Giants rotation needs to keep momentum going 

Lingering fatigue? A postseason hangover?

Suddenly, the Giants’ 2010 World Series championship, so revered last fall, sounds like a party that lasted too long.

All across baseball the warnings are being sounded regarding the toll last year’s World Series run could take on the Giants’ young pitchers one season later. Where did all this pessimism come from?

The worry-worts point to Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels’ poor season in 2009, which came after his stellar performance during the Phillies’ 2008 World Series run, as a prime example of a young pitcher that dug too deep contributing to a World Series championship.

Sure, the Giants played into November last year, needing 15 postseason games to secure The City its first World Series title. In order to prevail in the three series en route to the championship, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner each had to log career highs in innings pitched. And those were stressful innings in October and November.

Even closer Brian Wilson reached a career-high in appearances in order nail down the title.

That being said, the Giants coming into 2011 are a wonderful reflection of a fan’s personality.

The optimist will point to the wonderful postseason run, and will expect Bruce Bochy to capture that magic in a bottle again. The pessimist will remind everyone that the Giants beat the San Diego Padres by a grand total of one game on the last day of the regular season.

No matter which way you lean, the rotation the Giants bring into 2011 — Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner, even Zito — has already sparked a nice debate with Philadelphia fans who are trying to dub the Phillies’ top four pitchers — Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Hamels — as one of the best baseball’s ever seen.

If Bumgarner continues to progress and Sanchez continues to refine his craft, the Giants could outpitch the Phillies in a five-game series.

The offensive focus this spring will be on Pablo Sandoval regaining his 2009 stroke, and rookie Brandon Belt continuing his minor league assault on pitchers.

A healthy Freddy Sanchez, a full season of Cody Ross and the return of Mark DeRosa will give the optimistic Giants fan the feeling that reinforcements have arrived in their quest to repeat. Leave it to the worry-worts to wonder whether Miguel Tejada is a big question mark taking over for the combination of Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria at short. 

The news that ought to serve as the tiebreaker between optimists and pessimists regarding the 2011 Giants is that Wilson’s beard is back. With a personality all its own, Wilson’s beard serves as the single greatest reminder of the joy last year’s postseason brought Giants fans.

All by itself, that beard settles any preseason argument in favor of the optimists.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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