Giants' title defense bitten by injury bug
Club used DL an MLB-most 25 times year after winning Series
SAN FRANCISCO -- Negative issues and developments seemed to outnumber positive ones for the Giants in 2011. Yet their record suggested otherwise.The Giants built an 86-76 mark, good for second in the National League West, and they remained in contention for a Wild Card spot until the season's final weekend. They didn't repeat as World Series champions, but they managed to lengthen their streak of winning seasons to three. San Francisco accomplished this despite a historically bad offense that generated an NL-low 570 runs, the team's second-lowest total since the franchise moved west in 1958. Due to slumps and a frustrating sequence of injuries, only one Giant -- first baseman Aubrey Huff -- accumulated enough at-bats to qualify for the league's batting title.
Pitching sustained the Giants, who placed four starters among the NL's top 11 in ERA (Ryan Vogelsong, fourth; Tim Lincecum, fifth; Matt Cain, eighth; and Madison Bumgarner, 11th). Vogelsong, Lincecum and Cain made the All-Star team, along with closer Brian Wilson and third baseman Pablo Sandoval. They formed the Giants' largest contingent at the Midsummer Classic since they had six in 1966. But status doesn't win ballgames.Here's a quick look back at the ups and downs of the Giants' 2011 season: 5. Sellout streak reflects love hangover
The Giants got a ton of mileage from their World Series conquest in 2010. They sold out all 81 home dates at AT&T Park and finished with a franchise single-season attendance record of 3,387,303. It surpassed the club's previous record of 3,277,244 set in 2001. Even during the schedule's final month and a half, when it became increasingly obvious that the Giants wouldn't return to the postseason, fans continued to pack the house. It's anybody's guess how long into next year that enthusiasm will last.4. Slimmer Sandoval returns to form
The switch-hitter lost approximately 40 pounds last offseason, helping him regain his range defensively and feel quicker with his swing. Sandoval sustained a 22-game hitting streak from June 19-July 14 that erased all doubts about the effectiveness of his conditioning. He also hit for the cycle on Sept. 15 at Colorado. Had Sandoval not missed 40 games with a fractured hamate bone in his right hand earlier in the season, his statistics (.315 batting average, 23 homers, 70 RBIs) almost certainly would have been much more impressive. Sandoval also received considerable support in the NL Gold Glove Award balloting by coaches and managers.3. Vogelsong's homecoming a successful one
San Francisco's fifth-round choice in the 1998 First-Year Player Draft, Vogelsong migrated to Pittsburgh, Japan and the organizations of the Angels and Phillies before rejoining the Giants as a non-roster player this past spring. Vogelsong began the season in Triple-A but ascended to San Francisco when Barry Zito injured his right foot. Vogelsong's initial win, April 28 at Pittsburgh, was his first as a Major League starter in 2,412 days. Vogelsong proved he was more than just a curiosity when he won nine of his first 10 decisions. He capitalized on AT&T Park's pitcher-friendly tendencies by fashioning a 2.15 ERA at home.
2. Deadline deals don't do the trick
With the Giants clinging to first place in the division, general manager Brian Sabean brought aboard second baseman Jeff Keppinger, right fielder Carlos Beltran and shortstop Orlando Cabrera in an effort to deepen the lineup and stimulate offense. The moves were met with limited success. Keppinger won several games for the Giants with his bat but displayed little range defensively and hit only .255 with San Francisco. Beltran hit .323 with seven homers in 44 games as a Giant but lacked a consistent complement, other than Sandoval. Cabrera was a nonentity, batting .222 in 39 games.1. Is there a doctor in the house?
The Giants found themselves asking this question far too often last season. They used the disabled list 25 times in 2011, more than any team in the Majors and more than they had used it in any year dating back to 1987. Catcher Buster Posey's home-plate collision with Florida's Scott Cousins on May 25, which resulted in a mangled left leg for the NL's reigning Rookie of the Year, profoundly affected the Giants. On June 10, the Giants absorbed more disappointment when second baseman Freddy Sanchez dislocated his right (throwing) shoulder. Those were the Giants' most telling injuries, though Nate Schierholtz, Cody Ross, Jonathan Sanchez, Pat Burrell, Mark DeRosa, Wilson Beltran and Sandoval endured significant absences.
Chris Haft is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.