The 2012 Giants preview was actually one of the hardest ones for me to write. It's odd for me to write something about the Giants for a general audience that might not be hip to my Jamie Brewington jokes, and I'm worried that my fanboy snark will be off-putting. More so, even. It took me a while. And as we do a reverse-alphabetical army low-crawl through the season previews, it's time to revisit what we were thinking about the Giants.
The temptation is to post a bunch of parade pictures and 1,000 words of slash-fic starring Barry Zito and the Commissioner's Trophy. But when it comes to playoff success, that's probably something that's best ignored for a look back at the preseason predictions. If you replayed the playoffs with the exact same teams and the exact same players today, you would get a wildly different result. So I'm not sure how that proves anything was right or wrong.
I mean, it proves the Giants were clearly the best team in baseball because they proved it on the field. But that's probably not relevant to this discussion.
Overall tone of preview
Optimistic, but for one reason: the pitching staff. The offense was coming off a dreadful season -- one of the worst in franchise history -- and they didn't exactly add Prince Fielder in the offseason. It was going to be a long season of 2-1 wins and losses, just like it was the year before.
What actually happened
The Giants hit. They hit a lot by their standards, even before you adjust for park. The Giants were sixth in the National League in runs scored; the last time they even finished above the league average in runs scored, Barry Bonds had a .609 on-base percentage and 232 walks.
Then you get to the park. It played, for the second season in a row, like the Astrodome with a humidor. The Giants hit 31 home runs at home in 2012, yet they led the NL in road scoring.
If the Giants pitched like they were supposed to, they probably would have won 100 games. Except their ace fell apart, and every other pitcher in the rotation had some sort of pronounced struggle at one point in the season, with Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong saving their struggles for the end of the regular season (when the Giants were winning more games than even before, of course.)
It was a weird season. It ended up just ducky for them, but it wasn't what anyone was expecting.
What changed between the preview and the end of the season
It would probably be easier to note what didn't change, but here goes:
Tim Lincecum stunk, Melky Cabrera was great, Melky Cabrera was suspended, Angel Pagan was fantastic, Aubrey Huff was benched after all, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner were locked up for most of the next decade, Buster Posey was much more than just a guy looking to get his sea legs back, Brandon Belt established himself after looking like the worst hitter in baseball for a month, Brian Wilson was out for the year, the Giants traded a glyxxrop and three fusion cells to Mars for Hunter Pence, Freddy Sanchez stunned the world by not recovering from his injuries, and Gregor Blanco became an invaluable member of the bench and lineup.
None of those were really anything you could have predicted before the season, save the Sanchez injury and Belt's emergence as a worthwhile starter. There will be a team that does this to us next year, too. We'll read and write a hundred columns on the new Jays offense, and Adam Lind will have a 30/30 season and finish in the top 10 in the AL MVP vote, while Jose Reyes hits .150.
For years, Giants fans clamored for an average lineup to pair with a dominant pitching staff. They got something more than an average lineup, but it came with a rotation that wasn't nearly as dominant.
Player(s) I ignored for whatever reason
The only mention of Angel Pagan was within a list of moves the Giants made, and the only specific note was that he was younger than Andres Torres. But he was an incredibly valuable part of the Giants' lineup, splitting his time between the top and middle parts of the order. He led the league in triples with 15, the most in San Francisco Giants history. Pagan had a down year in 2011, but he's now been good to excellent in three of the last four seasons. He'll get paid, and how.
Here's the progression of surprise in the typical baseball season.
unexpected thing happens --> people talk about unexpected thing --> unexpected thing keeps happening --> everyone gets used to it --> no one is surprised anymore
By the time the World Series started, everyone was used to the idea of Buster Posey, middle-of-the-order hitter and MVP candidate. But it's worth stepping back and remembering just how unlikely the Posey story was. There were columns written about how he might not catch again. And in January, the big news was that he was running for the first time.
He wasn't just the same hitter, though. He was much, much better. And his defense didn't suffer at all. It was a remarkable recovery -- it was the best-case scenario on ecstasy, rolling around on the shag carpet because it felt so fuzzy.
We got used to it as the season progressed, but that doesn't mean it wasn't the biggest surprise of the year.
Of note: Melky Cabrera was a huge surprise, and then he wasn't very surprising at all.
Obscenely stupid quote
While Crawford's defense is stellar, the Giants could have filled their shortstop position with just about anyone -- Jamey Carroll, Clint Barmes -- and it would have been a likely upgrade offensively. Considering the strikeout-first pitching staff, they could have afforded to trade some outs for runs.
Carroll did about as well as one could have expected -- decent OBP, solid defense -- and Barmes was a hacky defensive specialist of some value. But the stupid part was dismissing Crawford out of hand like that. He finished with two wins above replacement according to Baseball Reference, the best mark by a Giants shortstop since Omar Vizquel in 2006.
The tone of the next preview?
The same crew should be back -- if not Pagan, then a comparable outfielder on the free-agent market -- so they'll have a good shot at the postseason again. But the N.L. West is going to be sneaky strong next year, with only the Rockies wearing the cone of shame. So there's some work to do.