Feb 28, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (9) hits a double in the second inning of their Spring Training baseball game with the Oakland Athletics at Phoenix Municipal Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY
Recap of 2013
Record: 76-86, tied for 3rd in the NL West with San Diego
The Giants fresh off a World Series victory in 2012, started the season off well leading the National League West by 2 1/2 games until a mid-May series against the Blue Jays began a 17-35 for the Giants which took them out of the race in the National League West and dashed their playoff hopes for the remainder of the season. When the season ended, the Giants who were once in first place, ended the year sixteen games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. These setbacks came from a variety of misfortunes that befell on the Giants in the form of injuries to Angel Pagan and Ryan Vogelsong, but also the result of an offense that at times was anemic in its ability to produce runs. Only the Marlins were worse than the Giants in hitting home runs in 2013, as the club was second to last in the National League, and yet still finished with a decent team batting average. Despite these misfortunes, the Giants still had successes at various points in the season, whether it be the continuation of the club’s sellout streak or in the fact that Brandon Belt slowly began to emerge, it does leave the team starting 2014 off with a number of questions for how the season will go this year.
LHP Barry Zito
Entering into the 2014 season, the Giants payroll is listed at $144 million in total salary. The biggest boost for the Giants is the fact that Barry Zito’s albatross of a contract is finally off the books. This allowed for the Giants to re-sign and extend the contracts of their key players heading into this season. Even with Zito’s contract off the books, the Giants payroll has increased by roughly $7 million from 2013. The result of this could be from the additions of Tim Hudson and Michael Morse, as well as the allocation of resources to resign Ryan Vogelsong and Javier Lopez, while also extending the contract of Tim Lincecum. For the club, they are happy with the current payroll numbers, as they have kept to the goal of being at or under $150 million something that could be for the foreseeable future.
Player to Watch
The player to watch in 2014 for the Giants will be Brandon Belt, who in 2013 began to make adjustments in his swing, as well as began to show signs of maturity at the plate. If he continues his success in making strides into reaching his potential completely, then 2014 could be a break out year for Belt. That would provide an added boost for the Giants in the lineup. The biggest thing for him is consistency, especially in putting up numbers and in run production. The more consistent Belt is, the better that the Giants will benefit because of it.
Must Improve Upon 2013
While there are a number of Giants that could fill this answer, the best answer is Tim Lincecum. Since 2010 he has fallen off the rails and needs to make improvements if he wants to earn a spot in the rotation for this season, which is something that would have been unthinkable two seasons ago. For Lincecum, he needs to retool and possibly rework the way he pitches. Then again, he isn’t the only Giants pitcher who is looking to bounce back this year, there’s also Matt Cain who is looking to bounce back, and Tim Hudson, returning, but really the primary focus is on Lincecum and whether or not if he’s still a fit for the Giants in the rotation or out of the bullpen. It should be interesting to see what happens, but as for now, Lincecum’s place is in the rotation.
The Giant that is most likely going to regress, is Marco Scutaro, due to the fact that he is now thirty-eight and most likely will slowly decline towards the end of his baseball career. While Scutaro will most likely still be a important piece in the lineup, the Giants may have gotten the best baseball that they can get out of him in the past two and a half seasons. That is only natural at this point. It won’t be a serious decline, but it will be noticeable enough for people to realize that Scutaro will slowly be on his way out.
One thing assured at this point about the Giants, and that they will be a competitive ball club in the National League West, but aside from that, they are an interesting club that could go back to the playoffs or find themselves just slightly south of .500 again if the wheels fall off once more. The biggest concern, for the Orange and Black, is there roster depth going into the season, as whether they did enough in the off season. Also, there’s the question if they filled out the necessary areas, especially in left field, which as the season progresses looks to be a work in progress. Morse could be the one for the position, but it could fall subject to a platoon system.
Another issue could be the health of the team as Scutaro and Pagan look to try to remain in the lineup. The final issue for the Giants, is Lincecum. He might not be the dominant force that he once was, but still needs to find a way to retool and rework his pitching in order to adapt.
Are they contenders?
Well it is an even number year, if one goes off of recent history, but really the best shot for the Giants is most likely being in the wild card race for this upcoming season, as the Dodgers look once gain poised to take the division. They do look like they won’t finish below .500 again and could very be a tough team to face. For the time being, the 2014 San Francisco Giants are open for debate as to what team will they be. For now it might be safe to say that they are committed to not repeating the misfortunes of last season.
86-76 (Second in the NL West)