Nearly two months ago, the San Francisco Giants took care of some unfinished business, their first world championship in San Francisco.
Now, with spring training just two months away, the Giants have little time to prepare for next season's campaign. They brought back most of their 2010 championship team, including their pitching staff, and added Miguel Tejada to replace Juan Uribe, but is it enough?
The rest of the National League has appeared to become stronger, especially with the Phillies' "Fantastic Four" starting pitching staff, but the Giants still have the tools to take home the Major League Baseball championship crown again in 2011.
Here are 10 reasons why the Giants just might bring home another World Series title to the city by the bay.
Reason #1: The Superb Starting Pitching:
This should come to no surprise to anyone. Since the end of the Barry Bonds era, the Giants have shifted philosophies. Playing in the wide open spaces of AT&T Park, they realized that a lineup full of sluggers and aging free agents alone will not get the job done. Hence, the star-studded young starting rotation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and Jonathon Sanchez were born and bred within the Giants organization. Add a former Cy-Young winner in Barry Zito as a fifth starter, and there lies the only starting staff that can match up with the Phillies' "Fantastic Four."
This Giants' elite starting pitchers from 2010, who were third in the major leagues with a 3.54 ERA, will be back for an encore performance in 2011. The 2010 starting pitcher ERA was even skewed with Barry Zito and Todd Wellemeyer's less than stellar 2010 regular season performances. Not to mention, the Giants' starting pitchers led all of baseball with 888 strikeouts and held opponents to just a .236 batting average.
For those who believe the Phillies' starting pitching will be the best in baseball in 2011, consider this. The combined 2010 ERA of Cliff Lee, Joe Blanton, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hammels was 3.45. As for the Giants, the combined 2010 ERA of Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, and Zito was 3.40. Also, keep in mind that the Giants' 2011 starting pitchers are younger, and have all pitched in the World Series with the exception of Zito.
Reason #2: The Bullpen
Perhaps the biggest reason why any team wins the World Series is because of its strong bullpen. Just look at what Mariano Rivera has done for the Yankees in both the regular and post-season when they were winning all their championships.
The Giants have not just become one of those great bullpens, but they are one of them. In 2010, they posted a 2.99 ERA with a major-league leading 57 saves, even though closer Brian Wilson saved 48 of them.
What makes the Giants' bullpen so great is their versatility. Nearly all of the 2010 bullpen will be back in the orange and black in 2011, with the exception of Chris Ray, and all of the bullpen can come up big if they need to. Even Guillermo Mota, who the Giants shored up for the back end of their bullpen, can set-up or close games if say Brian Wilson were to be out with an injury or is unavailable.
The Giants have a reliever for any situation it seems. If the Giants need to face one of the National League Wests' toughest lefties, there is Javier Lopez to sling a swooping breaking ball for a strikeout. If they need a flamethrower to strike out someone late in the game with runners in scoring position, Santiago Casilla can come out with his 96+ MPH fastball and blow away any hitter.
Then there's Brian Wilson, the reincarnation of Mariano Rivera so far. In his 11.2 innings pitched in the 2010 postseason, Wilson was unscored upon, giving up only 5 hits and striking out 16, while saving 6 games. Although he has a flare for the dramatic, he finds a way to get the job done and makes quality pitches when he needs to.
Expect the same lights out bullpen in 2011.
Reason #3: The Offense
The Giants offense only needs mediocrity to win the West, but anything less will not get the job done. In 2009, the Giants offense was abysmal, nearly the worst in baseball. Even so, they somehow won 88 games, but it was not enough to beat out the Rockies for the Wild Card.
In 2010, the Giants were closer to the middle of the pack in hitting, and they won the West with 92 games. Now that the Giants added Miguel Tejada, Cody Ross (mid-2010), Pat Burrell (mid-2010), re-signed Aubrey Huff, and a healthier Pablo Sandoval (who lost 15 pounds in San Diego so far), the Giants' offense is worlds better than on April of 2010. They also have a stronger bench, with Mark DeRosa returning in 2011. Don't forget Buster Posey, who just jolted the offense in July.
More than at any other time of the post-Bonds era, the Giants' lineup features some pop, and that's all they need to repeat as World Series champions. In 2010, the Giants brought the home run ball back to San Francisco, as they hit 162 team home runs, something they have not done since 2006.
Now that the Giants can enjoy a full season of Cody Ross, Pat Burrell, and Buster Posey, expect the Giants to surpass their offensive numbers from 2010.
The rest coming later. Too long to post in one entry.