Breaking Down What the San Francisco Giants Must Do to Defend Their Title
It's October 9, and you're watching the pregame show for Game 3 of the 2012 NLDS. If you're a Giants fan, you probably don't know why you're watching.
No one expected the Giants to win the NLDS when they were down 2-0, but they did. They won it. No one expected them to win when they were down 3-1 against the Cardinals in the NLCS. They did. Not many expected them to win the World Series against Detroit.
The Giants defied all odds and did the unthinkable, winning the World Series for the second time in three years. Fans had their doubts, especially when Melky Cabrera was suspended, Brian Wilson was injured and, well, when the playoffs happened.
People don't respect them still, as they aren't seen as one of the most talented teams in baseball. Moves that involved players like Josh Hamilton, Zack Greinke and Torii Hunter took all the spotlight over the offseason. No one noticed the Giants signing guys like Andres Torres and Wilson Valdez, and no one noticed deals handed out to Jeremy Affeldt, Angel Pagan, Marco Scutaro and Santiago Casilla.
However, the Giants have some talent. They have Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence in the middle of the lineup, which should be enough to make them at least dangerous. Pence did well in the World Series and is poised for a bounce-back season, while Posey is coming off of an MVP season.
Pagan and Scutaro will be back setting the table, and while Scutaro won't be hitting around .370 like he did during his time with the Giants, he will probably hit around .280 and be a good No. 2 hitter who makes contact almost every time he steps up to the plate. Torres and Gregor Blanco bring energy, while Brandon Belt has potential and could hit around .300.
Who Is the biggest key to the Giants' success?
Tim Lincecum is another make-or-break player. He struggled in 2012, and even though he posted a 2.55 postseason ERA, he isn't forgetting his 2012 struggles. His small stature and weight (around 160 pounds) may have contributed to his lack of velocity on his fastball, which sets up his other pitches.
I believe Lincecum will bounce back in 2013, and I believe he will aid a superior pitching staff consisting of Matt Cain, Ryan Vogelsong, Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito and Lincecum. Zito did very well in the 2012 postseason (2-0, 1.69 ERA), Vogelsong has great stuff and projects to have an ERA around 3.00, Cain is a consistent ace who projects to have an ERA around 2.70, and Bumgarner is a durable young southpaw with the potential to win tons of games and log tons of innings.
The pitching staff is great, but it will not be able to survive another poor or even mediocre year from Lincecum. They will also need some help from the bullpen, and they will need to either bring back Brian Wilson or mold Sergio Romo into a durable closer.
Romo is fearless and has experience, as he closed out the 2012 World Series and saved the last three games. However, durability has always been a concern with him, and even though Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt have experience closing games, I don't believe a closer-by-committee approach will work for a whole season.
Wilson will also be reluctant to operate in a role that doesn't involve the ninth inning, even though he probably needs to be eased back into the system due to an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery. If he does sign with the Giants, he could present a problem, on the mound and with the closer situation.
Will the Giants do it again in 2013?
The Giants have the talent and the experience to do it again in 2013, but it's going to be harder. The teams in the league are getting much better, and the Giants will need to perform up to that level. They have the talent on the team, but Belt and Lincecum will need to step up.
There will be doubters, but the Giants believe they can win another championship. They've given San Francisco a run for the ages, and they want it to continue. The team will sacrifice anything to win games for their team, and that's why the Giants are capable of capturing another championship.
However, it's going to take a lot of help from every single player.
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