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Welcome, Ye Readers, to the Land of Hippies and Hobos - Your 2012 San Francisco Giants Preview

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“WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!” he yelled. Bystanders are left wondering why a man would shout his own name.

via cdn.bleacherreport.net

Every time I watch a Giants game, I wonder what would happen if an alien race attempting to make first contact were to descend upon the game. They would witness a large gathering of grown men and women wearing fake beards and panda hats watching two groups of men taking turns hitting a ball with a stick. This would most likely confuse the aliens, causing them to leave earth saying, "well, there's definitely no intelligent life there." They would later return to take over our puny and confused little race, with the belief that we would no longer deserved to exist. The Giants, then, would be to blame for the end of the human race. I am reasonably certain that this is a more possible scenario for the Giants than any other team.

But alien takeovers aside (in fact, some will argue they've already made contact), it's time to get down to business and take a look at 1/5 of the dreaded west coast trip. So watch as I channel my inner Grant Brisbee (I hear there's one in all of us) to preview, for you, the 2012 San Francisco Giants.

San Francisco Giants

GM: Brian Sabean

Manager: Bruce Bochy

2011 Payroll: $118,198,333

2011 Record: 86-76, 2nd in the NL West

Offense:

C: Buster Posey

1B: Aubrey Huff, Brandon Belt

2B: Freddy Sanchez, Ryan Theriot

3B: Pablo Sandoval

SS: Brandon Crawford, Ryan Theriot

CF: Angel Pagan

RF: Nate Schierholtz, Melky Cabrera (yes, I'll link it)

LF: Melky Cabrera, Brandon Belt

Significant Arrivals: Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Ryan Theriot

Significant Departures: Carlos Beltran, Cody Ross, Andres Torres

After finishing last in the NL in runs scored (2nd to last in MLB), the Giants went into the offseason looking to improve their offense. To accomplish this, they traded for Melky Cabrera and Angel Pagan. Now that you've stopped laughing, both deals should help, albeit slightly, in improving the offense. Melky is coming off a career year slashing .305/.339/.470 in 2011, and was one of 5 players to have over 200 hits on the year. Sounds good right, but did I mention that he had a .332 BABIP and had the 4th most ABs in the league? Cabrera is ripe for regression, and the move to the spacious AT&T park won't help. Still, he has a chance to be the best outfielder the Giants have. Pagan replaces Andres Torres as the starting CF, and is coming off a down year after two solid years in '09-'10. Pagan never got going last season and had some problems in the Mets' clubhouse. San Francisco is hoping he can turn his career around at the top of their order.

The biggest key to San Francisco's offense will be players attempting to bounce back from injury or ineffectiveness. None are bigger than Buster Posey, who will be looking to return from the well-known collision at the plate a year ago. Posey has played this spring without issue, and the Giants might give him some time at 1B during the year to ease the wear on his ankle throughout the season. Posey's return also makes this t-shirt relevant again:

Buster_medium

via www.sportsgrindent.com

Aside from Posey there are other guys with question marks. Aubrey Huff is coming off a down year (.246/.306/.370), and reportedly put in a lot of work this offseason to improve from last season. The Giants are counting on Huff to be a big contributor, something I'm not sure I'd hold my breath for. Freddy Sanchez will begin the year on the DL, but hopes to return soon from a shoulder injury he suffered last year.

It will be interesting to see how they handle Belt. Belt will get playing time at first, but with the Giants wanting to give Posey time there, in addition to their commitment to Huff, playing time might be hard to find for Belt. His more likely use will come in LF with Cabrera moving over to RF or spelling Pagan in CF. Huff could also see some time in RF.

The giants have stated they will prioritize defense this year, which is why the defensively sound Schierholtz is projected as the starter in RF. Brandon Crawford is being given a chance to take over the SS position as well. Crawford is the Giant's Janish, except they're still in the "hey, maybe he can hit too!" stage while the Reds are in the "oh nevermind, he can't" stage.

Starting Pitching:

RHP Tim Lincecum

RHP Matt Cain

LHP Madison Bumgarner

RHP Ryan Vogelsong

LHP Barry Zito, LHP Eric Surkamp

Significant Departures: LHP Jonathan Sanchez

The starting staff will again be the strength of this team. They sport two aces in Lincecum and Cain. Bumgarner is coming off a breakout year and looks poised for another good season (Bold Prediction: Bumgarner ends up the best pitcher on the staff this season). In the fourth spot they'll look to another breakout pitcher in Ryan Vogelsong, however Vogelsong remains a question mark to begin the season with a back injury. Zito returns and remains a bargain signing for the Giants. Rookie lefty Eric Surkamp is the first in in the event of an injury, and looks to be penciled into Vogelsong's spot to start the year.

Bullpen:

Top 3: RHP Brian Wilson (Closer), RHP Sergio Romo, RHP Santiago Casilla

The Rest: LHP Jeremy Affeldt, LHP Javier Lopez, RHP Guillermo Mota, RHP Clay Hensley

Significant Departures: RHP Ramon Ramirez

This looks to again be a solid group, even with the departure of Ramirez. Wilson and Romo return as the top arms, with the better of the two pitching in the 8th inning (yay for high leverage situations!). Casilla is coming off a good year. Affeldt and Lopez form a solid LH duo. The club also has Heath Hembree, a high-ceiling relief prospect, waiting in the minors if needed.

Top Prospects close to the big leagues:

C Hector Sanchez - Originally projected to start in the minors, Sanchez has mashed this spring and put himself in the conversation for the back-up role behind Posey. It's still likely he starts in the minors so he can get regular playing time, but San Francisco might decide the time they will give Posey at 1B will be enough to justify Sanchez heading north with the club.

LHP Eric Surkamp/RHP Heath Hembree - See above.

Boring News Involving the Giants:

Something to keep an eye on this season is the situation between the A's and the Giants regarding the A's plans to relocate to nearby San Jose. San Jose is part of the Giants territory according to bylaws, and currently the club is blocking the A's from the move. If the matter were to be brought for a vote with all the MLB clubs, the issue could determine how territorial rights work for other clubs in the future, meaning it would probably go in the Giants favor. For Grant Brisbee's unbiased and economically literate opinion on this issue, click here.

Former Reds:

After Cody Ross, Jeff Keppinger, and Orlando Cabrera left for greener pastures, Jeremy Affeldt remains as the sole former good guy.

Giants Players Who the Reds Hate:

Bill Hall was briefly a member of San Fran last year. Eugenio Velez is apparently not with the Giants anymore choosing instead to be a whiny little bitch, so no fun usually-bad players for you. Pablo Sandoval has slashed .410/.424/.542 versus the Redlegs.

Reds Players Who the Giants Hate:

In case you hadn't heard, Mat Latos was never one who was shy to get under the skin of rival teams. There's a part of me that is actively rooting for him to do things like this to teams in the central. We've spent enough time with Chris Carpenter et al. and now it's our turn. I'll be waiting anxiously for this:

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via farm8.staticflickr.com

Get to it Mat!

Projection:

I could see 89-92 wins from this club and a division crown. Their 1-4 of Pagan/Cabrera/Posey/Sandoval might be enough offense to work given their stellar pitching. However, there's a lot of "we'll be good if this and this and this happen," with this team. Huff, Cabrera, Posey, Sanchez, and Pagan all carry question marks, and their depth is not good. I'm not sold on Vogelsong just yet. The team's 33-22 record in one run games last year is a sign they might have had some good fortune with their record (their pythag was 80-82). So I'll go with an 88-74 record, good for 2nd in the NL West.

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