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Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Giants are ready to be giants again!

Por Feco

San Francisco Giants try to change history. The team that had been the protagonist, the one that had dominated the first half of this decade, the one that had taken all the praise for the great work and for the consistency it had shown, finished 2017 with 98 defeats and 40 games away from the leader of its division.

The Giants cannot afford such bad back-to-back seasons and that's why they had to take out the checkbook to reinforce what was one of the worst offenses in the big leagues last year. San Francisco hit 128 homers in 2017, the lowest among the 30 MLB teams, scored 639 runs (29th place), stole 76 bases (20th) and its .249 collective hitting was the 19th in all Major League Baseball.

To leave behind such a poor campaign, they did something that is not often seen in any organized sport: they took the best players of two teams: Evan Longoria, the historical symbol of the Tampa Bay Rays, and Andrew McCutchen, the spoiled figure of the Pittsburgh Pirates in the recent decade. Longoria hit 20 to the street with 86 RBIs last year; McCutchen 28 home runs and 88 produced, numbers that, if similar, will be very well received this year in San Francisco. The backbone of the team remains with Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik, in the outfield an enhanced Hunter Pence returns, so the offense should improve a lot in 2018.

As for the starting rotation, it will count now with Madison Bumgarner, who probably will not think of practicing extreme sports in the middle of the season, besides Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Stratton and Tyler Beede, which is certainly not a rotation of the quality of the that the Giants had in their World Series years, but can get them into the fight. The other serious problem is the bullpen. Since the middle of the 2016 season, San Francisco relievers have been the worst in the major leagues.

Before the previous season, they took Mark Melancon, who was given 60 million dollars for 4 years to stabilize the bullpen that was falling apart. But Melancon was not the solution. He saved just 11 games, finishing with 4.50 ERA in a year full of injuries. The directive brought Sam Dyson from the Rangers and although he could stabilize the bullpen, it was already too late. Far from making moves, the Giants are confident that with Melancon in good physical conditions, Sam Dyson, that inconsistent intermediate relay group that includes Derek Law, Ty Blach, Will Smith and Hunter Strickland, can take the games to the eighth and ninth innings.

The team has improved a lot. The board took action on the matter. It is hard to think that a team that finished 40 games the previous year, can recover to fight for the postseason, but after all, in San Francisco, that phrase that has been so common in this decade is already hitting hard: "it’s an even year!".