Wednesday, March 9, 2011

San Francisco Giants: 5 Question Marks Heading Into The 2011 Baseball Season

With Spring Training now in full swing, the San Francisco Giants have unofficially began their journey to repeat as World Series Champions.

After their improbable run to become baseball's 2010 World Champions, it is hard to say whether this team has yet to come down from that high.

A pretty mediocre and quiet offseason from the Giants' front office has this team against the odds once again.

Until you look at their pitching staff, when you quickly remember why this team won it all last season.

Still, there are question marks aplenty for this team.

Can they repeat? Will Brian Wilson's beard rule the world? Who is 'The Machine?'

Here are my 5 biggest question marks for the San Francisco Giants heading into the 2011 MLB season:

5. - Barry Zito

It was a pretty quiet offseason for Barry Zito, that is until the first week of Spring Training when reports were he was going to released by the team. Other than that it was pretty quiet...

Reports of Zito coming into Spring Training out of shape turned out to be false, and so did any reports of him being let go.

Still, Zito is under scrutiny entering this 2011 baseball season, as he always is. He is getting paid $126 million.

But after years of Zito showing sparks of brilliance in one half of the season and not the second half, or vice-versa, fans can get a little antsy.

The questions: Is this the year Barry Zito lives up to his contract? Will he let the offseason rumors of him being released affect him? Will he crumble under the pressure yet again?

Zito has yet to prove anything as a Giant. His inconsistency is aggravating, and his contract isn't helping anyone.

As far as I'm concerned, Zito has nothing to live up to. He's the number four starter on this team, and many cities would be happy with a .500 record from their number four pitcher. Until you look at his contract.

4. - When Will Brandon Belt Get Called Up?

The kid has skills. We've seen it so far in Spring Training, and we've heard about it, at least from someone. He's the second coming, right? Well, we'll see.

They compare him to Buster Posey and what not, but hopefully these fans don't expect the next Buster Posey.

The truth is he will be starting at first base for the Fresno Grizzlies come Opening Day, not the San Francisco Giants. Let him season, and let him get some consistent at-bats before throwng him into the fire that is the major leagues.

They're going to treat him like Posey and Sandoval, and the young pitchers before them. This is the system the Giants go by, and it works. You can check their World Series rings for proof of that.

But when will we see him?

Well, when will someone get hurt?

Let's not think like that, but it's true. Belt will be the first player brought up if a starting position player gets hurt.

If that isn't enough for you, history would say that the Giants bring up their prospects mid-season. So how about June or July?

I'd like to see him earlier, but I'd also like to see how he hits in AAA with a title of 'future phenom' on his back.

3. - Can The Pitching Staff Stay Healthy?

So far this question has rarely come up. A rotation of 20-something year olds with golden arms and World Series rings may not need that question asked to them.

But after Matt Cain's elbow has started to act up, is this a sign of things to come?

Knock on wood it isn't.

The bottom line is without a healthy pitching staff, the Giants are nothing. We hear it every year and every year they are relatively healthy. But is this the year? The Giants certainly can't afford it.

With still a minimal offense, the Giants will do all they can to keep their pitching rotation in mint condition.

2. - Questions About The Giants' Offense...Yet Again

We hear it every year. Can the Giants score enough runs?

And every year it's the same answer.


Except that last year they won the World Series.

The Giants' line-up is not that of a World Series challenger. The acquisition of Miguel Tejada to replace Edgar Renteria and Juan Uribe certainly doesn't do too much. Pretty much, this is the same line-up as last season.

They need another bat, sure. But with such a dominant pitching staff, they need to score just enough to win. That's how they won the World Series last season, and that will be how this season will go. Prepare for torture.

1. - Can Pablo Sandoval Keep The Weight Off?

One of the biggest topics for the Giants during this offseason was about Pablo Sandoval's physique, or lack there of.

Sandoval was told to go lose weight during the offseason, and when he arrived at Spring Training, he was twenty pounds lighter. A job well done.

Still the question remains: Can he keep it off?

A lighter Panda is a better hitting Panda, is a happier Panda, is a happier Giants squad.

This line-up would be so much more dangerous if the Sandoval from 2009 showed up this season.

Still, a lighter Sandoval cannot help him from swinging at balls above his head or grounding into souble plays, but one thing at a time with this guy.

The first step is keeping the weight off. Everything else will come naturally to this guy.

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