It’s an Even Year

You all know what that means.

Yes, the Diamondbacks signed Greinke, the Cubs are stacked, sure, the Royals are good, but…c’mon.

The last team other than the San Francisco Giants to win a World Series in an even year?

2008 Philadelphia Phillies. Yes, those probably worst team in baseball Phillies.

So those 162 games plus intense playoff series are really formalities at this point. Here’s an in depth look at the San Francisco Giants 2016 Season Preview:

First, an ode to those who have passed on.

Don’t worry, nobody died. It’s just that a few players who have been critical pieces of the Giants’ recent success have moved on. It’s unfortunate, but the Giants have reloaded after each World Series run, so this is not uncharted territory.

Tim Hudson, you were a great pitcher and a classy veteran. So glad you were able to finally get the ring you more than deserved.

To Jeremy Affeldt, a steady hand in the bullpen but no so much with steak knives. A terrific set up man and a bad sandwich maker.

Ryan Vogelsong, the ultimate feel-good story of perseverance and determination. And a darned good pitcher too.

And finally, to Tim Lincecum, the one who led the Giants out of the darkness…thank you for all you did as a Giant. I hope you realize what a great fan base the Giants have. They stuck by your side through thick and thin.

The Mainstays

The Giants’ success all starts with the best battery in the majors, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey. Madbum is a horse, a throwback to the pitchers of the 1970’s and earlier, when pitch counts and innings limits were scoffed at. There’s no reason to believe he will throw anything less than 220 quality innings in 2016.

Posey is best catcher in the game (sorry, Yadier Molina), but he might also be the best first baseman in baseball. Although Posey is masterful at handling a pitching staff, Andrew Susac is an intriguing prospect and Buster hit .340 while playing first last year, as opposed to around .300 while playing catcher. It’s an undeniable trend, but the Giants are unlikely to move him because…

They are already set at first base, and the rest of the infield to boot.

Brandon Belt seems primed for one of those breakout years. If Belt can stay healthy, this lineup could be so nasty. Joe Panik does everything so well at second base. He’s an All-Star and a terrific find by Brian Sabean. Many said the Giants reached on him picking him in the first round in 2011, but he would go in the top 5 if they re-picked that draft today. Brandon Crawford enjoyed a breakout season and a career year last year, taking home both the Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards to go along with his first All-Star selection. He fell off in the second half, so it bears watching to see if he can sustain his success. Rounding out the homegrown quartet is Matt Duffy. The Giants downsized but upgraded last year at the hot corner with the emergence of Duffy. While the Red Sox dished out cash to watch Pablo balloon and pretty much stink all around, the Giants paid peanuts to watch Duffy narrowly lose the NL Rookie of the Year. Do you guys remember Casey McGee?

The Loners

With all the great pitching on this year’s team, it stands to reason that Denard Span, Hunter Pence, Angel Pagan, and Gregor Blanco might get a little bored (and lonely) out there in the great expanses of AT&T Park. Pence endured a rash of bad luck and a myriad of injuries last year, while Pagan has dealt with that his entire career. Span is no Cal Ripken either, so the play of Gregor Blanco is critical here. Blanco doesn’t offer much at the plate, but his defensive wizardry in the late innings of ballgames has been crucial to the postseason success the Giants have so enjoyed recently. One player to keep an eye on is minor leaguer Christian Arroyo. Much like Joe Panik, many thought the Giants reached for him picking him in the first round of the draft yet he put up terrific minor league numbers last year. A strong spring could land Arroyo in Triple A this year, and with his path to the infield blocked, his strong arm would be a good fit in a corner outfield spot. Look for a potential mid-season promotion.

New Kids on the Block

Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto suffered relative down years last year, allowing the Giants to pay much less than they would have had to twelve months earlier. With Dave Righetti, Mark Garnder, and Bruce Bochy, look for those downward trends to be reversed. This coaching staff is the best in the business.

Hey, Remember Me?

Jake Peavy might be the fiercest competitor in the MLB. Matt Cain was a Cy Young award candidate before undergoing surgery for bone chips in his elbow. By all accounts, Cain’s arm was healthy last year and his stuff was sharp. He struggled with control, which is a correctable issue. If Cain reverts to his old form, the Giants rotation could be insane with him as the fifth starter. Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez will stick around for another go around. Josh Osich pitched well in a cameo last season and should be an adequate replacement for Jeremy Affeldt. Hunter Strickland throws gas as a setup man. Kelby Tomlinson is a great ultility man.

Sorry, rest of the MLB. See you in 2017.

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