Douals Corner: Can the Giants contend for a World Series in 2015 and how??...
Being competitive in your division begins with a formula that has proven to be successful. The San Francisco Giants have accomplished this, and will begin the 2015 season with some of the other components to being one of the stronger teams in the National League; confidence and consistency.
The Giants have all the tools needed to make another playoff push, and possibly compete for another World Series Title. If they aren’t a team that’s highly favored to win it all this year they should be, after all this team has won three titles in the last five years, and will be looking to defend the crown this year. There has only been minimal changes to their roster from top to bottom, front office to farm team, since the clubs first title run in 2010. And while San Francisco has yet to make the playoffs in their defending year while on this historic run, this year may look to be a little different, and may have a few favorable surprises in store.
Let’s first look at the negatives heading into this season. The biggest finger will be pointed in the direction of third base, as the loss of All Star third baseman Pablo Sandoval may be a big off season heartbreaker the Giants have to recover from. His growth as a defender at the position, as well as becoming a complete player overall, was critical in the Giants success and Sandoval was progressively getting better.
Although always a hefty fella, Sandoval was light on his feet, and featured a pretty good arm. He was always able to cover well, mind you not great, but good ground, and could make tough plays at depth. Whatever plays he couldn’t make in the hole he had back up for, and his instincts help make the left side of the defense click. But the shining light will be on his production at the plate. As the Giants aren’t a long ball team, and play on the formula of getting runners in scoring position via strong plate appearances, Sandoval could consistently be counted on to deliver in clutch situations.
Despite the fact that Pablo’s plate appearance consistency wasn’t always up to par. Let it also be mentioned that San Francisco also struggled in the areas of run support, and hitting with runners in scoring position, area’s Sandoval did exceed in. Even though Sandoval never hit above .310, and never hit more than 30 homeruns in a season for San Francisco, his confidence, and ability to deliver in the clutch were huge and instrumental in the team’s three titles, and Sandoval is one of the few Giants who were on all three teams.
The Panda will be missed in the bay, but rest assured Giants fans wish him the best, and thank the heavens we don’t have to suffer through any more of those silly panda hats, that had AT&T Park looking like a giant knock off version of the Mickey Mouse club. But paired with the panda leaving the bay, San Francisco must also deal with the loss of long time third base coach Tim Flannery. Flans instincts on making calls were a part of the reason why the Giants were able to play with the small ball formula. His knowledge of batting situations, and ability to communicate, and deliver hitting and running advice helped the giants excel in every World Series run. Both men’s presence in the locker room, and on the field will be sorely missed and tough to replace.
This combined with the fact that San Francisco once again failed to bring in a big name free agent during the period, are the only off season struggles the Giants had in what was as usual an un-eventful, mediocre off season. But what’s going to make this team competitive this year is not what they lost, or weren’t able to bring in. But what it is that there bringing back. It all begins up front, and Brian Sabean has put together a coaching staff that has been consistently been successful, even despite the years not making the playoffs. Bruce Bochy has made me a believer that as a coach he can get the most out of his ball players and has a team that believes in him, and his style of coaching. His knowledge of situational baseball at the plate, in the field, and on the mound is the first key to the Giants success. The staff that accompanies him, led by long time Giant Dave Righetti has continuously put this team in position to be successful, and competing for the top spot in their division year in and out.
Now let’s get to the meat and potatoes of the San Francisco full course meal. The potatoes and veggies feature returning veterans Hunter Pence, Brandon Belt, Michael Morse, Marco Scutaro, Brandon Crawford, and of course Buster Posey to the fold, as well as break out rookie Joe Panik. At the plate or in the field the Giants will rely heavily on these guys to get it done. And San Francisco should feel confident in the fact that they have added at least one or two guys to the team during each of the title run years, and each of them has had an impact on the team and delivered a clutch play to propel them forward.
Put that together with one of the better triple a and double a ball clubs, San Francisco can bring up any guy from their farm system and he should be ready to, and will be given the chance to make an impact. If the lineup can continue to dominate defensively, and mange something in the range of three to four runs per game, this team can position itself for a playoff push, where they have proven anything is possible once they get there.
But the key ingredient to making SF competitive in 2015, and what the team will rely on most during the upcoming year is its dominant pitching staff. The Giants feature a staff of five guys that can go nearly anywhere else in the league and be an ace in the starting rotation. The pitching staff has been what has won the Giants their last three titles, and will be the reason why they win another if the team can keep them together.
Tim Linncecum hasn’t pitched to the standard he set in his first two seasons but if the “Freak” can get back on track you could possibly be looking at a 15 - 20 win pitcher. Matt Cain is also coming off of a tough year that ended in surgery. But each and every time he is on the field he is dominant. If Cain has a good healthy season, you’re looking at another 15 – 20 win pitcher. Madison Bumgarner has emerged as possibly the ace of this staff, and his historic performance in two of the last three World Series title runs could possibly be the only reason why the Giants won, Again you’re looking at another 15 – 20 wins.
Jake Peavy has been a long time thorn in the Giants side, and adding him in a trade last season also helped propel this team to victories. The former all-star came through in the clutch several times last year and will be looking to continue his success with the club, and you could be looking at another 15 win pitcher. And while Ryan Voggelsong may struggle to climb to the top of this ladder, the Giants did sign him in the off season to be a fifth starter in the rotation. Though Voggelsong may not have the same track record of his highly praised teammates, he is a young pitcher looking to have a breakout year at any time.
With a pitching staff this strong, the worst team in the league could make a playoff push. And if these five guys can win 60 – 70 games, San Francisco could be the most dangerous team in the national league. And with the success of three World Series titles behind them, and the confidence of being defending champions, bringing back 75% of the team. Run support is the only question mark on the team, when it comes to the question of whose it going to be in the playoff hunt this year.
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