Liotta: Giants are better, but not good enough to win West

If the Giants score more runs this year, they’ll win the NL West.

I heard this somewhere deep down there on the television remote earlier this week. It made me wonder what line the sports prognosticators expect us to draw in the sand of delusion, one that would set some standard for sports predictions.

If Alex Smith could throw more touchdown passes next year. …

If the Warriors could play defense (or had a coach better at evaluating talent). …

If the Sharks could get it together during the playoffs. …

If any one of us were younger, more attractive and had more money, we’d be dating a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model.

Where does that line belong when we’re trying to get a cogent opinion regarding the possibilities of the upcoming baseball season?

If Michael Jordan could be 23 years younger, he’d take the No. 23 from LeBron James. There’d be no need for some respectful decision that happens to sell a whole bunch of memorabilia.

If Tiger Woods could have been exposed a couple of months earlier, there’d be no question about The Masters.

If Barry Zito could pitch at the level his contract demands, the Giants wouldn’t have a budget problem. They’d be able to spend enough money to bring the kind of hitter they need onto their roster. And they’d score more runs, and … sorry, got a bit carried away myself.

It’s a fact that the Giants gave up the fewest runs in the National League last year — 611, the same number of runs allowed by the Los Angeles Dodgers, who happened to win 95 games thanks to the fact they could score more runs than the Giants did.

For the record, 123 runs more.

The Dodgers had Matt Kemp, who hit 26 homers, drove in 101 runs and posted a .297 batting average in 2009. The Dodgers had Andre Ethier, who hit 31 home runs with 106 RBIs last year. And the Dodgers had Manny Ramirez, one of baseball’s best hitters over the past decade.

That’s the kind of hitting it takes to score more runs. It comes down to the players that step into the batter’s box. And those kind of players cost money.

Now, since last season, the Giants have added Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, two very nice professionals who undoubtedly will help. Freddy Sanchez also counts as a newcomer simply because he did nothing down the stretch last year.

Now, we can do all the calculations we want, but Huff, DeRosa and Sanchez do not add up to 123 runs. No way. No major league scout in the world who would tell you that.

But if Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner could post ERAs below 2.00. … There I go again.

Where is that line when you need it?

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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