This series will evaluate one team per day, starting on Jan. 23 and ending on Feb. 22 (the first game of spring training). It is based on last season's performance, the offseason changes since then and the author's outlook for the team in 2013. Please keep in mind that rosters can, and will, change before Opening Day. We started in the American League East, worked across to the National League, tackled the Central divisions, knocked out the AL West, and now finish with the NL West, going in alphabetical order. We finish the series where the 2012 season ended, with the World Champion San Francisco Giants.
2012 finish: 94-68 (1st place, NL West -- beat Detroit Tigers 4-0 in World Series)
RHP Ramon Ramirez, RHP Scott Proctor, RHP Chad Gaudin, OF Andres Torres, 2B Tony Abreu, SS Wilson Valdez
RHP Brian Wilson, RHP Guillermo Mota, RHP Brad Penny, RHP Clay Hensley, OF Melky Cabrera, OF Xavier Nady, 1B Aubrey Huff, 2B Ryan Theriot, 2B Freddy Sanchez, 2B Emmanuel Burriss
Why they will improve this year
It's hard to improve from being the best (and yes, that pains this Dodgers fan writing with an objective hat on, to say), but the Giants may do so just by virtue of having a full season out of Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence. Both guys were keys to the World Series run, and they made their impacts felt in just a short time in San Francisco.
Take into account that Brandon Crawford is just starting to find his swing and Brandon Belt still has untapped potential.
There could be two lefties in the bottom of the order giving the Giants even more scoring opportunities. You already know what to expect from Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval—but if the guys around them improve their games, the Giants will surely be favorites to repeat.
The bullpen is solid, and it baffles me that people still don't recognize Sergio Romo's dominance as a closer.
Give me the choice between him and Aroldis Chapman for my closer, and I'll take the softer-tossing, yet more dominant Romo every time.
We all know about the studly rotation—just wait for Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum to bounce back in 2013. That is a terrifying thought.
Hitting is where the Giants need to improve the most this year.
Angel Pagan and Scutaro were the two catalysts atop the lineup down the stretch last year. If they bring the same fire, passion, and on-base percentages this season, that lineup will be hard to stop. It's safe to expect that Pence will have bigger power numbers in a full year with the team.
The bottom line is this team is built to win for a long time.
Why they will regress this year
Let's start with that top of the order.
Pagan and Scutaro went absolutely nuts down the stretch, but if you look at career averages, it's very unlikely they maintain that frantic pace. Especially, Scutaro, who is nearly 40 years old. His numbers should decline, and with it, the Giants fortunes.
I'm not willing to predict dips in production for Posey, Pence or Sandoval—which still leaves the Giants with a very good heart of the order.
With the top two potentially back to league average and more mediocrity from Crawford and Belt, we could very well see that magical offense fizzle in 2013.
The pitching staff is going to be strong no matter what, but ace Matt Cain had a very pedestrian stretch in the middle of last year.
Lincecum needs to figure out how to pitch without an overbearing fastball before I'll consider him "back," and Barry Zito may have exhausted his last gasps as a legit pitcher in the 2012 playoffs.
It's hard to find weaknesses that will completely sink the Giants this year—but take into account that the rival Dodgers and upstart Diamondbacks are breathing down their necks with revamped lineups.
The outlook for 2013
I hate admitting that the Giants are good, but objectivity is the name of the game in sports journalism.
San Francisco won its second World Series title in three years using the same exact formula for success from 2010.
Strong starting pitching, backed by clutch hitting and a lock-down bullpen is what it takes to win.
Do the Giants have all of the above?
Absolutely—but it took every last inch of that clutch gene and every last one of those good breaks to get them to the World Series a year ago. One starts to believe that those kinds of streaks can only last so long.
The Giants will once again be very competitive in the NL West this year.
I think they will take the division race down to the wire with both Los Angeles and Arizona, but the Dodgers' new star-studded roster is just too strong.
Where the Giants could focus on beating any number of second options after Clayton Kershaw last season, they will run into Zack Greinke in 2013 and it will show in the win column.
It's the opinion of this writer that the Giants narrowly miss winning the division and actually watch the Dodgers clinch it on the last weekend of the season. With so much talent in the National League this year, they will also miss out on the Wild Card by one measly game, repeating their title defense failure of two seasons ago.
Potential changes before Opening Day
The only real news going on in Giants camp is the potential returns of Theriot and Wilson, but the players and the team can't seem to agree on salary figures and playing time.
Theriot wants more playing time, but won't find it in San Francisco—meaning he'll likely end up elsewhere.
Wilson wants guaranteed money coming off a major injury, and GM Brian Sabean wants to give him a deal based on incentives.
I don't know if either side will budge, but the Giants really don't need to spend money on Wilson at this point anyway. The only move I could see the Giants making before Opening Day is snagging one more solid veteran hitter out of free agency to deepen the bench.
Biggest surprise: Madison Bumgarner
Biggest disappointment: Marco Scutaro
Bold prediction: Hunter Pence hits .285 with a career high 30 home runs and 115 RBI
1. Angel Pagan, CF
2. Marco Scutaro, 2B
3. Pablo Sandoval, 3B
4. Buster Posey, C
5. Hunter Pence, RF
6. Brandon Belt, 1B
7. Gregor Blanco, LF
8. Brandon Crawford, SS
1. Matt Cain, RHP
2. Madison Bumgarner, LHP
3. Ryan Vogelsong, RHP
4. Tim Lincecum, RHP
5. Barry Zito, LHP
Projected finish: 90-72, 2nd place
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