This is a part of the soon-to-be-published SBNation.com baseball preview, in which they asked every team blogger why their team will win the pennant. I can't jinx the Giants without every other writer jinxing their team. No one will win the pennant this year. The Yellowstone super-caldera is going to win the pennant. Good job, SB Nation. Buy canned goods, every one.
The Giants lost 86 games last year. They took great pains to retain Tim Lincecum, Hunter Pence, Javier Lopez, and Ryan Vogelsong. They replaced Barry Zito with Tim Hudson and swapped out Gregor Blanco's glove for Michael Morse's power, but this is basically the same team that did so poorly last year.
What this roster is, then, is Brian Sabean flipping off the baseball gods. It wasn't Sabean who was wrong last year, it was baseball that was wrong. Let's try it again, from the top, with feeling.
It's not a crazy idea.
In fact, there's some logic behind it. The PECOTA projections for 2013 were about as optimistic as they are for this season, which is to say "kinda." The Vegas lines are roughly the same this year as they were for last, putting the Giants solidly in the top of the second tier of the National League, fighting for the wild card. And before you accuse them of being cheap, remember that an extra $200 million on Shin-Soo Choo and Matt Garza still wouldn't have made them favorites over the Dodgers. The Giants spend, just on familiar faces.
This is about the reason they'll win the pennant, though. So let's see if I can find one.
They'll win the pennant because, well, I believe in the soul, Brian Bocock, the Big Cat, the working parts of Marco Scutaro's back, that Tim Lincecum won't hang curveballs, Sandoval's high-fiber diet, good scotch, that Magic Johnson's talk show was self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Steve Finley acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core videos of Barry Bonds destroying Eric Gagne, opening your presents on Opening Day rather than when pitchers and catchers report, and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, Buster Posey at-bats that last three days.
[Pauses, winks, walks away.]
There's more to it than that. First, I'm not prepared to accept the fact that the rotation is this bad now. I'm just not. Matt Cain is still fantastic, and his ERA would have been under 4.00 last year if he had done the dumb, macho thing and taken the ball for an unnecessary last start. He didn't, and we're left with an ugly, round number. And yet, his velocity was the same, his strikeout rate was the same, his swinging-strike rate was the same. Everything was the same except for his home runs allowed and his ERA. I'm not buying it.
Add the typical Cain season to a typical Tim Hudson and Madison Bumgarner season and that's the beginning of a rotation that should be a lot better, even if only because it would be hard for it to be worse. Better starting pitching would mean everything for a team that has a surprisingly steady offensive core. Of the starting eight, only Morse stands out as someone who might not start on most teams. The rest of lineup is solid to above-average, with Posey sticking out as the lone star. It's a competent bunch, and if you believe in OPS+ and other park-adjusted metrics, one of the better offenses in the National League.
Marco Scutaro's back, too! That's exciting. Unless that's a possessive instead of a contraction. I don't read the news much, so I'm just assuming you can read that as "Marco Scutaro is back!"
But that's boring stuff. Maybe the pitching will improve; maybe the hitting will stay deceptively competent. That doesn't speak to why they'll win the pennant, though. That takes a leap of faith, a belief in the mystical. Good teams will win the pennant this year, and good teams will fall just short. The difference will be luck, mostly. And that luck will fall on the Giants' side because it's about damned time something goes right for them.
As of this writing, it's been 473 days since everything went right for the Giants. That's 11,352 hours, 681,120 minutes. Is it fair to call it a Cubs-like drought when you put it like that? Yes. Yes, I think it is fair. Hundreds of thousands of minutes. The Giants will win the pennant because it's their time, dang it. That, and the baseball gods are clearly trolls. Just total jerks. For once, that might work in the Giants' favor.
And by "for once," I mean. "for the third time in a very short stretch."
Also, because we're spoiled.