While the San Francisco Giants are the reigning World Series champions, the team still craves more and the team still has the ability to do more.
The Giants are a very talented team, and that’s why they have won two of the last three World Series. However, they are still overlooked by the media, and they are still proving people wrong.
Even though the Giants are good, they are far from perfect. There are holes and questions that need to be answered early in 2013, and there are ways the Giants can be doomed. San Francisco isn’t invincible, and they have a lot of work to do to repeat.
Can they repeat? Yes. But here are four concerns that could hinder San Francisco’s chances at capturing its third championship in four years.
The starting infield for 2013 is all but set, and the first bench player is a shoo-in to make the roster as well. However, there is still ample reason to be concerned about the infield.
Joaquin Arias hit .270 backing up Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Crawford, and he will make the team unless he is absolutely terrible in spring. Sandoval, Crawford, Marco Scutaro and Brandon Belt are all penciled in on the roster, but five infielders is not enough with a 25-man roster.
San Francisco has made some moves to bolster the infield, signing Wilson Valdez, Kensuke Tanaka and Tony Abreu. Abreu is a career .252 hitter, Valdez is a career .236 hitter, and Tanaka is coming from Japan. In 457 at-bats in 2012, Tanaka hit .300.
While it’s unrealistic to expect Tanaka to hit .300 in the big leagues, he could be a valuable backup. However, injuries have been a concern, as Tanaka only had 200 at-bats in 2011 and collided with current A’s shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima in 2012.
Plus, Tanaka could struggle with the Giants, and he won’t be a great player. Neither will Valdez and Abreu, as neither bring anything exciting to the table. Brett Pill has struggled with limiting his strikeouts, while Nick Noonan is unproven, which is never good with the Giants.
If one of these players, like Sandoval, who has been hurt for extended periods of time in 2011 and 2012, gets injured, two of these players currently fighting for roster spots will be forced onto the big league roster. That would be terrible for the Giants.
The Giants will be lucky if their infielders stay healthy and perform, because if not, they will be in trouble. Pinch-hitting is already a concern with the lack of depth, and it will become worse with injuries. While someone could step up and perform well enough to even start, it is very unlikely.
And if the backups are forced in, winning a World Series will also become very unlikely.
Left Field Platoon
When Melky Cabrera was suspended for PEDs last year, many people thought the Giants were doomed. However, the Giants went on to win the World Series using the suspension as motivation.
But they also used some other things to win it all, such as the inspired play of Gregor Blanco in left field.
Blanco stepped up and made tons of great defensive plays while being accountable for all of San Francisco’s runs in Game 3 of the World Series. He made two diving catches in Game 1 of the World Series, had a perfect bunt in Game 2, and stepped up big-time in Game 3.
However, the Giants wanted someone to hit left-handed pitching, so they signed Andres Torres, their catalyst in 2010, to hit left-handers. Torres hit .286 against left-handed pitching in 2012, and he is a switch-hitter. Blanco hit .244 in 2012, and hit .242 against right-handed pitching. For a left-handed hitter, that mark is terrible.
Torres can hit lefty as well, so we could see one of the two players seeing the bulk of the playing time. Presumably, it would be Blanco, because there are more right-handed pitchers than left-handed pitchers. However, the Giants could be shuffling the players around.
Blanco struck out 26.5 percent of the time in 2012, and Torres hit just .230. I doubt that either will perform much better in 2013, and that could be a
problem for the Giants. Because they don’t have any thumpers in the lineup (outside of Buster Posey), the Giants rely on everyone to produce.
While Torres and Blanco have both been on the bench before, it could even cause chemistry problems in the locker. I doubt that will happen with such an unselfish team, but it’s a possibility. Injury is also a possibility, and I don’t think the Giants will feel comfortable with just Blanco or just Torres in left field.
There are lots of concerns, and with both players being streaky, Bochy will have a lot of shuffling to do, especially in the midst of slumps. While both players will help on defense, there are lots of legitimate concerns about this platoon. I wouldn’t expect more than a combined .250 batting average, and that isn’t enough.
Runners will be on base, as the Giants manage a good amount of hits but not many home runs. Therefore, it will be up to the platoon to produce runs, and I don’t see that happening with the abundance of strikeouts.
One more thing I don’t see happening is the platoon being successful.
Pablo Sandoval’s Weight
Giants fans are very grateful for Pablo Sandoval, as he hit six postseason home runs (three in Game 1 of the World Series) while winning World Series MVP and propelling the Giants to their second championship.
However, Sandoval has had a rocky ride with the Giants, mostly because of his weight. His 2010 season was one to forget, and his 2012 power outage also sparked some criticism.
I was angry at Sandoval for a lot of the year, particularly in one series against the Colorado Rockies. Sandoval cost the Giants one game with an error and played in a very lazy way, bringing back memories of 2010. While Sandoval brought his A-game in the playoffs and hit .364 in 16 playoff games, there is concern for 2013.
Sandoval missed at least two weeks with separate injuries in 2012, and while one ended up being a huge help to the Giants (the need for infield depth prompted general manager Brian Sabean to trade for Scutaro), it brings up concern for 2013.
If Sandoval struggles or gets hurt, Joaquin Arias will start, and while he did very well in 2012, he doesn’t scare any pitchers. Having Crawford, Arias and Torres or Blanco in the lineup will hurt the Giants, especially considering that Posey is the only legitimate star in the lineup.
Power is also affected by Sandoval’s weight, and he hit just 12 home runs in about 400 at-bats in 2012. Sandoval had a streak of 161 at-bats without a home run, and it felt like all he could do was hit singles and sacrifice flies. Giants fans may be having that same feeling in 2013.
Obviously, defense is affected as well, because Sandoval won’t be as mobile. He made some very good defensive plays in the World Series, snagging a liner from Miguel Cabrera in Game 2 and hopping over Matt Cain to throw out Quintin Berry in Game 4.
I do not expect those plays to be made in 2013. In fact, I expect Sandoval to be a defensive liability in 2013. His weight affects the way his play, and it will make a negative impact. While Sandoval can still be productive, his weight is a major concern.
And it could even change the course of the Giants’ season.
In the past three slides, I’ve touched upon this issue. Why? Because it can truly swallow the Giants whole.
After San Francisco captured the World Series trophy in 2010, the injury bug actually did swallow them whole in 2011. Posey and Freddy Sanchez went down for the year (early in the year) and Sandoval was hurt for a long time. The Giants basically built a new team, and failed to go anywhere.
Injuries cannot happen in 2013. The Giants don’t have a good sixth starter, as Yusmiero Petit isn’t ready to be a full-time MLB starter (and he may never be). I already broke down the lack of infield depth, and the same goes for the outfield.
No Giants fan wants to see Arias starting every day, but that could happen with an injury. The Giants could also make a trade, but finding someone like Scutaro at the trade deadline is very rare. The Giants can’t count on a trade to save them, because it will not.
In addition, it takes time to work out a trade. The Giants can’t make a trade the day after an injury, as they will have to work out the details. Plus, the Giants aren’t the kind of team that makes a big splash in free agency or at the trade deadline. They don’t want to ship off talent from their farm system, which is already depleted.
Any injury will take a power jolt or a defensive spark out of the lineup, and the Giants, already an average (at best) offensive team, can’t deal with that. They were lucky to avoid the injury bug in 2010 and 2012, and while they handled Melky Cabrera’s suspension well, that was a different scenario. They had a lot to prove. There isn’t as much to prove now that the Giants are coming off of a championship.
Injuries can slay the Giants, as they can deplete the lineup and bury them in the standings. With the Los Angeles Dodgers being much stronger with improved chemistry, the Giants can’t climb out of a huge hole.
The Giants are a good team with great chemistry and talent, but they aren’t built to handle injuries. An injury would either force an incapable player into starting or some talent to leave the organization in exchange for a capable starter. All Giants fans are worried about injuries, and for good reason. They can destroy the Giants in 2013.
And, if the situation is bad enough, injuries can bring the Giants down in the future as well.