Every season, every team starts out with the goal of winning the championship. That aspiration is more realistic for some than others, but the San Francisco Giants have a realistic chance of winning their fourth title in seven seasons.
A lot has to go right for that to happen—while a lot could wrong to derail the Giants’ plans.
The Giants have experienced plenty of both scenarios in recent years, having defied baseball-punditry wisdom to repeatedly emerge victorious in October, while also losing Buster Posey to injury after a gruesome home-plate collision and living through the downfalls of beloved stars such as Tim Lincecum, Brian Wilson, Pablo Sandoval and Matt Cain.
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With the Giants’ Opening Day upon us, the realm of possibilities remains completely open, with nothing to damper Giants Fan’s optimism. Of course, that could all change once that first pitch fires toward home plate…
Here’s a look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Giants in 2016:
Madison Bumgarner no longer has to carry the starting rotation, now that Johnny Cueto is with the Giants and continues to be one of the best starting pitchers in baseball—in fact, even better, statistically, now that he calls pitcher-friendly AT&T Park home instead of that launching pad in Cincinnati.
These three make as mean a top-3 as any rotation has in the Major Leagues, but opposing hitters aren’t much happier facing a now-healthy Cain, who continues to get stronger—and better—throughout the season.
Angel Pagan stays healthy for most of the season and continues to bring his patented fire to the lineup—only until prospect Mac Williamson forces him to the bench when the Giants call up their best offensive prospect after a dominant first two months with Triple-A Sacramento.
Joe Panik’s back holds up and the second baseman contends for the National League batting title. Matt Duffy continues to emerge, Brandon Belt finally shoots past 20 home runs, and the 2015 Brandon Crawford proves to be the standard going forward.
Posey continues to be Posey, and he leads his team to a fourth championship since he emerged as the team’s leader in 2010.
How about worst case?
Samardzija, who had the worst ERA among all full-time starting pitchers in 2015, bombs in San Francisco. Bumgarner and Cueto, both of whom have carried heavy innings loads the past few seasons, show some wear. Cain never regains his form and Peavy falls off the aging-veteran cliff.
Casilla, who has been a stable if not spectacular closer for the Giants, loses his mojo, and none of the bullpen’s young fireballers are up for the ninth-inning role. Veteran Jeremy Affeldt, whose gregarious personality kept things lose in the bullpen, is sorely missed.
Panik’s back continues to act up, Pence has another injury-plagued season, and Belt continues to tease with that home-run swing but still only produces 18 round-trippers.
Turns out that Duffy was playing way over his head in 2015 and turns out to be better suited as a utility infielder.
Angel Pagan’s body falls apart again, and Gregor Blanco spends a majority of 2016 in left field. Span doesn’t bounce back from offseason abdominal surgery and proves as worthwhile a signing as Aaron Rowand.
The Giants’ minor league system, after a fruitful run that has produced five of the big club’s starting position players, offers no more reinforcements.
Pence gets hurt again. Even worse, Posey suffers another devastating injury.
The Dodgers win the World Series.