Giants 2013: Why not to expect a repeat


Chuck Hiller

The Giants never won the World Series on the West Coast until 2010, but they came closest in 1962, when second baseman Chuck Hiller — who hit just 20 home runs in eight seasons — won Game 4 with a grand slam (catcher Tom Haller also homered in a 7-3 win). Hiller knocked in only one other run in the Series, but on a team with Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Willie McCovey and Orlando Cepeda, Hiller led the team in RBIs with five. Which might be one reason the Giants lost in seven. Hiller also led the team with three doubles and tied for the team lead with seven hits (with Mays and Felipe Alou). It was unusual offensive production for a player with a career .243 average and .615 OPS. Hiller lost the second base job in 1965 to Hal Lanier, whose .226 average and .545 OPS barely surpassed Hiller’s .180 and .487 1964 totals. Hiller finished up his career with the Mets, Phils and Pirates, once traded for Phil Linz, the harmoica-playing Yankee. Hiller retired in 1968 and coached for Whitey Herzog’s Rangers, Royals and Cardinals. He died at age 70 in 2004.

I feel like I’m knocking on heaven’s door: Was two part-time seasons of utility infielder Juan Uribe really worth the 49th pick of the 2011 draft to the Dodgers? We’re going to guess new owner Magic Johnson won’t think so. And if he has any doubts, tell him Uribe is to the Dodgers what Anthony Peeler was to the Lakers. In return for allowing Uribe to hit .204 and .191 for the 2011 and 2012 Dodgers — to be fair, Peeler’s shooting percentage was a little higher — the Dodgers gave the Giants that 49th pick, which the Giants used to draft Kyle Crick. He’s the best of a group of minor-league pitchers who will — eventually — allow Tim Lincecum to leave and Barry Zito to be asked to go. Crick fanned 128 in 111.1 Class A innings; only wildness (67 walks) will slow his rise, which should correspond to that of Dodgers’ fans anger doing likewise.

What is this man doing here? The beauty of being a utility infielder is that being versatile excuses incompetence. Which brings us to Wilson Valdez, who could make a fan yearn for Juan Uribe. Valdez has played seven years for seven teams, which should be a hint as to his value. The Giants have him in camp as a non-roster invitee; it would makes more sense if he was a non-invitee. Valdez has a career .594 OPS, and we doubt the Giants can use that. He also is 1-0 in his career as a pitcher, winning a 19-inning game in 2011 for the Phillies. We doubt the Giants will need him for that, though Valdez can hope.

What he said: Manager Bruce Bochy on the Giants being last in MLB in home runs in 2012: “I do think we’ll hit more home runs than last year.” What he meant: “Is it too much to ask to outslug the Padres?”

Outlook: The Giants won the World Series for the second time in three years in 2012, which is one more than they won in the previous 76 seasons. Horace Stoneham always said this move to the West Coast would work out.

Of course, the Giants still trail the Dodgers 5-2 in West Coast titles, though they lead 7-6 if you count their time in the five boroughs.

More importantly, it might be time to credit GM Brian Sabean, and disassociate him from the A.J. Pierzynski for Francisco Liriano and Joe Nathan deal every time his name is mentioned.

Like the Cards (Adam Wainwright) in 2011, the Giants (Brian Wilson) overcame a major injury, but they also had a PED suspension (Melky Cabrera) and a star’s off season (Tim Lincecum) to account for, too.

The Giants were 64-53 when Cabrera was suspended; anyone who could see a World Series title developing on Aug. 14 had vision that can pierce the city’s fog.

Of course the Giants in that 117th game weren’t really the Giants of most of the first 116: Marco Scutaro hadn’t been on second base three weeks, and Hunter Pence had yet to be in right field two weeks.

The Giants went 30-15 without Cabrera and then 11-5 in the postseason — 6-0 in elimination games. There’s no amount of sabermetrics that would have foretold Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford as championship regulars.

As for 2013, it looks a lot more like 2011 than the year before or after. Crawford (.653 OPS) and Blanco are still projected regulars (the latter was last year’s “What is this man doing here subject?” and it took six months to find out. His career OPS is still .680, or not enough for an everyday left fielder no matter what he did last October). All of the Giants’ pitching can’t be expected to overcome that — unless Sabean has a couple moves still to make (and promoting Gary Brown doesn’t seem like one).

In case Blanco fails, Andres Torres is back. On a side note, so is Ramon Ramirez, which means all the principals in the Angel Pagan for Torres and Ramirez trade are back with the Giants, barely 13 months after the deal. Tthe Mets have nothing, as any Met fan could tell you.

Team song: Tim Flannery: Travelin Shoes. Giants coach and former infielder Tim Flannery plays guitar when he’s not waving runners. (How many players can say they played with Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir?) According to espn.com’s Tim Keown, Flannery has raised $70,000 to help with the medical costs of Bryan Stow, the Giants’ fan who was beaten in Los Angeles on Opening Day 2011. Stow’s mother Ann, according to Keown’s story: “He’s never let anyone forget about Bryan. That’s what I hear when I listen to his music.”

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