Michael Morse

San Francisco Giants: Potential 2014 All-Stars

May 11, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) and San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Hudson (17) at the mound in the 5th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

May 11, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) and San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Hudson (17) at the mound in the 5th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants have the best record in MLB at 35-19, and they’ve had an incredible start to their 2014 season.

The initial National League ballot figures were released on Wednesday, and the Giants had seven players near the top of the voting for their respective positions. Buster Posey is second at catcher, Brandon Crawford is second at shortstop, Brandon Belt is fourth at first base, Pablo Sandoval is fifth at third base, and Angel Pagan, Michael Morse, and Hunter Pence are eighth, ninth, and 10th for outfielders.

Read the full story at Golden Gate Sports.

San Francisco Giants: Who Will Step Up in Brandon Belt’s Absence?

Apr 3, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The San Francisco Giants are facing some serious adversity. Brandon Belt fractured his left thumb after being hit by a pitch in Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Dodgers and will be out for at least six weeks. Where does this leave the Giants?

Belt was having a breakout season. He is currently tied for third in the National League with nine home runs, just behind Giancarlo Stanton and Troy Tulowitzki. Belt is a heart-of-the-order hitter for the Giants, so they will certainly miss his offense.

The Giants will greatly miss his defense as well. He’s an elite first baseman defensively. He has great instincts, and he can make tough plays because of his height and quickness.

So who will step up for the Giants in Belt’s absence?

The player that needs to step up is Michael Morse. He is already having a great season. He’s hitting .264 and has eight home runs, 24 RBI, and a .520 slugging percentage. Morse is going to have to dig deep and step up even more though.

Bruce Bochy has said that Morse will be the everyday first baseman in Belt’s absence. Bochy likes Morse’s height, his long arms, and his “condor wingspan.”

Morse told Alex Pavlovic of the Bay Area News Group that he’s versatile and is fine with playing first base.

“No big deal to me,” Morse said. “You just try not to think about it. You go out and let your talent take over.”

Buster Posey and Hector Sanchez could occasionally get starts there too, but Morse will start most of the time at first base. Bochy decided this was the best move, even over bringing up Adam Duvall from the Fresno Grizzlies, because Morse has the most experience at first base, and this move will give the Giants more speed in the outfield.

Morse will most likely not be able to match Belt’s defensive prowess, but more importantly, the Giants need him to be consistent at the plate and continue to hit for power and get hits with runners in scoring position.

As for left field, Bochy has said that he will go with the hot hand, which is Tyler Colvin right now. In his first start with the Giants and his first game at AT&T Park last night, he hit a home run and triple. He had been hitting well in Fresno recently, and it seems as if he’s brought that confidence at the plate with him into the big leagues.

Bochy told Pavlovic that he wants to see how Colvin does with more playing time.

“Colvin has picked up his play,” Bochy said. “He’s healthy and playing well down in Fresno. He’s swinging the bat much better after getting off to a slow start. He has experience and he’s a good outfielder.”

In addition to Morse, Colvin will also have to step up with Belt out. This is the ultimate opportunity for him to prove that he belongs in the big leagues. He needs to stay confident, and hopefully for him, that will translate into consistency.

The Giants could really use a stronger bench. If Colvin can be consistent and have good at-bats, he might get a chance to stay with the Giants even after Belt comes back. Colvin has an opportunity to get consistent playing time at the big league level with Belt out, and he needs to take advantage of it.

In addition, Morse has already helped bolster the Giants’ offense so far this season, but he will be called upon even more. Morse will potentially be the key to the Giants’ success in Belt’s absence.

San Francisco Giants: Can They Keep the Power Bats Hot?

Apr 19, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Michael Morse (38) is congratulated by first baseman Brandon Belt (right) after a home run during the fifth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

So far this season, the San Francisco Giants are surprisingly one of the best power-hitting teams in MLB. They currently rank third in all of MLB with 43 home runs, which is even more impressive given the fact that they play their home games in the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park.

Much of the Giants’ power has been supplied by Brandon Belt, Michael Morse, and Buster Posey. Belt has hit nine home runs so far, Morse has hit eight, and Posey has hit seven. Brandon Hicks has even hit six, some of them coming at big moments.

Belt, Morse, and Posey are all on pace to hit at least 20 home runs this year, if they stay healthy, and many believe that Belt could possibly hit 30.

Belt, Morse, and Posey are just the second trio in Giants franchise history to hit six or more home runs prior to May 1st. The other trio was Willie Mays with seven home runs, Orlando Cepeda with six, and Ed Bailey with six in 1962. That’s certainly good company to be in.

Belt got off to a hot start in 2014, and he finished the month of April with six home runs and 12 RBI. Belt really got the Giants’ power bats going. He has also homered in every park the Giants have played in so far.

When the Giants first signed Morse, there were questions about if his power would translate to AT&T Park. Morse was confident when he gave Alex Pavlovic of the Bay Area News Group his answer to this question in February.

“I look at the bright side,” Morse said to me this February when I asked about moving to AT&T Park. “To me, it’s a ballpark – just like every other ballpark. It plays the way it plays and I don’t think about stuff like that. If you hit the ball good, it’s going to go out. If you don’t hit it good, it’s not going to go out.”

Morse is certainly hitting the ball hard this year, as he’s averaging 427.6 feet per home run this season. Bruce Bochy couldn’t be happier with what he’s seen from Morse so far, and he shared his thoughts on Morse’s power with Pavlovic.

“For a guy to hit a ball where he hit it, a man has to do that,” Bochy said afterwards. “I guess that’s why he got nicknamed The Beast. There’s not a ballpark that can hold him, including this one.”

Posey added about 10-15 pounds of muscle in the offseason, and it has certainly translated to his power-hitting. Last season, he started to wear down in the second half of the season, and it affected his hitting. If Posey can stay healthy and stay strong throughout the season, he can certainly hit 20 home runs this year.

Not only have these players supplied the Giants with a lot of power, but Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence haven’t even gotten going yet, in terms of hitting home runs. Both Sandoval and Pence have only two home runs each so far this season.

Sandoval has been in a hitting slump this whole season. Giants fans know he’s capable of hitting at least 20 home runs though, like he did in 2009 and 2011.

Pence got off to a slow start, but he’s starting to heat up with the bat. He hit 27 home runs for the Giants last season, so it’s just a matter of time until he starts hitting for power. Also, ever since he became a full-time big leaguer, his home run totals each season have been: 25, 25, 25, 22, 24, and 27. Pence is always a threat to hit at least 20 home runs in a season.

It’ll be nearly impossible for the Giants to keep up this type of power production all season long, but with the addition of Morse, the Giants can certainly be a legitimate power threat, as a team. If Sandoval and Pence get going, the Giants will stay near the top of the standings for home runs.

The Giants will continue to get some occassional power from Hicks, Brandon Crawford, Hector Sanchez, Angel Pagan, and others. With Belt, Morse, Posey, Sandoval, and Pence though, the Giants are stacked in terms of power, and hopefully for Giants fans, they’ll hit for power all year.

San Francisco Giants: Offseason Additions Are Making an Impact

Apr 13, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Hudson (17) prepares to deliver a pitch against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

After a disappointing 2013 season, it was a little surprising that the San Francisco Giants didn’t make too many changes to their roster going into the 2014 season.

They only made a couple moves, but they’ve both had a huge impact on the Giants’ season so far. Their major offseason acquisitions were pitcher Tim Hudson and left fielder Michael Morse.

Hudson was a big-name signing for the Giants, because of the success that he’s had in his 15 years in the league. He was coming off a gruesome and potentially career-threatening ankle injury in 2013 though, so this signing had some risk. However, this risk has led to great reward for the Giants.

So far this season, Hudson has an astounding 1.99 ERA, 4-2 record, and has pitched 54.1 innings in just seven starts. He’s also struck out 36 and walked only three.

Hudson has been doing exactly what many Giants’ starting pitchers failed to do last season. He’s keeping his pitch count down, he’s staying in games longer, he’s not walking many batters, and he’s getting out of innings quickly. He’s been the dream starting pitcher for Bruce Bochy and the bullpen.

He’s also been a great addition to the clubhouse. He’s a veteran presence, he works hard, and he gets along with everyone. Who knows how long he will be able to keep up this type of production, but his impact, on and off the field, on this Giants’ team so far has been incredible.

Apr 3, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants outfielder Michael Morse against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Morse acquisition was a little more under-the-radar, but there was still uncertainty about how much Morse could produce because of a wrist injury he suffered last season. This signing also could’ve been classified as “high risk” because of that, but like with Hudson, the acquisition of Morse has greatly benefitted the Giants.

Morse is currently hitting .294, and he has eight home runs and 24 RBI in 109 at-bats in 34 games this season. Morse has provided the Giants with another power hitter and a competent, everyday left fielder, which they severely lacked last season. Morse is known as a power hitter, but he’s been that and even more for the Giants.

Also like Hudson, he’s easily fit in with the other players in the clubhouse. He’s a hard worker, he’s easygoing, and he’s fun-loving. Morse has been an excellent teammate, so he’s greatly impacted the Giants on and off the field as well.

Lastly, Brandon Hicks has been a nice surprise for the Giants so far this season. Hicks was a non-roster invitee, and because of Marco Scutaro’s back injury, Hicks has become the everyday second baseman for the Giants.

Hicks is currently hitting .198, and he has five home runs and 11 RBI in 81 at-bats in 26 games. Although his batting average isn’t spectacular, he’s filled in nicely for Scutaro.

Apr 3, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Hicks against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

He’s brought some more power to the Giants, and he currently has more home runs than both Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval combined. On April 27th, he even hit a three-run walkoff home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning that gave the Giants a 4-1 win over the Cleveland Indians.

He also has a .316 on-base percentage and a .432 slugging percentage, which is pretty impressive given his batting average. He also plays solid defense, so he’s been a great pick-up for the Giants.

The Giants are currently atop the NL West with a 21-13 record, and these three players are a significant reason why they’ve had such a successful reason so far. Hudson has been the model for consistency in the Giants’ starting pitching rotation, and he’s been the best starting pitcher for the Giants so far.

Morse and Hicks have provided big boosts in power to the Giants. Morse is second on the team for most home runs with eight, and Hicks is fourth on the team with his five home runs.

These players’ power is a big reason why the Giants are second in all of MLB with 42 home runs, just behind their division rival, the Colorado Rockies, who have the benefit of playing in the very hitter and power-friendly Coors Field.

The new guys have blended well with this Giants team, and hopefully they remain productive and effective, on and off the field.

San Francisco Giants: 3 Good Signs/3 Bad Signs From First 10 Days

April 5, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (35) celebrates the 7-2 victory against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The San Francisco Giants have played great baseball and shown much improvement so far in the 2014 season. The Giants knew that 2013 was disappointing in many different ways and that they would have to go back to fundamentals in Spring Training to have a more successful season in 2014.

Obviously, it’s still very early in the season, but the Giants have improved in several areas that they struggled with last season. There are still some areas that need work, but thankfully for the Giants, they have lots of time to improve in those areas.

Here are three good signs from the first 10 days of the 2014 season for the Giants:

1) Brandon Belt’s hot streak at the plate has carried over from last season. Belt is currently hitting .342 and has a .737 slugging percentage with five home runs and nine RBI. He leads the Giants in home runs, RBI, and runs.

After hitting .350 with five home runs and 13 RBI and having a 1.051 OPS in August of 2013 and hitting .341 with two home runs and 15 RBI and having a .910 OPS in September of 2013, Belt was set to have a breakout year in 2014. Even though it’s early, it seems as if that prediction will come true.

Belt is on pace to have an All-Star caliber year, and he could possibly even hit 25-30 home runs this season.

2) The Giants’ offense so far this season, specifically their power numbers and their hitting with RISP, has been impressive. As of Wednesday, the Giants rank first in MLB with 13 home runs, whereas in 2013, the Giants ranked second to last in MLB with 107 home runs for the whole season. Obviously, it’s early in the season and the Giants played their first four games in the hitter-friendly Chase Field, but the power displayed so far by Belt, Buster Posey, Michael Morse, and others has been impressive.

Apr 6, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (9) follows through on a solo home run in the sixth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers defeated the Giants 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In addition to their power, the Giants lead MLB with a .393 average with runners in scoring position. They also lead MLB with a .462 average with runners in scoring position and with two outs.

These are all impressive, especially given the fact that the Giants struggled so much with runners in scoring position last year. In 2013, the Giants left an average of 3.70 runners in scoring position per game, which ranked 26th in MLB.

The Giants’ offense has looked more powerful than last season, and Angel Pagan deserves a lot of credit. Pagan is hitting .447, which leads the Giants, and has a home run and eight RBI. He also leads the Giants in OBP with .488 and hits with 17. Pagan has also hit safely in all nine of the Giants’ games so far. Pagan is healthy, and the Giants’ offense is benefiting greatly from his presence and his hot hitting.

3) Tim Hudson has become a fan favorite because of his dominant pitching so far. He’s started two games so far, and he’s gone 2-0 and has a 1.15 ERA, 11 strikeouts, no walks, and a 0.64 WHIP in 15.2 innings. He’s allowed opponents to hit just .182 against him, and he’s allowed just 10 hits and two earned runs.

Every single one of these stats is excellent, but one of the important stats to the Giants is the fact that he’s pitched 15.2 innings in two starts. So far this season, Hudson is the only Giants starting pitcher to complete seven innings, and he’s done this in both of his starts.

Last season, Giants’ starting pitchers threw too many pitches, made too many early exits, and this taxed the bullpen and Posey. Hudson’s efficiency and low pitch counts are already greatly benefiting the Giants.

Here are three bad signs from the first 10 days of the 2014 season for the Giants:

1) Besides Hudson, the starting pitchers haven’t shown some much-needed stability. One of the main reasons why the Giants failed to make the playoffs in 2013 was because their starting pitchers struggled, besides Madison Bumgarner. They need this to change in 2014, and so far, they haven’t proven they can be more reliable as a staff.

Apr 4, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong (32) in the third inning of the game against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

So far, Matt Cain has a 5.73 ERA, Tim Lincecum has a 9.90 ERA, and Ryan Vogelsong has a 9.00 ERA. Bumgarner has a 1.74 ERA, but he hasn’t pitched more than 6.1 innings yet.

Vogelsong’s struggles have been the most concerning, because he has faced serious velocity and mechanical issues since returning from injury last season. Hopefully Vogelsong, and the pitching staff as a whole, can bounce back.

2) Marco Scutaro started the season on the DL, and there haven’t been any updates so far on his status. Alex Pavlovic of the Bay Area News Group reported that Bruce Bochy has no idea when Scutaro will be back with the team.

“I really don’t know,” Bochy said when asked about Marco Scutaro. “I know he’s doing baseball activities. I don’t even have a target date for you and I don’t think Dave Groeschner can even have that for you.”

So far, Scutaro’s absence hasn’t been too troublesome for the Giants because of the emergence of Brandon Hicks, the versatility that Joaquin Arias possesses, and the defensive prowess of Ehire Adrianza. However, it has to be a little concerning that the Giants don’t have a timetable for the return of their 2012 NLCS MVP and 2013 All-Star.

3) The Giants struggled mightily with defense last season, and they’ve shown some inconsistency on defense this season too. During the first game of the season, they committed two errors but it easily could’ve been more than that. They struggled with executing simple rundown plays, handling bunts, etc.

It even prompted Bochy to ask bench coach Ron Wotus if they needed to start spring training again. The Giants made a point during spring training to get back to the fundamentals on defense, and it certainly didn’t show during that first game.

The Giants have played better defense since then, but they need to keep improving.

San Francisco Giants: 2014 Preview

Mar 12, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) is taken out of the game by manager Bruce Bochy (15) against the Chicago White Sox at Scottsdale Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The San Francisco Giants have one mission for the 2014 season. The Giants hope to prove that the 2013 season was a fluke and that they’re ready to contend for not just a playoff spot but also another World Series title.

Here’s a preview of the Giants’ 2014 season:

Are the San Francisco Giants Playoff-Bound in 2014?

Sep 29, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey (28) thanks the fans after the final game of the season at AT

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

After winning two World Series titles between 2010 and 2012, the San Francisco Giants entered the 2013 season with great expectations. Despite a nearly identical starting lineup and starting pitching rotation as in 2012, the Giants struggled to re-capture the magic in 2013 that they experienced in 2012.

The Giants finished the 2013 season with a 76-86 record, which was third in the NL West. They had to deal with some injuries to key players, poor defense, fatigue, and inconsistent starting pitching.

The Giants have addressed some of these issues so far in the offseason, and they hope that the corresponding roster moves that they’ve made will propel them to the playoffs in 2014. Let’s examine these moves and determine if these changes will lead to a playoff berth.

First of all, Brian Sabean made it a priority to re-sign Hunter Pence and Tim Lincecum before the 2013 season was over. He didn’t want them to test free agency and potentially sign with another team.

Sabean was able to re-sign Pence to a five-year, $90 million contract. In 2013, Pence hit .283 with 27 home runs and 99 RBI, and he played in all 162 games. He also stole 22 bases, had a .339 OBP, and a .483 slugging percentage.

Off the field, he is the heart and soul of this Giants team. He has an incredible work ethic, he plays with a lot of heart, he hustles no matter what the score is, and he’s a great teammate. Pence made it perfectly clear that he wanted to stay a Giant, and he said that he understood the responsibility that comes with such a large contract.

Jul 13, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) is congratulated by starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) after a diving catch during the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

After re-signing Pence, Sabean then re-signed Tim Lincecum to a two-year, $35 million deal. This was a controversial signing. Although Lincecum has been a longtime fan favorite, he hasn’t pitched like a two-time Cy Young Award winner in the past couple seasons.

In 2012, he had a 5.18 ERA in 186 innings, and in 2013, he had a 4.37 ERA in 197.2 innings. Lincecum has struggled with his command, and he’s had to evolve as a pitcher in order to stay relevant and serviceable. He did throw a no-hitter last season though, and he showed elements of brilliance in the second half of the season. Despite his struggles, he will be a key part of the starting pitching rotation in 2014.

The Giants also re-signed fan favorite Ryan Vogelsong, who will be the fifth pitcher in the starting rotation. After not picking up his $6.5 million contract option for 2014, the Giants signed Vogelsong to a one-year, $5 million contract.

The Giants also brought back left-handed specialist Javier Lopez and signed him to a three-year, $13 million contract. This was a key signing, because his ability to strike out left-handed batters is unique and extremely valuable.

The Giants also signed some new faces this offseason. The Giants desperately needed another starting pitcher, so they signed Tim Hudson to a two-year, $23 million deal. Hudson, a 14-year veteran starting pitcher, had a 3.97 ERA, struck out 95, and walked 36 in 131.1 innings in 21 starts last season. Hudson suffered a gruesome ankle injury in July 2013, which cut his season short. He has recovered well and is expected to be ready to pitch by spring training.

Another significant addition to the Giants is Michael Morse, who is expected to be the Giants’ everyday left fielder. The Giants signed Morse to a one-year, $6 million deal plus incentives based on plate appearances, which could lead to $3 million more.

Last season, he struggled at the plate because of a wrist injury, but he had his best season in 2011 with the Nationals when he hit .303 with 31 home runs, 95 RBI, and he had a .360 OBP and a .550 slugging percentage. Morse brings some much-needed right-handed power to the Giants.

Given all these additions and signings, the Giants will enter the 2014 season with a more complete roster. Their starting lineup in 2014 will most likely be: Pagan CF, Scutaro 2B, Belt 1B, Posey C, Pence RF, Sandoval 3B, Morse LF, Crawford SS, and the pitcher’s spot.

Oct 22, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants second baseman Marco Scutaro (19), catcher Buster Posey (28), and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (second from right) celebrate after all scored on a two-RBI double by right fielder Hunter Pence (not pictured) as first baseman Brandon Belt (far right) looks on during the third inning of game seven of the 2012 NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT

If everyone remains healthy, which is key for the Giants, then this lineup could definitely propel the Giants to another NL West title or at least another playoff berth. This lineup is well-balanced and has speed, power, and versatility.

The starting pitching rotation will be something like: Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Hudson, Lincecum, and Vogelsong. Cain was uncharacteristically inconsistent last season, but given his history of dominance and his work ethic, it seems as if he’ll bounce back and have another stellar season in 2014. Bumgarner was the ace of the pitching staff last season, and he’s one of the best, most intriguing pitchers in MLB.

Hudson is getting older, but he’s a veteran and will benefit from pitching in the pitcher-friendly AT&T Park. Lincecum and Vogelsong are both question marks going into next season, in terms of production.

The success of the starting pitchers will determine the Giants’ season and if they’ll make the playoffs in 2014. It’s somewhat unclear how some of the pitchers will perform next season, but Giants fans should be hopeful that the extra rest this offseason will help the starting pitchers perform better.

Oddly, not making the playoffs in 2013 was a blessing in disguise for the Giants. After playing so many playoff games in 2010 and 2012 (especially having so many potential elimination games in 2012), the Giants clearly and understandably looked fatigued at several points in 2013.

This certainly explains Cain’s struggles and some of the injuries that occurred to players who participated in the World Baseball Classic before the 2013 season. Posey even said he was going to condition differently during this offseason because his legs felt sore and tired at the end of the 2013 season.

At this point, the 2014 Giants’ team can only be judged on paper. Obviously, health is key to the Giants’ success, but, if key players remain healthy, it seems as if the Giants will have a great shot at making the playoffs in 2014.