This season is unlike any other season the San Francisco Giants have experienced. This season the team proudly adds “Defending World Series Champions” in front of its name.
Along with the new title come the fanfare, attention, and a new target on their backs. There will be more pressure, more press, more fans, and even a television show following their every move.
The underdogs came out on top in 2011 and are faced with more challenges on their way to a repeat.
Pitching wins games
As cliché as it sounds, it was the Giants’ arms that led them to the World Series. In 2011, the team will once again rely heavily on its predominantly youthful pitching staff led by Tim Lincecum. Rounding out the rotation will be RHP Matt Cain, LHP Jonathan Sanchez, LHP Madison Bumgarner, and LHP Barry Zito. With an offense not expected to be at the same level as their pitching, a lot is expected from the starters—just like in 2010.
Key players from the bullpen are returning to support the starting rotation. Hirsute closer Brian Wilson was recently sidelined with a strained left oblique, but got the okay to resume throwing on Wednesday. Should the injury prevent him from pitching come Opening Day, his bearded brother Sergio Romo will likely fill in as closer.
Offense – Kung Fu part deux?
Last season the Giants offense ranked 7th with a team .257 BA and 9th with 697 runs scored in the National League. While it may be nice having the likes of Lincecum taking care of the opposition, it’s imperative for the team to provide run support—just ask Cain, the team’s perennial victim of low run support.
Most of the hitters are returning, but it’s the improving players that will make the difference.
Pablo Sandoval, the breakout offensive star of 2009, debuted his slimmer physique this Spring. San Francisco needs the Kung Fu Panda of ’09 to reemerge. Veteran Miguel Tejada joins the team this season and vows to keep Sandoval in shape.
Tejada’s Spring Training performance may be ho-hum at best, but look to him to provide consistent hitting in the lineup during the regular season. The seasoned shortstop won’t be the (clap-clap-clapclapclap) Tejada that called the Oakland Coliseum home years ago, but we can expect an average performance from the 36-year-old.
2010 Rookie of the Year Buster Posey returns after a phenomenal year. First baseman Brandon Belt has been putting up great numbers in Arizona leading many to believe he will be following Posey as 2011’s rookie sensation. History makes one believe Belt will start the season off in the minors to get in as many at-bats as possible, but if he keeps up his performance, the Giants may break the pattern and have the 22-year-old on the Opening Day roster.
With the start of the season just days away, the Giants enter 2011 as favorites to win the NL West. If the offense holds its own consistently, the baseball world may see a repeat.
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