San Francisco Giants: 5 Biggest Threats to Title Repeat
The San Francisco Giants may be the 2010 World Series champions, but they will have to overcome many obstacles to reach baseball immortality again in 2011.
The Giants have continued their torturous ways so far this season. Their 2011 campaign has been a roller coaster ride from the start, with thrilling wins one night and devastating losses the next.
This season's Giants have essentially the same championship pitching staff and band of misfits as last season—minus Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe—but will it be enough?
The 2010 Giants climbed many hurdles to win the World Series.
They overcame an anemic offense early in the season and a pitching hiccup in August. They bounced back from a 7.5-game deficit and a 6-12 season record against the San Diego Padres, the team they were competing against for the National League West title.
The challenges did not stop there. The Padres even forced the Giants to clinch the division on Game 162 after San Diego won the first two games of their season-ending three-game series.
Can the Giants be the team of destiny yet again in 2011 despite all the obstacles?
Here are five possible threats to a Giants World Series title repeat.
The Giants have taken many trips to the infirmary during the heat of battle this season.
San Francisco currently has six players on the disabled list—including Barry Zito, Mark DeRosa, Pablo Sandoval, Mike Fontenot and Darren Ford. Unfortunately for the Giants, many of their injuries came in an area where they had the least depth—the infield.
The biggest solider to go down is young, catching sensation Buster Posey, who broke his left fibula and tore ligaments in his ankle area during a collision at the plate. According to the Giants, his bat will likely be void from the Giants lineup for the remainder of the season, and his absence could have a detrimental impact on the Giants offense.
According to Fangraphs, before his injury, Posey's WAR was 1.7—which means he could have been on pace for a season WAR between four and five. To limit the damage of losing Posey, the Giants will have to scratch, claw and execute the fundamentals for runs.
In the 14 games since Posey's season-ending injury, the Giants have bounced back with an 8-6 record. So far, they have shown the resiliency needed to win without Posey, but they will have to continue doing so through 162 games.
Even with the injuries that plagued much of the infield, including their slugging third baseman Pablo Sandoval, the Giants sit atop the NL West at 35-27, 1.5 games over the Arizona Diamondbacks. With help from young players such as shortstop Brandon Crawford and infielder Emmanuel Burriss, Bruce Bochy is doing the best with what he has, and he will have to continue to do so if the Giants want to win the World Series again.
The Giants have a world-class pitching staff but not a championship offense to match.
Although they are in first place in the NL West, the Giants are 15th in the National League in runs scored (218) and 13th in batting average (.240). San Francisco also has an unimpressive on-base percentage of .306, which is 14th in the league.
With Posey's injury, a key to the Giants offense is Aubrey Huff. Huff is hitting just .222, with eight home runs and 30 RBI, along with a .278 on-base percentage.
Despite Huff's slow start, he has heated up lately. In his last seven games, Huff has nine RBI and four home runs.
If the Giants want to win constantly, they will have to overcome their offensive struggles and put up runs on the board. Despite their 35-27 record, the Giants' torturous, low-scoring ways may not be so thrilling if those games start to go the other way—in the loss column.
The Arizona Diamondbacks
The Giants have gotten heat from an unlikely divisional rival—the Arizona Diamondbacks.
This is not the first time the two teams have battled for first place, but in fact, it was a constant back in the early part of the decade. Between 1999 and 2003, the Giants and the Diamondbacks finished one-two in the division in three out of five of those years.
So far in 2011, the division rivalry has been renewed, but for how long?
The Diamondbacks are currently playing like a team that could threaten the Giants' defending World Series title—and their NL West title. At 33-28, Arizona is just 1.5 games behind San Francisco for first place.
Unlike the Giants, the Diamondbacks' main problem coming into the season was their pitching. In 2010, Arizona was 15th in the league in team ERA at 4.81, but so far in 2011, they are 12th in the league with a 3.94 ERA.
The Diamondbacks will have to keep their pitching up if they want to stay competitive in the National League West. Arizona was 19-10 in May, mainly because of their 3.03 team ERA for that month.
Fortunately for the Giants, they are 5-1 against the Diamondbacks this season—and seem to have their number in recent years. Still, if the Diamondbacks keep pitching like this and can prove they are for real, the Giants could find themselves snakebitten very soon.
The Target on Their Backs
Winning a world championship may come with the glory, the celebration and a rejuvenated fanbase, but it may come with another consequence—the best effort from the opposing team.
The Giants cannot take any team lightly in 2011. Even the under-.500 teams could give the Giants a run for their money, and they need to be prepared.
The Giants saw this reality during their season-opening series when they lost three out of four to the now third-place Dodgers. San Francisco began 2011 2-4 and did not play good defensive or offensive baseball.
Since then, however, the Giants have bounced back and currently have a 35-27 record.
In addition to their stellar pitching, the Giants have since cut down on their errors and are getting timely hits again—the formula for their success in 2010. If the Giants play their game and pitch like they know how to, they should be able to overcome the target on their backs.
The Giants may not have had the best defense range-wise in 2010, but they were able to make the plays on everything they got to.
The Giants defense is subpar in 2011, but most of their errors came early on. The Giants are currently 13th-worst in the National League in errors with 40 and 12th in the league in fielding percentage at .983.
According to Baseball-Reference, as a team, San Francisco's Rtot (the number of runs above or below average the player was worth based on the number of plays made) is minus-three, so their defense has slightly cost them a few runs.
One glaring defensive question mark is Miguel Tejada. As a shortstop this season, Tejada has made six errors and has a .942 fielding percentage in 27 games—with an Rtot of minus-three.
The Giants have made the most of Tejada by placing him at third base while Pablo Sandoval is recovering from his injury. Tejada has responded nicely by making just one error in 27 games, with an Rtot of four and a .988 fielding percentage.
If the Giants want to repeat as champions in 2011, they will have to continue doing something they excelled at last season—catching the ball.
Vinnie Cestone is a Baseball/San Francisco Giants Featured Columnist for The Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all information was obtained first-hand or from official materials from ESPN or the Major League Baseball website.
This article was featured on The Talking Giants Baseball Blog.
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