SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- At times last year, it seemed as if the Giants said bye, bye, baby to the home run.
But as a new season beckons, so do the outfield barriers, which manager Bruce Bochy believes his hitters can clear more frequently.
"Make no mistake about it: I like home runs. I like power," Bochy said. "I do think we'll hit more home runs this year, to be honest."
Should their leading sluggers approach their career-best homer totals and if others continue to develop power, the Giants could indeed eclipse their 2012 output of 103 home runs -- which made them the seventh ballclub since 1900 to reach the postseason despite hitting the fewest long balls in the Majors.
Right fielder Hunter Pence, a Trade Deadline acquisition last year, will be with the club all season barring unforeseen circumstances. He has averaged 23 home runs in his six Major League seasons. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval missed 99 games with injuries in the previous two seasons and slumped miserably in 2010, but hit 25 homers in 2009. Catcher Buster Posey collected 24 homers in his National League Most Valuable Player campaign last year, and first baseman Brandon Belt homered 23 times in 492 at-bats across three Minor League classifications in 2010.
It doesn't stretch the imagination to suggest that those four Giants alone could accumulate 80 to 100 homers.
"Belt is going to be a year older and more mature and his confidence is rising. We expect him to do more than he did last year, power-wise," hitting coach Hensley Meulens said. "We're expecting Buster to continue to get better and we believe Pence can provide more power as he calms down at the plate."
As for Sandoval, his historic three-homer binge in last year's World Series opener against Detroit reflected his immense power potential.
"That's the type of talent this guy has," Meulens said. "I'd like to see him stay healthy one full year and get back to the form of ."
Yet even if all four players gain or maintain pop and other Giants muscle up, they'll all face the same deterrent: AT&T Park, where the outfield dimensions and the 25-foot-high right-field wall make it tough for hitters to go deep.
Early last season, the Giants went 16 consecutive home games without a long ball until pitcher Madison Bumgarner ended the drought on June 12 against Houston's Bud Norris. Until Bumgarner's clout, the Giants' homerless streaks at AT&T reached 513 at-bats and 138 innings. They finished the regular season with 72 homers on the road and 31 at home.
"I do think it's important to stay within yourself," said Posey, who homered 17 times on the road and seven at home. "We play in a big ballpark, so we can't make [power hitting] our sole priority."
"At our park, especially, you have to hit line drives," Belt said. "If you hit the ball in the air, it's getting knocked down."
In fact, the Giants thrived offensively last year once they heeded the guidance of Meulens and fellow hitting coach Joe Lefebvre, who emphasized trying to hit line drives while swinging on a slightly downward plane. Even if they mis-hit a pitch, a hard ground ball through the hole could ensue. It definitely wouldn't be an ineffectual popup.
That philosophy helped the Giants hit a Major League-high .296 with runners in scoring position after the All-Star break. Before that, they posted a .225 average in such situations, next-to-last in the National League. Moreover, the Giants scored 718 runs, exceeding the previous year's total by 148, and led the NL with 57 triples.
"Our approach worked out great last year," Meulens said. "And it wasn't because guys were trying to hit home runs."
Of course, all Major Leaguers know that home runs come when they don't try to hit them.
"I noticed it a little bit more in the second half, [with] the consistency of an entire season," Belt said. "You just get comfortable and you start to get that swing down. Balls start to carry a little bit more, you start to drive more balls, and as a result some of them start going out of the ballpark."
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less