COMMENTARY | If offense is supposed to win championships, then the San Francisco Giants are an anomaly. Their lineup wasn't supposed to be good enough to win in 2010, yet they somehow found a way to scrap together enough runs to go all the way. Their lineup last year was weaker than 2010's on paper, but they managed to win themselves another World Series. And this year, with minimal changes to the team's offensive makeup, there are again questions as to whether or not the Giants have enough firepower to win.
There definitely aren't any simple answers, either. Though it's tempting to say the Giants did the right thing in bringing back the exact same offense that won it all, there's still a distressing lack of power in the middle of the lineup and major questions about key contributors elsewhere.
Starting at the top of the lineup, the Giants have to wonder if the 2013 versions of Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro will be anywhere close to the hitters they were last year. Pagan had the best season of his life in a contract year, and while a drop in production is likely the Giants have to hope it's a small drop. Scutaro played out of his mind the minute he put on a Giants uniform, hitting .362/.385/.473 in 61 regular season games before exploding in the playoffs. But he'll be 37 this year, and it's unreasonable to think he'll continue to put up those kinds of numbers. Like Pagan, the Giants have to hope the drop off isn't a steep one.
Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval are about the only sure things the Giants have in the lineup (or as close to being sure things as possible), though questions about Sandoval's conditioning and Posey's health will linger throughout the season. Their abilities as hitters aren't in question, though the same thing can't be said for the guys behind them. Motivational speeches aside, Hunter Pence was downright awful for the Giants after he arrived from Philadelphia mid-season; call him The Anti-Scutaro. The Giants need much, much more from Pence than the .219/.287/.384 line he put up with the team in '12. They're banking on Pence returning to form, but that is far from a sure thing. It remains to be seen whether or not Brandon Belt will ever get an uninterrupted run as the Giants starting first baseman, but his patience at the plate and his ability to drive the ball make him an intriguing option to move up in the lineup if Pence continues to falter. The Giants would surely like to see more power from Belt, but that will likely develop as he matures as a hitter.
The biggest question mark is in left field, where the Giants are hoping Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres can combine to form an average-hitting outfielder named Andregor Blorres (well, maybe). Blanco played well down the stretch and into the postseason, but he's never been an everyday player for a reason. He simply lacks the offensive skill needed to be in the lineup day in and day out, and the same can be said for Torres save for one magical season in '10. The Giants seem to be going for superior defense at this position and punting offense, taking a "whatever we can get is good enough" kind of approach. That would be fine on a team with a high-powered offense, but the Giants aren't that kind of team; plus, they're taking the same all-defense, whatever-offense approach at shortstop with Brandon Crawford. The bottom third of the lineup has major black hole potential which will become a magnified problem if the rest of the lineup isn't producing.
So do the Giants have enough weapons to compete with the Dodgers, Braves, Nationals, Reds, Cardinals, and the other dangerous offenses in the National League? That's hard to say. The pieces are there, but they need a number of things to break their way: steady production from Pagan and Scutaro, health and fitness from Posey and Sandoval, Pence figuring out his issues, continued growth from Belt, some kind of offense from the bottom of the lineup, and so on. There's the potential for an effective offense, but there's also the potential for a repeat of the 2011 season where the Giants' offense was just south of putrid.
This isn't a team that will win many slugfests, but neither was last year's team. That team's offense did have a number of things break their way and the Giants took advantage of those breaks all the way to another World Series title. Can they do the same thing this year even without guys having career years, or without the promise of perfect health, or without the timely hits that always seemed to come?
Well...they can always win with pitching, right?
Dave Tobener has been a Giants fan longer than he's actually been alive...it's science. You can find him on Twitter here: @gggiants.
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