There hasn't been a repeat World Series winner since New York Yankees won three straight from 1998-2000. Can the San Francisco Giants break the drought in 2015? They are +1500 to do so on MLB futures odds.
Even-Year Giants Indeed!
We should have all seen the Giants' 2014 World Series title coming because it was an even-numbered year. They were sportsbooks underdogs in the 2010 Fall Classic against the Texas Rangers but won in five games. San Francisco was again a series underdog on MLB odds in the 2012 World Series and swept the Detroit Tigers.
The 2014 World Series was basically an opening pick'em at sportsbooks against Kansas City in a matchup of wild-card teams. Frankly, the Royals might have been the better overall team, but San Francisco had Madison Bumgarner. The NLCS MVP was a no-brainer choice for World Series MVP. The lefty Bumgarner won Game 1 in Kansas City, allowing just a run and three hits over seven innings. He won the crucial Game 5, giving the Giants the 3-2 series lead heading back to Kansas City, by throwing a complete-game, four-hit shutout. It was the first complete-game shutout in the Series since Josh Beckett in 2003 with the Marlins at Yankee Stadium.
We all knew that Bumgarner would be ready out of the bullpen for a potential Game 7. Maybe an inning or two on two days' rest. So what happened? He came on in relief in the bottom of the fifth and allowed just two hits over five innings in getting the save. It was a truly stunning performance. No road team had won a Game 7 in the Series since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates. Bumgarner became just the sixth pitcher ever with two wins, at least 20 innings pitched and a sub-0.50 ERA in a World Series. His five-inning save was the longest ever as well (saves only a statistic since 1969). Bumgarner's overall performance was among the best in history.
San Francisco was far from a dominant regular-season team in winning 88 games and finishing six behind the Dodgers in the National League West. Seven teams had more victories than the Giants did.
Let's first focus on the guys who will be back. Obviously Bumgarner is one of those, and he will lead the rotation. Bumgarner was 18-10 with 2.98 ERA and 219 strikeouts with four complete games in 217.1 innings. All but the ERA were career bests. The Giants signed him to a six-year, $35.56 million extension in April 2012 and that looks like an incredible steal now. Veteran Tim Hudson also is back in the rotation, and Tim Lincecum will also be in there, according to Manager Bruce Bochy. Other than a no-hitter, Lincecum struggled last year, was demoted to the bullpen in August and pitched in just one playoff game. Don't forget that Matt Cain was once of the NL's best pitchers, but he was terrible last season before undergoing season-ending elbow surgery. He'll be back. That should leave one spot and it could go to reliever Yusmiero Petit, who started some. That's if San Francisco doesn't re-sign free agent starters Jake Peavy or Ryan Vogelsong. It's doubtful both are back and maybe neither. Both struggled in the playoffs, but Peavy was terrific during the regular season after arriving in a trade from Boston. Closer Santiago Casilla is back but set-up man (and former closer) Sergio Romo is a free agent.
The lineup has one major question: third baseman Pablo Sandoval. Kung Fu Panda is an unrestricted free agent and to this point the Giants haven't come close to meeting his demands, which are thought to be six years and $120 million or so. The 28-year-old Sandoval, the 2012 World Series MVP, batted .279 with 16 homers and 73 RBIs in 157 regular-season games and .366 in the playoffs with seven doubles and five RBIs. While Sandoval has been a great playoff performer in his career, his weight has always been a concern. Some guys tend to let themselves go once they get that huge extension. The Boston Red Sox are known to covet Sandoval.
GM Brian Sabean said this week that he's not even going to focus on re-signing Peavy, Vogelsong or outfielder Michael Morse until the Sandoval situation is resolved. Morse probably is a goner. The rest of the infield -- first baseman Brandon Belt, second baseman Joe Panik, shortstop Brandon Crawford -- will return. Ditto catcher Buster Posey, one of the Top-10 players in baseball. Hunter Pence will be back in right fight and Angel Pagan will play center (he missed the playoffs with an injury). The team might try to sign a left fielder or use a platoon system of Gregor Blanco, Juan Perez and Travis Ishikawa.
San Francisco opens the season Monday, April 6, at Arizona. The Giants are +600 third-favorites on MLB odds at sportsbooks to repeat as NL champions -- that's third behind the Dodgers and Nationals (both +300 on MLB odds).
MLB free picks: When selecting your MLB picks note that the Giants will not make the playoffs next season. They didn't following their past two World Series titles, and I'm not confident Sandoval returns. The lineup lacks much punch as it is and the rotation is rather questionable after Bumgarner. Look for something like an 84-78 record in 2015 at sportsbooks.