Buster Posey. Madison Bumgarner. Hunter Pence. In a given season, we can hang our caps on the assurance that these all-star catalysts’ production will help to rein in the W’s. Then there are the unanticipated surprises, the wild-cards, or the X-factors whose performances can transform an average season into an unexpected spectacle.
Who will surpass expectations and give us a shot to play October baseball?
In 2010, we witnessed 1st basemen, Aubrey Huff, have an uncharacteristically stellar regular season. Cody Ross’s bat caught fire in the second season and he collected the NLCS MVP accolade. Their exceptional performances exceeded expectations and catapulted the Giants to San Francisco’s first World Series title since 1954.
In the 2012 Series run, Marco Scutaro’s contact-hitting approach allowed him to bat an astounding .362 for the season. His approach at the plate, and his dependable glove bolstered a team that lost a potential MVP candidate (Melky Cabrera) for the final third. Marco surprisingly spawned the pop-culture term “Scutaro-ing” for his arms-spread look to the heavens during the surreal downpour during the final inning of game 7 of the NLCS.
When Scutaro was lost to injury in 2014, the Giants scrambled to find their every-day 2nd basemen. Enter Joe Panik. The 23-year-old rookie posted a .305 BA in 73 games and provided the stability at 2nd base that the Giants had been searching for the first half of the season. His poise and defensive acumen may have been the difference maker, particularly in game 7, when his glove-flip toss to Brandon Crawford started the double-play that rallied the team to its 3rd title in 5 years.
2015 has arrived. Who will surpass expectations and give us a shot to play October baseball? We have a handful of candidates with the potential to be this year’s spark-plug.
Brandon Belt who only played in 61 games (due to injury) in 2014, could spring back and show the pop that he flashed at the start of last season (remember when he belted 5 HR in the first 8 games?). Staying healthy would be the first step, and his production at the plate could prove to be pivotal.
One could argue that the other Brandon (Crawford) is due to have a breakout year. His consistency in the field makes his output at the dish easier to swallow and any extra oomph he can turn out at the bottom of the lineup could do wonders for this campaign.
Jul 19, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; San Francisco Giants SS Brandon Crawford is late on tagging out Miami Marlins third baseman Casey McGehee at second base during the first inning at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
After a year off, what kind of production can we expect from Matt Cain? Surgery is surgery (though we all collectively breathed a sigh of relief that it was not Tommy John), but the 30-year-old horse will be expected to return to some semblance of his former self.
Then there are newcomers: 3rd basemen, Casey McGehee and left fielder, Nori Aoki, both of whom were contributors to their former teams and could make a splash in the orange and black.
Granted, 2015 is an odd-numbered year, but I don’t think any of us would mind being the first back-to-back champions since the Yankees three-peated in 2000. Who will be the X-factor this season for your San Francisco Giants?
Vote now, or leave your prediction in the comments below.