Three keys to the San Francisco Giants winning the NL West in 2011 

Avoid the Series hangover

1|Everything that could have gone right in 2010 did for the Giants. Every acquisition made an impact at one point or another, and manager Bruce Bochy pushed all the right buttons. But with 2011 comes the added pressure of being the defending champs and the extra motivation for opponents to bring their best effort. While complacency after a championship season is always a concern, the Giants’ bigger issue could come in the health department. Will the extra innings have an impact on the pitching staff? Will Brian Wilson’s nagging injuries that popped up in the spring follow him deep into the regular season? Will the loss of Cody Ross hurt at the beginning of the season? The Giants needed all 162 games to win the NL West last season, and any slipup could cost them in 2011.

A return to form by Pablo

2|Prior to last season, Pablo Sandoval was the most exciting young hitter the Giants had produced in years after turning in a 2009 season in which he hit .330 with 25 home runs and 90 RBIs. But one down season in 2010 quickly changed that. Now Sandoval is on a short leash and needs a hot start to guarantee playing time throughout the season. He lost nearly 40 pounds in the offseason and appeared noticeably quicker in the field during spring training, though he was still plagued by errors at times. But ultimately, it comes down whether Sandoval can get it done at the plate. A return to his 2009 form would add tremendous depth to the Giants’ lineup.

Pitching, pitching and more pitching

3|While the lineup has made great strides over the past several seasons, and could get even better in the future with the addition of hot prospect Brandon Belt, it will still never be confused with baseball’s elite offenses. San Francisco is built around pitching and it will live and die with its arms. Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner are all capable of winning 15 games, and despite some fans’ protests, Barry Zito is serviceable at the end of the rotation. Shrewd moves by general manager Brian Sabean at the trade deadline last season shored up the bullpen, and it remains among baseball’s best. Any setbacks or serious injuries to the staff could lead to major problems.

Projected lineup


CF Andres Torres

Bats: S

Throws: R

After a breakout season in 2010, Torres will begin the year as the leadoff man. His power-and-speed combination is vital to the Giants’ success.

2B Freddy Sanchez

Bats: R    

Throws: R

The question with Sanchez is always health, as he was limited to 111 games in 2010. When healthy, he’s an ideal No. 2 hitter who can make contact.

1B Aubrey Huff

Bats: L

Throws: R

In his first season, Huff gave birth to the rally thong and hit .290 with 26 HRs and 86 RBIs. What does he have in store for an encore?

C Buster Posey

Bats: R

Throws: R

The highly-touted prospect became an immediate fan-favorite when he was called up from the minors in May and went on to hit .305 on the year.

SS Miguel Tejada

Bats: R

Throws: R

The versatile DeRosa will be asked to fill a lot of roles in the field, and his consistent bat should lead to more scoring opportunities.

LF Pat Burrell

Bats: R

Throws: R

The veteran is back for another season after it appeared he would leave as a free agent. Moving him down in the order should benefit the whole lineup.

3B Pablo Sandoval

Bats: S

Throws: R

The 26-year-old has proven he has the tools to play AT&T Park’s quirky right field, but now he needs to show he can get it done at the plate, too.

RF Cody Ross

Bats: R

Throws: L

The first season of the shortstop’s Giants tenure was a disaster. Renteria hit a career-low .250 and played in just 124 games due to injuries.

Projected rotation


Tim Lincecum

Bats: L

Throws: R

The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner has blossomed into arguably the best pitcher in the game and the face of the franchise.

Jonathan Sanchez

Bats: L

Throws: L

A strong second half (5-4, 2.83 ERA) in 2009 gave fans and the organization hope that the left-hander may be able to turn things around.

Matt Cain

Bats: R

Throws: R

After years of not receiving run support, Cain finally did last season and it showed in his numbers. The 25-year-old finished 14-8 with a 2.89 ERA.

Barry Zito

Bats: L

Throws: L

The lefty provided one of the season’s highlights last year by tossing a no-hitter. He has always had the talent, but consistency will be key.

Madison Bumgarner

Bats: R

Throws: L

After edging out Madison Bumgarner and Kevin Pucetas for the final spot in the rotation, Wellemeyer will need a quick start to keep his job.

The closer


Brian Wilson

Bats: R

Throws: R

Wilson took a step forward last season, lowering his ERA and WHIP, but still needs to cut down on the adventure-filled ninth innings.

The manager


Bruce Bochy

Fifth season


After piloting the Giants to a 16-game improvement in the win column last season, Bochy was rewarded with a two-year contract extension in the offseason. The skipper should be able to get more out of this club.

About The Author

Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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