showed in 2009 and 2011 that he can be an elite hitter, which he reiterated during this past postseason. So if he stays committed to his conditioning and doesn’t experience any surprise setbacks then he could emerge as the National League’s premier third baseman.
With Brian Wilson expected to be elsewhere next season, San Francisco’s closer situation is as unsettled as it was this past season, when Wilson missed most of the season with a bum elbow, and five different relievers saved three or more games.
Sergio Romo appears to be a great in-house solution, considering how successful he was closing for the Giants in 2012, converting 18 of 19 save opportunities (including the playoffs). Yet GM Brian Sabean has publicly expressed concerns about Romo’s durability in the role over the course of a season.
If Sabean holds to that, then someone else will be relied upon to close games, at least part of the time. Or if Romo is given the full-time role only to prove Sabean’s hunch was correct, then the Giants could be left scrambling for a reliable closer.
As San Francisco’s World Series opponent proved, when closer Jose Valverde ran out of gas for the Tigers, a shoddy closer situation can be debilitating to an otherwise formidable team.
Romo looked stellar in his limited stint as the closer. But at this point, the Giants can’t say they have their Craig Kimbrel.
Giants fans largely felt that Hunter Pence left something to be desired after coming over from Philadelphia midseason. That is understandable, considering he batted just .219 with seven home runs in 59 games with San Francisco.
That performance was way below his career tendencies, so there is reason to believe he will hit better in the future. But it is worth noting that last season Pence posted a .645 OPS in 31 games at AT&T Park (.813 career).
Did he merely struggle adjusting to his new team, or is he a bad fit for AT&T? Since the stadium doesn’t generally affect right-handed batters the way it robs left-handers of so many home runs, it probably isn’t a bad place for Pence to hit. Plus, in limited showings at AT&T in prior seasons, he hit just fine.
Still, Pence will be relied upon to produce from the fifth spot in the batting order, so the Giants need him to hit as he did in Philadelphia and Houston.