The Giants lack the star power that typified their first 50 years in San Francisco, but they believe that they can thrive with an approach that Mays, McCovey, Cepeda, the Clarks and Bondses might barely recognize.
"Small ball" will be the offensive philosophy as the Giants expect to rely on basestealing, the hit-and-run and situational-hitting subtleties to manufacture rallies. No returning Giant hit 20 home runs last year, but the club is looking for another capable season from Bengie Molina and needs a return to offensive form from the likes of Ray Durham, Rich Aurilia, Dave Roberts and Omar Vizquel.
If the veterans falter, expect younger reserves such as Eugenio Velez, Fred Lewis and Rajai Davis to take over.
The Giants expect their starting rotation to carry them, even with left-hander Noah Lowry, their leading winner last season, sidelined until at least the end of April after undergoing forearm surgery. In 23-year-old right-handers Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, the Giants believe that they possess a premier 1-2 pitching punch for the future -- as well as for the present.
They say power comes from the corners, but Dan Ortmeier, Aurilia, Roberts and Randy Winn don't have much thump. Without quick-strike scoring ability, the Giants might be hard-pressed to generate many come-from-behind triumphs. Expect manager Bruce Bochy to do plenty of lineup juggling to take advantage of matchups and capitalize on whoever has the hot bat.
Projected starting lineup
|1. LF Dave Roberts|
|2. 1B Rich Aurilia|
|3. RF Randy Winn|
|4. C Bengie Molina|
|5. 2B Ray Durham|
|6. CF Aaron Rowand|
|7. 3B Jose Castillo|
|8. SS Brian Bocock|
| 1. LHP Barry Zito|
|2. RHP Matt Cain|
|3. RHP Tim Lincecum|
|4. RHP Kevin Correia|
|5. LHP Jonathan Sanchez|
| Closer: RHP Brian Wilson|
|Setup: RHP Tyler Walker|
|Setup: RHP Brad Hennessey|
|Middle: RHP Merkin Valdez|
|Middle: LHP Erick Threets|
|Middle: LHP Jack Taschner|
|Long: RHP Keiichi Yabu|
You'll know they're rollin' if ...
Roberts gets on base and Durham returns to his 2006 hitting form. Roberts is potentially the catalyst the Giants need, and Durham could resume being a middle-of-the-order force.
You'll know they're in trouble if ...
The rotation falls short of expectations and Brian Wilson responds erratically when presented with save opportunities. The Giants don't have enough offense to offset these shortcomings.
The Giants open their home schedule April 7-9 against the Padres, who won 14 of 18 games against them last year. There's no better time than right away for the Giants, who could use an early confidence boost to reverse the trend against Jake Peavy, Trevor Hoffman, Khalil Greene and friends.
The Giants will play meaningful games June 24-26 in Cleveland for the first time since the 1954 World Series. Additionally, the series will represent a homecoming of sorts for Vizquel, who excelled for the Indians from 1994-2004.
The Bottom Line
If everything goes right for the Giants, they could break their spell of three consecutive sub-.500 finishes. But in such a balanced, competitive division, San Francisco might be hard-pressed to escape the NL West cellar.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.