This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the defending World Champion Giants, who despite very few roster changes since a year ago, are being picked by almost no one to repeat as champions. But that’s okay—this team seems to thrive on being the underdog.
Projected Lineup: LF Nori Aoki*, RF Hunter Pence, 1B Brandon Belt, C Buster Posey, CF Angel Pagan, 3B Casey McGehee*, 2B Joe Panik, SS Brandon Crawford
Projected Rotation: LHP Madison Bumgarner, RHP Matt Cain, RHP Tim Lincecum, RHP Tim Hudson, RHP Jake Peavy
* new additions
In last year’s World Series, Madison Bumgarner dominated on the mound, Joe Panik made highlight-reel plays on defense, and Hunter Pence batted over .400.
But people forget that for most of the season, the Giants were not a great team. And with almost all the same cast returning for another season, it figures that they still won’t be a great team.
Let’s start with the rotation.
Outside of Bumgarner, you don’t know what to expect from anyone. An optimistic outlook would be that Matt Cain comes back strong after elbow and ankle surgery, and Tim Lincecum throws a couple more no-hitters. But that’s a best-case scenario.
What’s more likely is that it takes a whole squad of guys to get through the season. That’s why the Giants gave new contracts to departing free agents Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Peavy—for reinforcements. As the dog days of the season wear on, the older guys might need some extra rest, or someone may get injured as a result of standing too close to Jeremy Affeldt. Any number of things could happen that would require the Giants to dig a little deeper for starters. Watch for super-reliever Yusmeiro Petit to even make a few starts, and possibly lock down a rotation spot if the other guys aren’t pulling their weight.
At the start of the offseason, the world was concerned that the Giants wouldn’t have enough power in their lineup. The Giants gave zero fucks about what the world thought.
They replaced the departed Michael Morse with his physical polar opposite in Nori Aoki. They replaced Pablo Sandoval with Casey McGehee, who hit as many homers last year as Madison Bumgarner.
Essentially, they’re an offense built on speed, little dinky base hits, and the occasional Buster Posey bomb.
But is that really a bad thing?
What the Giants have upgraded is their on-base ability. McGehee is good at drawing walks, having posted a .355 on-base percentage last season with Miami. Aoki was just as proficient with Kansas City, sporting a .349 on-base clip. On last year’s Giants, those numbers would have ranked 2nd and 3rd on the team, behind only Posey. Now they join other pesky pitch-takers on this team like Gregor Blanco and Brandon Belt, forming an epic lineup of guys who take walks.
How well might that work out? Just ask that “Moneyball” team that played across the bay in the early 2000’s.
The Giants aren’t a great team. But they don’t seem to mind being the underdogs. In their recent run of championships, there hasn’t been a single postseason series in which they’ve been viewed as the odds-on favorites, yet they’ve emerged with three titles.
Maybe the key to success in this crazy game is to be a not-great team. I can’t pretend to know the formula. All I know is that the Giants seem to have mastered it as much as anyone ever has.
Projected Finish: 84-78, Second place in NL West, Wildcard berth