The San Francisco Giants are one of baseball's toss-up teams this season. They could either have sustained success due to the depth of their starting pitching rotation, or miss the playoffs once again based on their offensive deficiencies. These five factors could make the difference between a long playoff run and an early end to to the season.
The Giants ranked at the bottom of the NL in both OPS and On-Base Percentage. Having runners on base generally helps generate runs, especially with San Francisco's small-ball principles. No matter how well the Giants pitching staff performs, they will not win games without baserunners. An improvement in OPS and On-Base Percentage is necessary for a playoff appearance for San Francisco.
Jonathan Sanchez has tremendous raw talent, as was displayed during his July 10th no-hitter against San Diego. However, he had some rough starts the last couple years. Madison Bumgarner is young and relatively inexperienced, but very skilled as well. We already know what Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, and Barry Zito can do; it is just a matter of the other two starters producing quality starts. Both Sanchez and Bumgarner have loads of upside, and if that potential can be realized this season, then there will be no easy days for opponents.
The Giants have several key players who can be classified as either aging or injured at this point in the year. Emmanuel Burris (shown above) is not expected back for another two months after undergoing foot surgery, and Freddy Sanchez will open the season on the DL after shoulder surgery. Edgar Renteria is 34 years old and Bengie Molina is 35, and may need extra recovery time as the season progresses. Mark DeRosa and Aaron Rowand have both missed significant time during their careers due to injury. San Francisco cannot afford any injuries to their position players, as they are already the weakest offensive team in the National League. With the Giants' off-season addtions, the offense can be serviceable, when healthy. Major injuries could prematurely end the Giants' season.
Brian Wilson and Jeremy Affeldt (pictured above) are undeniably the two biggest parts of the bullpen. If Affeldt can translate his success from last season (33 holds, 1.73 era in 62.1 innings), then the 8th inning will be secure. However, the rest of the relief pitching is not as steady. Wilson blew 7 saves last year; that number will need to go down. Wilson does have incredible "stuff;" with a high-90's fastball and solid slider, he posesses the tools to make or break the Giants bullpen. Outside of Wilson and Affeldt, however, there are no proven game-changers. Someone will need to step up in middle relief to ensure San Francisco's success. Sergio Romo and Brandon Medders should fill this role, and they will need to perform at a moderately high level this year.
The Rockies are arguably the Giants' biggest competition in the NL West. If the Giants can play well against Colorado, then they have a good shot at clinching their division.