Friday, December 31, 2010

Bleacher Report Says...10 Reasons for a Giants Repeat

Top Ten Reasons Giants can repeat in 2011
Written by Vinnie Cestone (Contributor)

10. The Machine
Who is this masked man wearing a bondage outfit? Is it Brian Wilson's neighbor? Is it Pat Burrell in his holiday party getup?
Whoever he is, he was present when the Giants won their first championship in San Francisco, so let's just say he was the Giants' good luck charm in 2010.
The Machine will probably be back for an encore in 2011 to bring the Giants more good fortune. Who knows what surprises he will bring forth.
The mystery that is The Machine will just have to continue into next year.
9. Bruce Bochy
Just like Brian Sabean, the Giants' manager, Bruce Bochy, was put on the chopping block. And just like Sabean, Bochy turned from goat to hero in 2010.
When given decent pieces to work with, Bochy can assemble a competitive team. In his first years as the Giants' manager, he was given little to work with as far as on-field talent and hence the losing records. However, once the starting pitching blossomed in 2009, and Bochy was given a strong bullpen with the acquisition of Jeremy Affeldt and the emergence of Brian Wilson, he somehow squeezed 88 wins out of the Giants' horrendous 2009 offensive team.
In 2010, the Giants gave Bochy his most-talented team as manager. He had versatility in the bullpen and with his position players. With hitters who could finally give professional at bats, like Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff, he was able to actually manage and win.
Another one of Bochy's strengths is that he knows how to develop and manage a bullpen, as seen by the 2010 playoffs. Since a strong bullpen is a necessary foundation for any winning team, this is extremely important.
Bochy's immense knowledge of the game should also be mentioned. In 2010, many learned that Bochy is a very sharp baseball man, as shown by the time he helped the Giants win a game at Dodger Stadium when Don Mattingly had to take out Jonathon Broxton because he made two mound visits.
Bochy will be given the same bullpen depth and position-player versatility in 2011. As a knowledgeable baseball man, and a former catcher, expect another well-managed season from him.

8. Brian Sabean
The creator of might want to issue an apology.
When the Giants' General Manager Brian Sabean is given enough financial flexibility, he does a nice job fielding a competitive team. How many teams can say they were in a pennant race in September for all but two years between 1997 and 2010?
The Giants were smack in the middle of one from 1997-2006 and 2009-2010. Yes, even when they finished well below .500 in 2005 and 2006, they still had a legitimate shot at the playoffs in September.
Although Sabean had some problems bringing in solid players in recent years, 2010 was a good year for him. When the Giants did not have a solidified bullpen, he brought in Javier Lopez and Ramon Ramirez mid-season to fill that gap. When the Giants were in desperate need of a professional plate approach and power, he acquired Pat Burrell and Aubrey Huff from free agency. Not to mention, he brought in Cody Ross for almost nothing.
Don't forget that he also had a hand in assembling the world-class pitching staff of Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, and Sanchez, along with drafting Buster Posey.
Sabean should effectively add pieces again in 2011. With the Giants' payroll expected to reach $120 million, he will have more than enough financially to improve the team if need be, regardless of Barry Zito's big contract.

7. The Giants Media Crew
It sounds crazy, but even the Giants' media crew had a helping hand in the 2010 championship season, and they should not go unnoticed.
The Giants' 2010 media crew (CSN Bay Area, KNBR, Marty Lurie, Mychael Urban, Amy Gutierrez, F.P. Santangelo, and even Ashkon's inspirational song) will be back in 2011. The mass media is pervasive, it's everywhere, and can rapidly spread information or break stories.
They not only reported for the Giants very well, but they also looked out for the Giants when they felt something was not right.
An excellent example was when Jon Miller and F.P. Santangelo broke out the story about the unregulated Coors Field humidor. Their investigations and opinions prompted Major League Baseball to investigate the issue, and they even sent someone from the MLB to regulate the humidified baseballs during a crucial series between the Giants and the Rockies.
If something is amiss in 2011, the Giants' media crew will surely be there to investigate.

6. Fan Support
It has been a tough road for Giants fans, waiting since 1958 for their Giants to win a championship in San Francisco, but it finally happened, largely because of their support.
In years past, it seemed like Giants fans just about gave up. Even when the rival Los Angeles Dodgers came to AT&T Park, the stadium would be seemingly half-full of Dodger blue, but 2010 did away with all that.
From the first pitch to the last out, Giants fans were always on their feet. They did not cheer after strike three happened, but they cheered before strike three happened. During the playoffs and the final three regular-season games of 2010, they waved their rally towels, blanketed the ballpark in orange, and roared in anticipation for their hometown Giants.
They made songs that encouraged the Giants and their loyal fans to "Don't Stop Believin," even when things looked bleak. They were even celebrities like Rob Schneider, Robin Williams, and Steve Perry.
Because of the fine efforts of Giants fans from all across the country, they gave a helping hand in this 2010 championship season and are expected to do the same in 2011 and beyond.

5. Team Chemistry
Some say team chemistry is overrated, but the Giants will probably tell you otherwise.
Even after tough losses, the Giants would come back the next night in high spirits, leaving behind whatever woes that happened the previous night. In baseball, this is extremely important. A player must have a short memory because he might just be out there the next night in a key a situation.
What helped the Giants keep their chin up from day to day?
Staying positive is much easier in a clubhouse where everybody is getting along. Like in any sport, a team that sticks together will prevail in the end. As cliche as it sounds, the togetherness of the Giants allowed them to bounce back after tough losses all season long. They had just the right juju to get them through 162 games.
With Juan Uribe gone to the rival Dodgers, a prominent clubhouse figure, the Giants replaced him with the best possible alternative, Miguel Tejada. The Tejada signing (and their attempts to resign the majority of the 2010 squad) shows that the Giants know the importance of clubhouse chemistry. Not only is Tejada a veteran leader, he also can have a prominent influence on the Latin players on the Giants, particularly Pablo Sandoval, who he said he was going to keep in contact with throughout the offseason.
With the 2010 championship team mostly kept in tact, expect a similar clubhouse vibe to last year.
4. Decent Defense
On paper, the Giants look less than spectacular on defense in 2011. In fact, one might say the Giants are full of defensive liabilities with Pat Burrell in left field and Aubrey Huff at first.
Although the Giants lack the range of a good defensive team, they catch the balls they can get to and make all the routine plays. In 2010, they made only 73 errors, the fourth lowest in Major League Baseball. For a pitching staff who led all of baseball in strikeouts in 2010, the defensive liabilities will become less exposed anyway.
The only three clearly above-average defensive players on the Giants are Freddy Sanchez, Andres Torres, and Buster Posey. Torres' speed and excellent range is a big plus at AT&T Park, especially with the big right-center field. Sanchez also picks it at second-base, as he showed throughout the 2010 playoffs.
Somebody who has really separated himself defensively is Buster Posey. With his cannon arm, and his impressive ability to handle a World Series-winning pitching staff, he will surely win his fair share of gold gloves.
It is no secret that Pablo Sandoval struggled defensively in 2010. However, if he continues to lose weight this offseason and gets his act together, he might be less of a liability at third base in 2011. The extra weight not only affected his range, but it had a clear effect on his throwing, compared to 2009.

3. Key Additions for an Improved 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), their offense is worlds better than in 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.

2. Deep 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 are not becoming one of those great bullpens, they are already 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 its versatility. Nearly all of the 2010 bullpen will be back in the orange and black in 2011, with the exception of Chris Ray. And the entire 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 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. If the situation calls for a key double play, Jeremy Affeldt can be summoned to get one (he induced the most double plays of all relievers in 2009).
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.

1. 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.

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