From 2009 until 2015, the San Francisco Giants have won the World Series in each of the three even numbered years, 2010, 2012 and 2014. Most serious baseball fans might be aware of that fact, it has been written about so many times. Not as much attention has been paid to the fact that, in the odd numbered years in that period, not only have they failed to win the World Series, they have failed to even make the playoffs.
That’s right, this team that has won three World’s Championships in the seven year period, only matched in this century by the three the Boston Red Sox have won, has been an also ran in the other four years. In that seven year period, the Giants have won 274 and lost 212 during their Championship Years, a .564 percentage while, during their also ran years, they have won 334 and lost 314, a .515 percentage.
It isn’t as if the Giants fell apart in the years they didn’t win the Championship. They finished in third place in 2009, with an 88-74 record. In 2011, they finished at 86-76, eight games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks. In 2013, they finished a dismal fourth, with their worst, and only losing record of the period, 76-86, 16 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. Last year, they finished in second, 8 games behind the Dodgers, with a record of 84-78.
Well, here we are in an even numbered year again. Can the Giants rebound again and win their fourth World Series in eight years after failing to make the Playoffs in the other four of those eight years?
Despite losing key players for long stretches in 2015, the Giants finished with a respectable 84-78 record. Second year second baseman Joe Panik, played in only 100 games after a lower back inflammation sidelined him and right fielder Hunter Pence played in just 52 games.
Aging veteran, 40 year old Tim Hudson made 29 starts and posted a 4.44 ERA with an 8-9 record and 38 year old Ryan Vogelsang was 9-11, with a 4.67 ERA in 22 starts. The Giants added right handed starter Johnny Cueto, who was 11-13 last year between Cincinnati and Kansas City, but who was 20-9 with a 2.25 ERA in 2014 finishing as runner up for the Cy Young Award. They also picked up Jeff Samardzija, who was 11-13 with a 4.96 ERA with the lowly White Sox last year.
These two starters, will be added to their Ace Madison Bumgarner, who was 18-9 last year, with a 2.93 ERA, Jake Peavy, 8-6 and a 3.58 ERA in 19 starts, after missing much of the first half with back and hip problems, and Matt Cain, coming back from two bad years and working on a new release and expected to be the fifth starter. Chris Heston, who, as a rookie, was 12-11 with a 3.95 ERA in 31 starts can help with the starting and can relieve as needed.
Buster Posey will be back behind the plate. Probably the best all around catcher in the game today, Posey played in 150 games last year, some at first, but most behind the plate, and hit .318 with 19 homers and 95 RBI’s. Slugging Brandon Belt, who hit .280 with 18 homers and 68 RBI’s will be back at first and Joe Panik, who hit .312 in just 100 games should be healed and ready to go at second. Brandon Crawford, who won the Gold Glove at shortstop and hit .256 with 21 homers and 84 RBI’s will join third baseman Matt Duffy coming off a rookie season in which he hit .295, and drove in 77 runs.
Posey, Belt and Duffy were all finalists for the Gold Glove Award at their positions and, with Gold Glove winner Crawford at short and slick fielding Panik back at full strength at second, this could be one of the best defensive infields in baseball.
The addition this past week of 32 year old Denard Span who will probably take over on center field strengthens them even more up the middle. Span, who only played 61 games last year and is a career .287 hitter, had a surgery for a torn labrum in his left hip in September and is expected to be ready to go by spring training. Angel Pagan, who played center last year and hit .262, will probably compete with Gregor Blanco for the left field spot. Blanco hit .291 in 115 games last year. Hunter Pence, who always seems to be in the right place at the right time, will be back in right after recovering from a strained left oblique which limited him to 52 games last year.
The bullpen has Closer Santiago Casilla, who saved 38 of 44 tries last year with a 2.79 ERA with workhorses Sergio Romo, 70 games 2.98 ERA, Javier Lopez 77 games, 1.60 ERA, George Kontos, 73 games, 2.33 ERA and Hunter Strickland, 53 games, 2.45 ERA, and is more than adequate.
As of this writing, veteran Giant starter and sometimes reliever, Tim Lincecum, who was 7-4 last year, with an ERA of 4.13, has not signed a Free Agent contract with anyone. He could add depth to the bullpen and as a spot starter should the Giants decide to bring him back.
Manager Bruce Bochy says that this team could be the best defensive team he has ever had in 21 years as a Manager. They have the potential to put a lot of runs on the board as well. Can the Giants do the improbable and go from also ran to winner for the fourth time in eight years?
At this point, I would not advise betting against them but don’t forget that team on the north side of Chicago. Theo Epstein, Joe Maddon and their young Cubs may have something to say about that.