The first time the San Francisco Giants won the World Series, they scored the fewest runs of any team that made it to that postseason. They won the National League Division Series in October 2010 despite scoring just 11 runs in four games and won the National League Championship Series with just 19 runs in six games.

They were built on brilliant pitching, and it worked.

And even as the Giants have changed, even as they have won games and championships with slightly different formulas, it’s hard to get that image out of our mind.

The Giants win in even years, and the Giants win with pitching.

Remember Madison Bumgarner in 2014?

Bumgarner is still there, it’s an even year and the Giants have geared up to try to win again. But you wonder if we’re now at the point where the formula really has flippedthat it has to flip.

You wonder if the four-homer, 12-3 Opening Day win over the Milwaukee Brewers is what the Giants are going to be—or what they’re going to need to be if the every-other-year thing doesn’t end this year.

When I was working on Bleacher Report’s bold predictions for 2016, one Arizona-based scout texted to say the “Giants’ pitching [is] not nearly as solid as people project.”

He wasn’t talking about Bumgarner, who overcame an awful case of the flu and bad travel to make a creditable start against the Brewers on Monday. But this isn’t the 2014 World Series, and the Giants can’t get by with one dependable starter the way they did then.

The Giants tried for Zack Greinke, but they didn’t get him. There’s a reason that during that failed chase, one scout who follows the Giants closely said Greinke was the lone “difference-maker” the Giants could sign.

They didn’t get him, and they ended up with Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, who will start the next two games against the Brewers. They’ll start Jake Peavy and Matt Cain in the first two games against the Los Angeles Dodgers later this week.

Cueto, Samardzija, Peavy and Cain all have good resumes. But it’s 2016, and all four of them come with big questions.

That’s why we come back to the offense. That’s why we come back to Denard Span, who might have been the most important player the Giants signed this past winter.

Of all the things that went wrong with the 2015 Washington Nationals, the injuries that limited Span to just 61 games may have been the most damaging. The health questions no doubt hurt Span in free agency, and if he stays healthy, the three-year, $31 million deal he signed with the Giants in January will turn out to be a bargain.

Span is a true leadoff hitter in an era when those can be hard to find. He’s a true center fielder, too. He’s not often going to hit three-run home runs and drive in five runs in a game, as he did on Monday, but he can do that once in a while, too.

Incidentally, the five RBI were the most ever by a Giant in his debut for the team, according to Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle. They were also the most by any Giant on Opening Day since Barry Bonds drove in five in 2002 at Dodger Stadium.

If you’re looking for omens, the Giants went to the World Series in 2002. But who’s looking for omens? The Giants have the ultimate omen: an even-numbered year on the calendar.

They won in 2010, 2012 and 2014, so why not 2016?

Why not, if Span stays healthy? Why not, if the young infield that looked so good last year keeps developingthird baseman Matt Duffy had a big day on Monday, too? Why not, if Buster Posey is Buster Posey?

Why not, if they can look the way they did on Monday?

“Not that we needed a reminder, but it shows how good we can be,” Span told reporters.

They’ll play better teams than the Brewers. They’ll face better starters than Wily Peralta, starting this Saturday when they face Clayton Kershaw for the first time this season.

The rotation beyond Bumgarner will need to contribute. The bullpen can’t look as old as some fear it will.

But the Giants don’t need to be all about pitching. They need to be about their lineup, and there’s a real chance that lineup can deliver.

On Opening Day, it did.


Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

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