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Your 2013 San Francisco Underdog Giants

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Roy Halladay. Cole Hamels. Cliff Lee (twice). Chris Carpenter (twice). Justin Verlander.

Those are the big-game, big-money, chalk-up-a-W starting pitchers the Giants have toppled en route to two World Series championships in three years. Pitchers who, at the time, all but guaranteed their teams a massive advantage in not just the games they were scheduled to pitch but entire series. Beat Cliff Lee twice? Yeah, snort snort guffaw. Right. Verlander? Practically untouchable, instant advantage: Detroit.

Which brings me to a new Big Three: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Chasworth Rutherford Billingsley IV. Sprinkle a little Chris Capuano or Josh Beckett or Ted Lilly or the new Korean guy on the back end of that rotation, and cue the pundits: Two bonafide aces, a strong #2 guy as the third, a quality arm every night. And then you get to the lineup. So it didn't work last year. Bygones are bygones. It's still Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley, Ethier, Crawford, AJ Ellis... there's too much talent, even if some guys are in slight decline. NL West prediction: Dodgers.

Are you foaming at the mouth yet? Good. Don't let those imaginary pundits talk trash to you like that. You should have heard what they said about your mama.

Now, I haven't actually seen those arguments yet, but it's not a big stretch to figure they're out there, and they're coming soon. Too much talent. Too much money. If a toilet seat cracks in the clubhouse, Agent Ned will call the Pentagon to come install a new one.

Let's calm down and revisit my opening salvo. The Giants have made a habit of dispatching greater-on-paper pitchers and teams with regularity. True, those are all small sample sizes. Beating an unbeatable Cliff Lee twice in five games is different than cracking the Kershaw/Greinke code in, say, half their appearances against the Giants over the course of a season.

Mark it down: The Giants will start 2013 as underdogs. This off-season, they've only done what was expected of them, which is keep the same team together. Predictable is not the new sexy. Check out the participants in the MLBTR free-agent prediction contest. Most of the ones I clicked on said the Giants would keep their own free agents Pagan, Scutaro and Affeldt, and sign no others.

Yawn. Whatever happened the Brian Sabean fin just below the water? Perhaps we're still due for a bombshell -- a major trade to clear payroll and sign Nick Swisher kind of thing -- but really. No. The Giants are close to winter hibernation, and they'll emerge into the Arizona sunshine looking a little scrawny, a little ragged, and squinting against the glare reflecting off the Greinke-shiny Dodgers.

That's OK. Underdoggery is fine. It's better than fine, it's perfect. The best acquisition the Giants could make this winter isn't a $150 million player or a gaggle of promising prospects. It's a chip on their collective shoulders.


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Header photo courtesy of Flickr user eviltomthai under a Creative Commons license.