The 2013 season is finally underway. The number of at-bats is low, every base hit causes the batting average to balloon and every scoreless inning pitched allows the ERA to remain low.
Several Giants have begun the 2013 campaign free of April jitters. For many of these players, their early success can and should continue as the season progresses.
Here are some G-Men whose early season success should continue:
1. Hunter Pence
The former All-Star right fielder is off to a tremendous start this season. Pence has already gone yard three times in only 25 at-bats, and is coming off of a 24-home run 2012 season.
Monday, Pence's three-run shot in the first inning against the Rockies lifted the Giants to a 4-2 victory.
Over the course of his career, Pence has proven he can hit for power. In seven seasons, he has averaged roughly 20 home runs per year (19.71 to be exact—but what’s .71 of a home run? A triple?).
One might assume his home run totals are sure to drop while playing at the notoriously pitcher-friendly AT&T Park, especially considering Pence previously played 81 games out of the year at Citizens Bank Park. We’ll see how park factors ultimately affect Pence’s home run total, but he has illustrated consistency in the past.
Recently, Pence earned praise from teammate and reigning NL MVP Buster Posey:
He's got some of the most power I've ever seen...I get to hit with him in [batting practice] every day, and I try to make sure I hit before him so I don't have to follow up his moonshots. (Associated Press)
Additionally, Pence is a career .285 hitter who averages 93 RBI and 33 doubles per season. After struggling in 2012, not only after joining the Giants but also while still with the Phillies, Pence is looking to prove last season was an outlier in an otherwise solid career at the plate.
2. Madison Bumgarner
The 23-year-old Madison Bumgarner mowed down the potent Dodgers lineup during the second game of the season. In his first start of 2013, Bumgarner allowed only two hits over eight scoreless innings, striking out six and issuing no walks.
"That's the sign of a good pitcher...when he can throw anything and not stick to one pattern," he said.
On Monday, Bumgarner only lasted 5.2 innings in his second start against the Rockies, issuing five walks and allowing two earned runs. However, one of those runs came off the bat of the power-hitting Carlos Gonzalez, who hit a solo home run in the third inning.
In the interest of not cherry-picking from the left-hander's limited line in 2013, Bumgarner managed to limit the damage while not possessing his best stuff during his second start. He was able to get timely outs in the second inning, preventing a potentially big inning for Colorado.
Bumgarner, via ESPN:
"I didn't feel like I had trust in my stuff the way I did last time...I had a few mental lapses."
As long as Bumgarner maintains his mechanics, he should be in fine form as the season wears on. Last season, Bumgarner struggled down the stretch before shutting down the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.
The three-year veteran has illustrated his ability to rebound from rougher outings, but there’s no cause for alarm after Monday’s win. After all, he is off to a 2-0 start.
3. Pablo Sandoval
Pablo Sandoval is a superstar waiting for that one season to finally push him over the edge and into the top 10 offensive players in MLB conversation.
Time and time again, Sandoval displays moments of brilliance mixed with stretches of disappointment. After a breakout season in 2009, when the third baseman hit .330 and pounded 25 home runs, Sandoval underwent a mediocre 2010 in which he largely contributed from the bench during the team’s historic playoff run.
Sandoval achieved redemption in 2012, when he went yard not once, not twice, but three times in the opening game of the World Series.
Which Kung-Fu panda will the Giants see in 2013?
Since 2010, Sandoval has made the National League All-Star team in consecutive years, and finished 17th in MVP voting in 2011.
In 2013, Sandoval is off to a promising start, posting a .360/.429/.600 line in 28 plate appearances. A small sample size to be sure, but Sandoval is poised to breakout offensively after injury sidelined him over stretches in 2012.
He has also demonstrated impressive glove work at the hot corner, digging out a couple of tough grabs and preventing base hits.
If Sandoval stays healthy, his stock as one of the top hitters in the game is sure to rise.
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