The Dugout Report

8 Things for Giants Fans to Look Forward to in 2011 by llwesman
February 13, 2011, 4:12 pm
Filed under: San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants

Giants fans have more than Tim Lincecum’s new mustache to look forward to in 2011.
By Wes Yee (@WesYee)

The moment Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers took a knee last weekend the sports world began to turn its eyes from the turf in Dallas to the lush green fields in Arizona and Florida. With Spring Training nearly underway, it’s time to talk baseball! The 2011 season will be here none too soon, so it behooves me to get back on the blogging train. Without further BS, here goes!

1. A full season of Buster Posey – The early part of the 2010 season had much to do with the team’s decision to stick stud catcher Buster Posey in the minors to delay his arbitration status. The team ultimately called Posey up early enough anyways, and he responded by leading the offense and carrying the team to the World Series. He’s the field general at the age of 23 and has already played in the toughest of major league situations. The challenge for Posey will be to remain vigilant and consistently make adjustments – something that he did to perfection last season. I’m expecting a .315 batting average, 27 home runs and close to 100 RBI.

2. A fully conditioned pitching staff – Had the Giants lost in the NLCS or World Series last year one of the goats would have been lefthander Jonathan Sanchez, who appeared to wear down and was throwing in the mid to high 80’s in the final two rounds. Lincecum had the worst month of his career before reintroducing long toss to his training regimen in September. While much is made of the effect that the additional innings toll that is taken on a World Series pitching staff, #5 starter Barry Zito should be fully rested and you would expect the Giants to place a great emphasis on resting Sanchez, Lincecum and the young Madison Bumgarner.

3. The Adrian Gonzalez – less Padres – It’s no secret that the Padres owned the Giants last year, winning 12 of the teams 18 matchups. San Diego got a solid return for Adrian Gonzalez but they don’t have the pieces to fill his shoes in the lineup. It’s also likely that their bullpen will see a regression, as they were outstanding to the point of incredulity in 2010.

4. A svelte Pablo Sandoval – The Kung Fu Panda has apparently slimmed down, having undergone a more intense program than last season. It remains to be seen how this will affect his plate discipline, but it can’t help but help his range, which was at times so atrocious last season that there was talk of sending Sandoval to AAA.

5. More National Coverage – The team opens in Los Angeles with an opening night matchup with the Dodgers. My early guess is that it’s going to be a Tim Lincecum – Clayton Kershaw matchup. These are perhaps the two most talented pitchers in the division, excluding the Rockies Ubaldo Jimenez. Kershaw will be a player to watch this year, he’s posted ERA’s below 3 in his two full seasons and is just 23 years old – the same age as Lincecum was as a rookie.

6. The Debut of Brandon Belt – He wasn’t the elite prospect that Posey was coming out of college but Belt has emerged as one of the finest first base prospects in the game. He tore up the minor leagues to the tune of a .352/.455/.620 line and projects as a legitimate power hitter – even in a park like AT&T. While he’s blocked by Aubrey Huff, he has the athleticism and speed (22 steals) to play a corner outfield spot if necessary. His bat appears to be close to ready and while I don’t expect him to make the club out of Spring Training it wouldn’t be a shock to seem him club his way to the majors by June.

7. Expensive Tickets – As with any World Series champion the Giants bandwagon is now full and the team is taking advantage. Ticket prices are up across the board and the “market rate” system of pricing is sure to drive them even higher down the line. Get them now if you plan on going to any games.

8. More Dugout Report Posts – I promise.

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