The San Francisco Giants came into the 2013 season on cloud nine. The team had come off of two World Series Championships, something that had not been done since they won two straight in 1921 and 1922 as the New York Giants. A letdown could have been expected, but it was very surprising that the team finished 76-86 in 2013. The World Series Championships of 2010 and 2012 were a result of excellent starting pitching, something that was not a strength of 2013. Though Tim Lincecum (10-14, 4.37 in 32 starts, 193 Ks in 197 2/3 IP) was better in 2013 than in the past season, Matt Cain (8-10, 4.00, 30 starts), Barry Zito (5-11, 5.74) and Ryan Vogelsong (4-6, 5.73, 19 starts) all struggled. One bright spot for the starting pitching was the emergence of All Star Madison Bumgarner(13-9, 2.77, 31 starts, 199 Ks) who became the team's ace last season. And if you combine the stats of fill in starting pitchers Chad Gaudin and Yosmeiro Petit, they have a record of 9-3, 3.19 with nearly a strikeout an inning in 38 games, 19 starts.
The Giants added veteran RHP Tim Hudson (8-7, 3.97, 21 starts) to the mix replacing Zito. He will join Bumgarner, Cain, Lincecum and Vogelsong. Vogelsong is throwing the ball better after being injured last season. Cain, to me is the biggest key to the staff. If he gives you ace stuff, the rotation looks great with Bumgarner, Cain and Hudson. If not, people will focus on Vogelsong and the fact that Cain and Lincecum are not the same as three years ago.
Buster Posey is still the focal point of the lineup. What is interesting about Posey (.294, 15, 72) is the fact that the Giants may be looking to catch him more than in past seasons. When discussion is usually had about that, it tends to have to do with star catchers spending less time behind the plate. That has to do with the emergence of 1B Brandon Belt (.279, 17, 67), who has finally taken the job and lived up to some of the hype. 3B Pablo Sandoval (.278, 14, 79) is playing for his next contract and if history repeats itself, it will be with San Francisco. RF Hunter Pence (.283, 27, 99) is the latest Giants regular player to receive a long term deal, joining CF Angel Pagan (.282, 5, 30 in 71 games) and 2B Marco Scutaro (.297, 2, 21 in 121 games). Michael Morse comes over from an extremely disappointing 2013 season in the AL, where he hit just .215, 13, 27 in 88 games for the Mariners and Orioles. Brandon Crawford (.248, 9, 43) will be at SS again. I'd line the Giants up like this: Pagan CF, Pence RF, Posey C, Sandoval 3B, Belt 1B, Morse LF, Scutaro 2B, Crawford SS. Veterans Gregor Blanco and Joquim Arias lead the bench with Hector Sanchez serving as the backup catcher. I like the signing of Tyler Colvin, as I do expect him to draw some attention if he gets the opportunity to play.
The Giants have had some good relief over the past three plus seasons. The only problem, similar to the offense is the fact that the same players return each season and in doing so, are getting older every season. I know that sounds matter of fact, but while Sergio Romo (5-8, 38, 2.54) coming back as the closer and Javier Lopez (4-2, 1.83, 69 games) and Santiago Casilla (7-2, 2.16, 57 games) returning as set up men look like a good idea, I think the team could have added at least one more proven reliever to strengthen the pen. Jeremy Affeldt (1-5, 3.74, 39) returns after missing some time due to injury. Jean Machi (3-1, 2.38 in 51 games) and Petit will try to help out.
The thing that bothers me about the Giants is the fact that they have simply extended their own players, a formula that seldom works to keep a team successful for more than a couple seasons. This year will be a test to that theory. I truly feel that Hudson will make that pitching staff much better and Cain will have a bounceback season. I also think Belt has another dimension he will take his offensive game to and Morse will hit HRs again since he is in the National League again. Do I think they will win the World Series for the 3rd consecutive every other season? No, but I think this team is much better than the one that finished 2013 at 76-86. Vegas gave this team an O/U of 86.5, so they apparently agree with me. I think the Giants will finish this season at 86-76, 3rd place in the NL West. I think Bruce Bochy will get this team back in the postseason. I like the fact that the team will make moves in June and July if they need to address a need, which in this case will be a reliever.