The 2011 Giants have changed right before our eyes.
It was obvious coming out of spring training that Bruce Bochy and Brian Sabean believed the Giants needed to score as many runs as possible for the club to have its best chance at successfully defending its World Series crown.
It was offense, offense, offense when they went with Aubrey Huff in the outfield, and Miguel Tejada at shortstop.
Wow, that didn’t work out so well. The Huff-to-the-outfield experiment lasted a nano-second, and when Tejada was forced over to third base, enabling Mike Fontenot to play shortstop, the Giants were on to something.
Turns out when the Giants made themselves better defensively, they made themselves better.
And they have been better since Pablo Sandoval got hurt. In the first 10 games without Sandoval, the Giants went 7-3. Sorry, Pablo.
Nothing against the Panda — they need his bat back in the lineup in a big way — but, with the defensive moves they’ve made, the Giants have managed to keep games close, allowing them to figure out a way to win late.
It’s the 2011 version of torture — with so many new storylines surfacing, too.
When Sandoval returns to the lineup, it will be interesting to see how the Giants man the shortstop position. Will Fontenot get more time instead of Tejada, who appears able to cover the length of his shadow while seemingly aging by the day?
Will the Giants think defense or offense when it comes time to tinker later in the season? Does Brandon Belt, currently down at Triple-A Fresno, get another chance if Huff continues to struggle?
For the Giants to have survived the first five weeks of this season with Huff batting around .200 and Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain out of the blocks with a combined record of 5-5, it should feel like a miracle.
This team has managed to hide a lot of bad baseball along the way, too — poor fielding out of the gate, Brian Wilson’s shaky start, Buster Posey seeming ordinary at the plate, etc.
Anybody who says they had Fontenot and Ryan Vogelsong as the keys to igniting the Giants this season is lying to you.
With so many troubles already behind them, the future bodes well for these Giants. It’s obvious the San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks are terrible, and the Colorado Rockies don’t seem to have enough weapons to sustain a season-long run.
Watching the NBA playoffs is once again a big downer for the Bay Area. Even the early-round games make it feel like the Warriors are light years away from contending.