It’s an odd year, so San Francisco Giants fans can save themselves the stress. They’re not winning the World Series this year.
Since the dawn of the 2010s, some things have become ritual. Taylor Swift will release a catchy song, a ’90s movie will get a reboot and the Giants win the World Series in even years. Sorry San Fran, it’s just science.
San Francisco’s offseason was highlighted by the departure of third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Not only does the collective ninja threat of the team plummet, but the lineup is missing a two-time All-Star in the middle of it. Oh yeah, and he was a Panda-sized piece of their three championship runs.
The Giants lost another thumper in Michael Morse. Signed to a one-year deal heading into the season, Morse delivered to the tune of 16 home runs, an OPS of .811 and a game-tying home run in game five of the NLCS. But with an oft-injured history and suspect defense, the Giants let him walk to Miami and a contract they weren’t prepared to match.
San Fran settled for spare parts for both. Casey McGehee slides in for Sandoval with power numbers in decline. For Morse, the Giants signed last year’s World Series counterpart Norichika Aoki. Aoki boasts better defense and a microscopic strikeout ratio in comparison, but he will bore the hell out of the folks in McCovey Cove.
Buster Posey is the best offensive catcher in baseball, a perennial MVP candidate and he is entering the prime of his career. Even asking for another World Championship is greedy. And this is coming from someone living in Boston, the most spoiled sports city in the world.
Joe Panik obliterated the connotation of his surname with the postseason poise of 10-year vet. He and defensive wiz Brandon Crawford, combine for a strong middle infield. Opposite McGehee at first is Brandon Belt, he of the butter smooth bat flip will look for a healthier 2015 with his improving power stroke.
Angel Pagan looks for a rebound year after back surgery ended his 2014 campaign. Hunter Pence will start the year on the DL and will feel the pressure of a Panda-less bat next to him in the batting order. Aoki and Gregor Blanco, who held his own in the postseason, are on mop-up duty. The outfield situation has been better. Those Allen Craig rumblings grow more interesting by the minute.
Madison Bumgarner made fans of everyone outside of Missouri last postseason. A historic postseason earned him MVP honors in the NLCS and the World Series. His 2-0 record, 0.43 ERA, and five-inning save of game seven on two days of rest, puts the term legendary to shame. Then he added to his folk lore with his Paul Bunyan-esque persona. Exhibits A and B. Even if the Giants don’t win the Series, fans get to root for one of the coolest teams in the league.
Bumgarner’s mortality will be tested in 2015. He logged over 270 innings last year and with Matt Cain and Tim Hudson coming off surgery, durability is a concern throughout the rotation. Jake Peavy and Tim Lincecum round out things out, but both are miles away from Cy Young potential.
Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo provide a reliable one-two right-handed punch in the late innings, as they have done the last few seasons. Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez are the resident southpaws who have been effective in the last three years. And Ryan Vogelsung and Yusmeiro Petit will chew big innings when they aren’t spot starting. The bullpen might be the strongest unit on the team.
Opening day lineup
Angel Pagan CF
Joe Panik 2B
Buster Posey C
Brandon Belt 1B
Casey McGehee 3B
Brandon Crawford SS
Norichika Aoki LF
Madison Bumgarner P
Catcher Andrew Susac leads the prospect pact. He lost the backup job in spring training and has the unfortunate reality of an MVP ahead of him on the depth chart, but he will benefit from the consistent at-bats in triple-A Fresno.
The benefit of terrible seasons sandwiched between championships is adding top-caliber talent from the draft to an already formidable team. The Giants did that last year when they drafted Tyler Beede fresh off a College World Series Championship at Vanderbilt. He’s a few years out, but the Giants like what they have in the right-hander. He’s currently studying at the Giants school of pitching and developing a sinker and cutter.
Along with Beede the Giants have right-handers Kyle Crick and Keury Mella who are both coming off injuries in the last year. Mella is the more polished of the two but Crick offers the most potential, albeit with just as many control problems. Injuries and a possible middling record could send every one of these guys up to the big leagues.
Baseball’s modern dynasty suddenly finds itself in one of the most star-studded divisions in baseball. While the Giants have pieces of a championship team, they don’t have all of them.
If the rotation can stay healthy and the lineup can mitigate the loss of Sandoval and Morse, they’ll compete for a playoff spot, but those are both tall orders on top of the tallest order that is repeating as World Series champions.
All signs point to the pattern holding and the Giants on the outside looking in at the end of 2015. But chin up, Giants fans; take solace in knowing you have a tremendous group of core players, money to find free agent fixes in the offseason and you’ll win the World Series next year.
You can’t fight science.