As the Giants take the field at Dodger Stadium -- as world champions -- here is My Starting Nine; Things I Want to See From the 2011 Giants:
1. A 20-GAME WINNER: Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain ought to make strong bids at becoming the first Giants pitcher to win 20 games since John Burkett and Bill Swift in 1993. Both Lincecum and Cain were clutch in the playoffs. Hopefully that momentum carries over to the win column this season. (P.S. Lincecum has a new logo that is Jerry West/NBA-esque. Thank goodness he hasn't gone the monogram route like TW, Tiger Woods, or TB, Tom Brady.)
2. MORE HUFF: When my 10-year-old daughter heard me say first baseman Brandon Belt could be this year's version of Posey, she said: "Aw, Huff's not good anymore?" Funny how we've almost forgotten about arguably the Giants' biggest leader last season. Huff still has an awkward gait — as if he is wearing a red thong under his uniform — but he is still critical to the Giants' makeup. That is why the Giants paid him off after the title run, signing him to a two-year, $22 million deal. By the way, baseball-reference.com lists Huff — not Lincecum, Buster Posey or Brian Wilson — as the 2010 Giants' "top player," as obscurely defined by "team leader in wins above replacement.
3. POSEY ALL THE WAY: The Giants catcher — and the National League's reigning Rookie of the Year — is experiencing his first Opening Day. Last season's debut didn't come until Game No. 48. Aside from his 18 home runs and 67 RBI that sparked the Giants' batting order, Posey ability to throw out attempted base stealers is a joy to watch and let's see if he can do better this year than 2010 All-Star Yadier Molina of St. Louis.
4. A NEW PANDA: From cuddly panda mascot as a rookie to postseason outcast last year, third baseman Pablo Sandoval has shot back up the poll of public opinion. Fine, he lost weight. But can he hit — and not into doubleplays? Can he field, as he showed with an athletic catch to cap Monday night's exhibition against the A's? The Giants need him back on track, or else they need Mark DeRosa (or Miguel Tejada) at the hot corner.
5. THE CAT WITH NINE LIVES: Two years ago, Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty to perjury for lying to Congress regarding steroid use. I wondered whether he even would be allowed to play again. Now I'm curious how capable he is of replacing the infield combo of Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria. Nobody is expecting Tejada to produce 34 home runs like his 2002 MVP season with the A's. He turns 37 on May 25 (see: birth-certificate revelation by ESPN in 2008) and he will need to play defense like a young buck. His upbeat presence helps fill Uribe's leadership vibe in the clubhouse.
6. THE BRUCE & BRIAN SHOW: I'll admit I wasn't confident in manager Bruce Bochy and general manager Brian Sabean at this point last year. But after seeing them work so masterfully last season, I can't envision the Giants without them. So when the team announced in February that Bochy and Sabean would have their options picked up for 2012, I was appalled. These guys just won San Francisco's first World Series crown and instead of long-term security, they are assured of getting paid through only the next two years. If this is what Bill Neukom means by "The Giants Way," such short-term job security must exist across the board. But Bochy and Sabean deserve a better reward.
7. THE REAL ANDRES TORRES: No doubt he was a catalyst atop the Giants lineup and in center field last season. He earned that Willie Mac Award. What will be his encore? A long-time minor leaguer, Torres hit. 268 last season in his first full major-leage season. He compiled a .232 batting average in 409 at-bats his previous five big-league "seasons." Encore. Encore.
8. BRIAN WILSON: The Giants were thankful for his team-record-tying 48 saves last season — as well as his series-ending strikeouts in the postseason at Philadelphia and Texas. A strained oblique will shelve him for the first few games this season, and he'll be a welcome sight to the Giants' bullpen when he returns. The Giants' may have depth but they don't have a closer with the character or nasty stuff Wilson offers.
9. GO, ZITO, GO: Don't take that as a request for Barry Zito to split town. Nope, he is still very much part of the Giants' rotation, and he pitched well enough in spurts last season to contribute as much as any No. 5 starter (even if he's in the No. 4 slot). Yes, he went winless between July 17-Sept. 18 last year, but I'm optimistic. Let's see him repeat last season's hot start, when he was 7-2 with a 3.10 ERA before school let out for summer break. And let's hope that his car — and not his body or psyche — is all that was seriously damaged by Wednesday night's accident. He is 40-57 in a Giants uniform.