The defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants begin their season on Monday as they attempt to become the first back-to-back champs since the New York Yankees won the World Series in three consecutive seasons from 1998-2000. While this team is playoff worthy, I don’t see another championship coming to the Bay this season.

Maybe if Madison Bumgarner could pitch every game of the regular season, then the Giants would have a chance at a division title. But he can’t, and the Los Angeles Dodgers are too good to not win the National League West Division for their third consecutive division crown. It will be an uphill battle for the Giants all season as they are going to struggle to score runs (as they do every season) and they will need their pitching to be on point again, as it has been season after season.

The Giants’ front office did not improve the team’s lineup this offseason, losing Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse while adding the light-hitting duo of Nori Aoki and Casey McGehee. And to make matters worse, right fielder Hunter Pence went down in Spring Training with a broken arm and is not expected to join the Giants’ lineup until about a month into the season. This leaves Juan Perez, who hit .170 in 60 games last season or Gregor Blanco who hit five homeruns in 146 games to take Pence’s spot as a lesser replacement to the man who hit 20 homeruns and drove in 70 RBIs for the Giants last season.

A reinforcement to the pitching core is that the Giants will have Matt Cain back on the mound this season after he missed the majority of last season with an elbow injury. Hopefully he will be able to return to his form of 2012 where he went 16-5 with a .279 ERA and join Bumganer as a second ace at the top of the Giants’ rotation. Jake Peavy, Tim Hudson, and Tim Lincecum hope to round out the pitching rotation, but all three of them have a lot of questions surrounding them as Peavy has battled dead arm issues in Spring Training, Hudson is 39 years old, and Lincecum is currently still trying to win the fifth spot in the rotation with improved mechanics after a winter working with his father, the man who taught “The Freak” his explosive delivery which helped him with two Cy Young awards.

In my mind this team barely made it into the playoffs last season and was able to win at all costs when it mattered. They weren’t the most talented group, but they did what was necessary and let Madison Bumgarner pitch every important game. This year’s team is not as good as last year’s team with the losses of Sandoval and Morse.

I can’t see the Giants contending for the National League West Division crown. The Dodgers will run away with the title and the Padres and Giants will be left to fight for a playoff spot through the wild card. I trust General Manager Brian Sabean to make some very smart moves during the season to improve the club, but based off the talent this team currently has, they are only a contender for a NL wild card spot. If they can get into the wild card game and hand the ball to Madison Bumgarner then hopefully they make it into the Division Series and the Giants may be able to produce some more postseason magic. But purely based off talent, I do not see this team as a championship contender.

It will be another season of Giants fans biting their nails as the team will depend on its pitching to win games while not scoring many runs on offense. I predict this team to finish second in the National League West Division and make it into the wild card game, but I don’t see the giants getting further than the Division series this year. Maybe we can continue the “championship every other year” routine in 2016.

Check out next week’s blog for a preview of the Oakland Athletics