Entering the 2015 season, the biggest concern for the reigning World Series champion San Francisco Giants was their starting rotation. As the season rolls on, this continues to be their main concern, especially as some of the starters are dealing with injuries, and Ryan Vogelsong has had to be utilized more as a spot starter than a long reliever.
This is the fourth edition of the San Francisco Giants Mailbag, which is a weekly post that involves answering Giants fans’ questions about the team. I asked fans over Twitter this week what questions they had, and I chose three to answer in this week’s Giants Mailbag article.
The San Francisco Giants lost Game Three of the World Series to the Kansas City Royals last night, which gave the Royals the 2-1 advantage in the series. Although Game Four today isn’t technically or mathematically a must-win for the Giants, it’s certainly an almost must-win for the Giants, which raises an important question.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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 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.
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.
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.