If you look at the San Francisco Giants a certain way, you see a team good enough to win the World Series again
The Giants are like a lot of teams in that they’re plenty good enough to win the World Series if a few things break their way. I’ve got a pocket list of a dozen teams that could say the same thing: Phillies, Braves, Cardinals, Reds, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Tigers, Rangers, Angels and Giants.
The Marlins and Nationals might also be good enough to win, but they’re longer shots. We’ve had some surprise winners the last decade, and the Marlins and Nationals would be a surprise. You could also make a case for the Blue Jays, Brewers, Rockies, Indians and one or two other teams, but they’re not the teams many people would pick three weeks before Opening Day.
That uncertainty is one of the things that could make this season fun. If you asked a dozen fans who the favorite would be, you might get a dozen different answers. The Phillies? Maybe. The Tigers? Absolutely. But having spent time in a bunch of camps in Florida and Arizona, there are a long list of teams feeling really confident.
Anyway, back to the Giants. They won the World Series two years ago because Aubrey Huff and Cody Ross got hot, because Buster Posey turned out to be as good as advertised and because of that great pitching staff.
The Giants lost the magic last year. Posey got hurt, and Huff and Ross didn’t produce the way they had in 2010.
Speaking of Posey, his impact on the Giants can’t be underestimated. It’s fun to come up with simple solutions to complex problems, and that’s the case with the number I’m about to throw at you.
The Giants are 89-67 (.571) with Posey on the team the last two seasons and 89-79 (.530) without him. That’s the difference between an 86-win team and a 93-win team. They were a third-place team when he joined the club in 2010 and a first-place club when he went down last season.
If you were to make a case for the Giants winning, it would not be hard. Here’s your list:
1. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong must have healthy and productive seasons. Everything the Giants do flows from their four starters.
2. Aubrey Huff must be better than he was in 2011. Manager Bruce Bochy praised his conditioning on Thursday and called him “critical” to the team in 2012. He may be less critical than in 2011 because young Brandon Belt appears to be ready for the big leagues.
3. Pablo Sandoval needs another solid year. He has been good-bad-good in three Major League seasons. When he has been good, he has been very, very good, hitting 48 home runs and driving in 160 in the 2009 and 2011 seasons. When he has been bad, he has been, well, bad.
4. And there’s Posey. He’s one of the game’s stars and a vital cog in everything the Giants do. Together, Huff, Sandoval and Posey create an imposing middle of the lineup, and with Freddy Sanchez and Melky Cabrera hitting somewhere above or below them, the Giants will be a far better offensive team than they were last season when only the Mariners scored fewer runs.
One of the reasons the Diamondbacks were prompted to be so aggressive in the off-season is that GM Kevin Towers was pretty sure the Giants were going to be better, too. He wanted to improve his club, but he knew he had to keep pace. The NL West could be a far more interesting race than people think because the Dodgers are going to be above .500 and the Padres aren’t as bad as advertised. And that’s what makes this stuff fun.