Matt Cain, Sergio Romo and Buster Posey address the crowd at the Giants victory celebration.
The San Francisco Giants are baseball's reining world champions after they won their second World Series crown in three years in 2012.
The Giants are fairly set with their pitching staff heading into the 2013 campaign. With pitchers and catchers due to report to spring training very shortly, the smell of freshly mowed grass will mix with hot dogs and garlic fries quite soon.
The melodic sound of fastballs snapping into a catchers mitt is right around the corner, and I can almost hear the familiar chatter that is only heard on the baseball diamond.
The Giants will typically go with a 12-man pitching staff during the regular season, so let's take a closer look at who will likely open the year on the Giants' pitching staff in 2013. In addition, we will mention some of the prospects to watch for the future
Matt Cain and his family enjoyed the World Series parade.
Matt Cain is the Giants' ace and will be their opening day starter, barring any unforeseen issues.
Cain had a great year in 2012, as he threw a perfect game, was the starting pitcher for the NL in the All-Star game and also helped lead the Giants to the World Series crown.
This past season, Cain threw 219.1 innings in the regular season, compiling a record of 16-5, with an ERA of 2.79 and WHIP of 1.040. He struck out a career-high 193 batters while walking only 51.
Cain was also very busy in the postseason, throwing an additional 30 innings.
Cain, who's nickname is the "Horse" because of his durability, is expected to lead the Giants' pitching staff once again in 2013.
Madison Bumgarner is still only 23 years old.
Madison Bumgarner burst on the scene in the second half of the 2010 season and helped the Giants win their first World Series title in San Francisco. Since then, he has had far more good outings than bad, although he did seem to wear down towards the end of the 2012 season.
Bumgarner finished the season with a career-high of 208.1 innings pitched. He compiled a record of 16-11, with a 3.37 ERA and 1.114 WHIP. He also struck out 191 batters, while walking only 49.
As Bumgarner fatigued later in the 2012 campaign, his confidence was also shaken. His first two postseason starts were also very poor, as he allowed 10 runs in only eight innings of work.
There was strong consideration given to skipping Bumgarner in the World Series, or replacing him in the rotation with Tim Lincecum.
Manager Bruce Bochy stuck with the young left-hander and was rewarded. Bumgarner had an excellent outing against the Tigers, pitching seven shutout innings and earning the win.
Bumgarner is what can best be described as being "country strong." He is a big, strapping young man, standing at 6'5" and weighing in at 235 pounds.
He has an easy, flowing motion and appears to sling the ball from the first base side of the mound. The easy motion tends to fool hitters, as the ball gets on them more quickly than they expect.
Hopefully, Bumgarner learned from his late-season struggles and will work to improve his stamina. He is an integral factor to the success of the Giants in 2013.
Tim Lincecum is on the final year of his contract and could become a free agent following the season.
Tim Lincecum had by far the worst season of his career in 2012. He struggled with velocity, stamina and confidence, finishing the regular season with a 10-15 record, 5.18 ERA and 1.468 WHIP.
Lincecum turned down a lucrative long-term contract offer from the Giants prior to the 2012 season and is due to hit free agency after this year. If he hopes to cash in, he will need to have a significant rebound from his poor showing last year.
Never a fan of working out too hard, Lincecum came into spring training last year in less than top physical condition. This affected his velocity and, even more so, his stamina. He would frequently start games throwing in the 91-92 mph range, but by the second time through the order, he had fallen off to 88-89 mph.
As Lincecum's velocity declined, hitters started looking more for his change-up because they were less susceptible to the change of speeds.
Lincecum maintained a high strikeout rate, with 190 K's in 186 innings, but he also walked 90 batters and was quite hittable.
In the postseason, Lincecum got one start in the NLCS, but primarily pitched out of the bullpen. It was in relief where he found himself and regained his confidence and swagger.
Lincecum struggled in his only postseason start, allowing four earned runs in 4.2 innings. However, his relief outings were spectacular.
In five postseason relief appearances, Lincecum threw 13 innings, allowed only three hits, two walks and one earned run. He also struck out 17 batters and was a big part of the Giants' postseason success.
These final outings of 2012 should give Lincecum some confidence heading into 2013. If he comes into spring training in top shape, expect him to have a solid year.
Ryan Vogelsong has found a home in San Francisco.
Ryan Vogelsong had a very solid season in 2012, throwing a career-high of 189.2 innings. He compiled a record of 14-9, with an ERA of 3.37 and WHIP of 1.228.
Like Bumgarner, Vogelsong seemed to wear down during the dog-days of August and early September. But he recaptured his form in his last couple starts in September to ensure his spot in the starting rotation for the postseason.
Vogelsong has gone from being a true journeyman pitcher who played in several minor league towns and across the globe, to a quality Major League pitcher. He was even an All-Star in the 2011 campaign and was very close to retuning there again last year.
Vogelsong has committed to play for the United States in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. This is a concern because the preparation is different for pitching in pressure-packed situations, as compared to a spring training outing.
It will be important for Vogelsong to have a good year, as he is in the final year of his contract. If he has another solid season, look for the Giants to make every effort to retain him.
Vogelsong will be 36 years of age in July and the additional workload could be an issue. The Giants cannot afford for Vogelsong to tire or break down in the second half of the 2013 season.
Barry Zito had his best year as a Giant in 2012.
Barry Zito earned a great deal of his money and garnered a tremendous amount of goodwill from loyal Giant fans based on his 2012 performance. On several instances, Zito came up big when the Giants needed him most.
Prior to the 2007 season, the Giants signed Zito to a seven-year contract worth $126 million, and the 2013 season should be the final year of that albatross of a deal. The Giants will undoubtedly pay the $7 million buy-out for the 2014 season.
There is still the potential for Zito to return following this season, but it would need to be on a much lower contract. Zito endeared himself to the fans of San Francisco.
Zito pitched well in the 2012 regular season, compiling a 15-8 record, 4.15 ERA and 1.389 WHIP. He also performed well during the postseason.
Two games highlighted Zito's season. In the NLCS, with the Giants down three games to one, Zito threw 7.2 shutout innings, leading the Giants to a 5-0 win.
Zito also started the first game of the World Series against Justin Verlander, Detroit's ace. Many in the media had already given this game to the Tigers, but Zito out-pitched Verlander. Zito threw 5.2 innings and allowed only one earned run. He even got a hit off of Verlander and drove in a run in an 8-3 Giants victory.
Sergio Romo struck out Miguel Cabrera to end the 2012 World Series.
Sergio Romo took over the main closer role for the Giants in July. Although they did occasionally utilize a committee approach, Romo got the majority of the save chances down the stretch.
Romo is a side-arm thrower with a wicked slider. He improved the command on his fastball and also developed an off-speed pitch, which he used to neutralize left-handed hitters.
Romo finished the 2012 season with a 4-2 record, 1.79 ERA and an outstanding WHIP of 0.849. Romo also had 14 saves during the regular season, and he enters 2013 as the primary closer for the Giants.
Manager Bruce Bochy and pitching coach Dave Righetti deserve a lot of credit for Romo's success. They were very careful not to overuse Romo, as he has had a history of losing his effectiveness when he is over-worked.
Romo's participation with Mexico in the upcoming World Baseball Classic is a concern, though. He is a diminutive 5'10" and 185 pounds, and has had some injury issues in the past. Romo will need to make sure that he's in top condition and is not over-used in the WBC, as his main focus needs to be with the Giants.
Of all the Giants playing in the WBC, Romo is the one that Bochy and GM Brian Sabean have to be the most worried about.
Santiago Casilla was the Giants' closer for the first half of the season.
Santiago Casilla inherited the closer job when Brian Wilson went down with an injury, after only two outings. Casilla did a very good job over the first two months, but blister problems soon affected him.
Casilla struggled in July and eventually lost his job to Romo. He finished the season with a 7-6 record, 2.84 ERA, 1.216 WHIP and 25 saves, in 63.1 innings of work.
Casilla seemed to lose his confidence for awhile last year, but came on strong at the end of the season. He also pitched well in the postseason, throwing 11.2 innings, allowing only two runs and striking out 13. Casilla was the winning pitcher in the clinching game of the World Series.
As a set-up man or a closer, Casilla is extremely valuable for the Giants.
Jeremy Affeldt signed a three-year contract this offseason.
Jeremy Affeldt is the Giants' top lefty out of the bullpen. He is capable of getting both left and right handed hitters out. In addition, Affeldt has shown an ability to pitch multiple innings if necessary.
Affledt had a fine year in 2012 and was rewarded with a new, three-year, $18 million contract. Affeldt worked 63.1 innings, compiling a record of 1-2, with an ERA of 2.70 and 1.263 WHIP.
The veteran Affeldt will be 34 years of age in June. He is also pitching in the World Baseball Classic. Affeldt has had a tendency to have periodic slumps when he loses his mechanics, and it will be very important for him to be sure to get in the proper work to ensure that he is ready to go once the regular season begins.
Javier Lopez is extremely tough on left handed hitters.
Javier Lopez is a lefty specialist whose job is to come into a tight situation and get one or two top left-handed hitters out. There are few pitchers in the National League with the track record of doing this consistently well, like Lopez.
Giants' manager Bruce Bochy is a master at getting Lopez in the game for the proper matchups. In 2012, Lopez only threw 36 innings, but was effective with an ERA of 2.50.
Those 36 innings of work came against the top left-handed hitters in the league, and Lopez did his job extremely well. He will also pitch for Puerto Rico in the upcoming WBC.
George Kontos was a pleasant surprise for the Giants.
In a move that seemed minor at the time, the Giants acquired George Kontos from the Yankees for reserve catcher Chris Stewart in April of last season. As it turned out, Kontos was a very solid pitcher for the Giants and his role increased as the season wore on.
Kontos had a record of 2-1, an ERA of 2.47 and a WHIP of 1.053 in 43.2 innings of work. With Guillermo Mota suspended for 100 games for his second PED violation, Kontos' emergence as a long-relief man was very important for the Giants.
Expect Kontos to continue his ascent up the ladder of relevance in the Giants bullpen.
Jose Mijares was acquired on waivers from the Royals.
The San Francisco Giants claimed Jose Mijares off waivers last August. As a Giant, Mijares appeared in 27 games and threw 17.2 innings. He won his only decision and had an ERA of 2.55 and WHIP of 1.245.
Mijares gave manager Bruce Bochy the luxury of having three quality lefties in the bullpen. Bochy is a master of getting the most out of his bullpen and Mijares filled his role quite nicely.
The Giants have historically filled their roster with 12 pitchers, but there is no clear-cut favorite for the final spot in 2013.
Giants GM Brian Sabean is still looking at some free-agent possibilities, and they would ideally like to add a right-hander to their bullpen. One pitcher that the Giants have had discussions with is veteran Brandon Lyon.
Pitchers in the Giants organization who are currently in the mix for that last spot include Heath Hembree, Dan Otero, Jean Machi and Steve Edlefsen.
Hembree is the most interesting of these prospects. He breezed through the Giants' minor league system and looked like he had a good chance to be called-up midseason last year.
Hembree had some arm trouble last year, though, so he will need to prove to the Giants that he is completely healthy. In three minor league seasons, Hembree has struck out 143 hitters in 107.1 innings pitched. He has outstanding stuff and could be the closer-of-the-future for San Francisco.
The Giants have had good success drafting and developing young pitchers. On their current roster, the Giants have starters Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum and Madison Bumgarner, who have all come up through the Giants' system.
Looking ahead, the Giants have several top pitching prospects who could crack the Majors in the next couple years. These include Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton, Clayton Blackburn, Chris Heston, Martin Agosta and Michael Kickham.
Following the 2013 season, with Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong all eligible for free agency, it will be important for the Giants to continuing to develop their top young pitching talent.
The Giants have all the pieces in place to make another run at another world championship. It will require good health and contributions across the board from every man on their roster.