Greetings! The defending champs land... 13th!!??!
Projected Starters - Buster Posey (C), Brandon Belt (1B), Marco Scutaro (2B), Brandon Crawford (SS), Pablo Sandoval (3B), Gregor Blanco (LF), Angel Pagan (CF), Hunter Pence (RF)
To begin the justification, let me begin with this. Outside of Posey, who in this lineup scares you? Yes, Sandoval and Pence are above-average, but some of the other bats (Belt, Crawford, Blanco) have the potential to be appreciably bad at the plate. There is no question that Posey was ridiculously good last season, when he hit .336/.408/.549 with 24 homers in 610 PA's, but that is a ton to expect from a guy who's primary position is catcher, and it's exceedingly reasonable to expect some regression here. He's the best catcher on the planet, but 610 PA's is a ton for a primary catcher, and his .368 BABIP is pretty crazy for a guy with no speed. The second tier of bats is fairly solid, but certainly not a sure thing. Pablo Sandoval was awesome in the playoffs, but he's (still) overweight and he only hit 12 homers during the 2012 regular season. Hunter Pence hit 24 homers between two teams last season, but his batting average tanked to .253 (.319 OBP) and with his defensive issues, he better hit. They overpaid for Scutaro and Pagan in the off-season, paying top-dollar to "keep the band together", but both guys are on schedule (based on the numbers) to regress to the mean this season. Needless to say, I'm not high on this offense in any way.
Projected - Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong
Cain and Bumgarner form one of the league's best 1-2 combinations. Cain has six straight seasons of 200+ innings, and four straight years with an ERA of 3.14 or below. He's a no-doubt #1 guy, and there's not a lot of risk there. Bumgarner struggled mightily down the stretch last year, but he's a high-pedigree guy and he still finished the season with a 3.37 ERA over 209 innings. Lincecum is the huge question mark, as the former Cy Young winner fell off the table last season to the tune of an ERA over 5 and a sky-high walk rate. He was electric in long relief during the playoffs, which led to everyone thinking he is "back", but I have my concerns, and they actually need him to be good with some of their offensive woes. Vogelsong isn't exciting (at all) but he's now posted a 2.71 ERA and a 3.37 ERA in the last two years, and he's a very nice back-end guy. Zito will probably be replacement level, but if he can throw 190 innings with a 4-ish ERA, that's nice in the 5th spot.
Projected - Sergio Romo (closer), Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Jose Mijares, Ramon Ramirez
This bullpen is still a big-time strength. They have a full season without Brian Wilson for the first time, but the core is in tact, and Sergio Romo is a monster. He sported a 1.79 ERA with a 10.25 K/9 last season, and in a full-time closer's role, he should save 35 games. Casilla, Lopez, and Affeldt form a nice late-game combination, and the pieces should fit well.
The Giants won 94 games last season, but they did so with just the 5th-best run differential in the National League. They won those games with a ridiculous career year from Posey, and with some sizable gaps between average production and 2012 for some guys (Pagan, Scutaro, Cain). I'm sure this projection won't make sense to many people, but with the Dodgers improved and some built-in regression, I think the Giants miss the playoffs and win 84 games. Spam me in the comments.
84-78, 2nd in NL West