July 25, 2011
GIANTS PAGE GIANTS VIDEO
SAN FRANCISCO -- The easiest answer to what's different about the Giants in 2011 is a kidney shot at the Phillies: They wear 2010 World Series rings to dinner these days.Eschewing the petty, junior-high route in favor of fairly serious baseball analysis, however, henceforth are presented five ways in which the Giants of 2011 can be easily distinguished from the 2010 version that stunned the baseball world by beating the Phillies in last fall's National League Championship Series on the way to setting off the biggest party that the City by the Bay has ever seen.
1) No Buster Posey: One of the two most pure hitters on the team, even as a rookie last season, is out for the season after suffering horrific injuries in a controversial collision at home plate that still sparks high emotion in San Francisco. Against all odds, the Giants have actually hit better and compiled a better winning percentage without Posey this season than with, but there's no question they miss his steady presence behind the plate and his steady production in the middle of the order.2) No Freddy Sanchez: The Giants' second baseman is as pure -- if not as powerful -- as Posey at the plate, and as he recovered from surgery on his right shoulder with an optimistic eye toward returning for the stretch run, Sanchez, there was a revolving door of far less gifted fielders at his position until the recent arrival of Jeff Keppinger via trade. While the Giants clearly miss his bat control and professional approach at the plate, they miss his rock-steady glove work every bit as much.3) Ryan Vogelsong: Although the Phillies aren't expected to see San Francisco's unexpected breakthrough pitcher, Vogelsong's ascent from non-roster camp invitee to National League All-Star has forced at least a touch of reconsideration among those who, prior to the start of the season, considered the Phillies' rotation the best in the league by a long shot. Vogelsong's emergence has further infused the Giants with the confidence that they'll send out a starter with a tremendous shot at winning every single game.4) An utter lack of fear: Winning the World Series does wonders for any club's confidence, and the Giants are no exception. They're convinced they can beat anyone, any time. But that sense stems not solely from winning their rings. It stems from having proved, time and again, that they are among the best -- if not the best -- in the game at winning tight, pressure-packed games, often overcoming late-game deficits with contributions from up and down the roster. Two down in the eighth? Even on the road, the Giants feel right at home.5) A better bullpen: That might be difficult to fathom for Philly fans who watched the parade of relievers who prevented Game 6 of the 2010 NLCS in Philly from spinning out of control after Jonathan Sanchez's early struggles, leading the a riveting comeback and the series-clinching win, but it's true. Lefty Jeremy Affeldt is back to his 2009 form, lefty Javier Lopez has proven he can get righties out, too, giving manager Bruce Bochy incredible flexibility in terms of matchups, and righty Sergio Romo has ramped up his game. That trio, combined with closer Brian Wilson's standard excellence, is a huge reason why those close games for which the Giants have a penchant for playing have become so winnable.