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Ranking the 10 Biggest Reasons San Francisco Giants Season Has Derailed

Peter PanacyCorrespondent IAugust 14, 2013

Ranking the 10 Biggest Reasons San Francisco Giants Season Has Derailed

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    2012 was a blissful year for the San Francisco Giants.

    2013 has turned into a year to forget.

    One season removed from their second World Series championship in three years, the Giants have gone from the top of the baseball world to the cellar of the National League West.

    It has been a hard fall to watch. 

    San Francisco's demise would have been hard to predict as the team entered spring training. The Giants retained the majority of the roster that carried them through the playoffs en route to the four-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the World Series.

    When the season started, making the playoffs once more in 2013 might as well have been a foregone conclusion.

    Yet as any baseball pundit can point out, each season is different regardless of how a team is composed.  Stars one year can turn into busts the next. Injuries take their toll. 

    Nonetheless, the 2013 season has turned into an abomination for the Giants. 

    It will likely be a season that San Francisco and its fans would like to forget. Yet analyzing the specifics behind what went wrong will be key to forging future success as the team plans to retool for next year.

    There are plenty of reasons behind the Giants' demise. 

    Contained herein are ten elements that epitomized San Francisco's fall from grace. Most of these affected the team over the long-term and should be categorized as chronic problems. Some were unforeseen circumstances that would have been tough for any team to endure.  A few, like the injury to leadoff hitter Angel Pagan, were so critical that they cannot be overlooked.

    If the Giants want to move beyond 2013 and prepare for next season, they will have to carefully examine the reasons behind their failures this year.

    Here are ten of them.

Other Elements that Thwarted San Francisco's Chances

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    There are plenty of elements that go into the success—or failure—of any season.

    San Francisco was not immune to any of them.

    While many are not necessarily the most critical components of the Giants' failures this season, some deserve to be recognized and analyzed. After all, there are dozens of reasons behind an abysmal season and not all of them can be compiled into one list.

    Here are a few that do not crack the top ten.

     

    The Schedule

    Major League Baseball experimented with its schedule to a great extent in 2013. There was the transfer of the Houston Astros over to the American League, which resulted in an odd number of teams in both the American and National Leagues. 

    The change meant that interleague play would be required between at least two teams each day of the season. 

    MLB also dictated a different schedule format that lessened travel between divisions and focused more on inter-divisional play.

    That should mean easier travel schedules, correct? Well, not exactly.

    San Francisco, like most teams, has had a weird 2013 schedule. Unlike a sizable portion of other teams, however, the Giants did not adapt well to it.

    Case in point, one of the Giants' longest road trips occurred between June 1 and 16 with a brief two-game home stand mixed in between. 

    San Francisco spent the first three days of the road trip in St. Louis taking on the Cardinals. They returned home for two games against the Toronto Blue Jays before going on the road again to face the Arizona Diamondbacks, Pittsburgh Pirates and Atlanta Braves in that order.

    Their record during that period: 6-8.

    San Francisco had another road trip against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds later that month. That record was an abysmal 1-8.

    If a .500 record on a road trip is a reasonable goal, the Giants certainly fell short.

     

    The World Baseball Classic

    The World Baseball Classic bears a little bit of the blame behind San Francisco's 2013 difficulties.

    A number of Giants elected to play in the WBC, which took place before the regular season began. Relief pitchers Jeremy Affeldt and Sergio Romo, starter Ryan Vogelsong and third baseman Pablo Sandoval all participated in the tournament.

    Buster Posey, however, did not. 

    According to an article published by SF Gate, San Francisco wanted to be careful with Posey following his 2011 ankle injury and elongated 2012 season. The Giants also were likely not thrilled with Romo extending his season after being such a critical part of the World Series team the year before.

    As it turned out, Affeldt, Sandoval and Vogelsong would each suffer injuries over the course of the regular season. In Sandoval's case, his nagging ankle injury hampered his 2013 campaign and unquestionably had an effect on the Giants offense. 

    Sandoval's struggles earn a slide of their own.

    Yet the WBC as a whole cannot necessarily be blamed for San Francisco's failures. There were plenty of other teams that had stars in the tournament, and, while the added season can lead to fatigue and injury, many of those other players did not suffer from the same effects. 

    Thus, the WBC is not a primary reason.

     

    Slow Maturation of Brandon Belt

    It was not long ago that first baseman Brandon Belt was touted as a potential Rookie of the Year candidate. 

    That thought may seem laughable now.

    While Belt certainly cannot bear the brunt of the Giants' offensive frustrations in 2013, his lack of production at the plate is a reason behind the team's woes.

    As of August 12, Belt is hitting a respectable .271 and his power numbers are up from last season. He already has 13 home runs in 2013 compared to only seven all of last year. That is obviously a good sign and points in the direction that Belt may be destined for bigger things in the years to come.

    The one problem with Belt is that he is a streaky hitter—a trait not uncommon among young sluggers. 

    August has been his best month this year—a month that finds Belt hitting a whopping .438. 

    Yet Belt has also had his cold streaks, low-lighted by an abysmal July that saw San Francisco's first baseman hit only .225.

    With a team wrought with inconsistency, Belt's streakiness has not been much of a benefit.

    Perhaps San Francisco's coaching staff has not developed him correctly. Perhaps Belt is underachieving to a small extent. Whatever the case, the Giants were surely hoping for a breakout year from the third-year slugger. 

    While he has not been terrible by any means, thus not cracking the top-10 reasons, Belt's cold spells have ominously paralleled many of the Giants' low points in 2013.

     

    General Manager Brian Sabean

    It is hard to throw the long-tenured general manager under the bus, but if the Giants' failures are truly from top to bottom, Brian Sabean has to bear some of the blame.

    Granted, Sabean has done tremendous work with the franchise this decade. 

    One has to look no further than the two World Series championships engineered, in part, by numerous transactions from Sabean's hand. 

    Yet one of those moves that took place in between the two championships may be one that resonates among the few infamous decisions Sabean has made.

    The 2011 trade of former Giants prospect Zach Wheeler for outfielder Carlos Beltran turned out to be a rental swap. At the time, San Francisco seemed set with their pitching rotation. It had been their strength in 2010 and continued in 2011. The Giants needed a bat and Beltran would provide that.

    Unfortunately, Beltran would depart for St. Louis after the season, and Wheeler became a part of the New York Mets' long-term plans.

    In 2013, San Francisco would find itself short on pitching—a situation that shall be described soon.  Wheeler could have been a part of the Giants' future. 

    In hindsight, the move was not a smart one.

    While Sabean brought back two critical components before 2013 in Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro, there have been relatively few other notable moves. 

    Fortunately, Sabean realized at the trading deadline that all is not lost with this group of Giants. This same team won a World Series a year ago. They are underachieving in 2013, but that does not mean uprooting the entire system.  

    For that, Sabean deserves some credit.

    Even Sabean probably could not have predicted San Francisco's downfall, which is why he does not make the top ten.

     

No. 10: The Farm System

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    San Francisco's minor league system is pretty bare.

    There are a number of reasons behind that statement. Parts of them have to resonate with general manager Brian Sabean and some of the trades he executed over the years. 

    A number of these trades—highlighted by the 2011 deal that sent pitching prospect Zack Wheeler to the New York Mets in exchange for outfielder Carlos Beltran—have stripped the Giants' farm system.

    In addition, the good fortunes San Francisco has enjoyed over the last few years have resulted in low draft picks. When the Giants were bad during the middle of the last decade, the draft produced players like pitchers Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, along with star catcher Buster Posey.

    An article written by Andy Baggerly for Baseball America highlights some of the Giants' minor league choices over the past decade and describes some of their difficulties heading forward. Baggerly notes that while San Francisco continues to develop pitchers, there is an apparent lack of position players. He writes:

    The farm system lacks depth as a result of trades and late draft positions in recent years, but the Giants still have their share of quality pitchers, starting with Kyle Crick, Chris Stratton and Mike Kickham.

    Sadly, none of those pitchers were major-league ready in 2013.

    San Francisco's farm system lacks some of the star power it once had. While pitchers like Crick and Stratton top the minor league affiliates, there are few other minor league players the Giants can look forward to employing in the near future.

    In addition, there are few options for position players to help bolster a desolate offense.

    As a result, the Giants brought up a number of prospects who never made a substantial impact.  Outfielders Roger Kieschnick, Kensuke Tanaka and Juan Perez were some of the only decent options that San Francisco could hope for.

    Whether any of them ever be a part of the Giants' future, let alone contribute in a major league way, remains to be seen.

    The lack of minor league help did not provide the depth when San Francisco needed it. 

    At least they should get an early pick from the horrid 2013 season. 

No. 9: Bullpen Injuries

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    San Francisco's bullpen was one of its primary strengths during both of their World Series years.

    In 2012, the bullpen was so deep that the team was able to make do without their elite closer, Brian Wilson, who was still recovering from Tommy John surgery on his pitching arm.

    For the most part, the bullpen stayed healthy that year and got reliable seasons out of dominant relievers like Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo.

    Yet there is a simple statement that can sum up a bullpen: While a bullpen cannot win games on its own, it certainly can lose them.

    In 2012, that was not much of a problem. It became one in 2013.

    The Giants' record out of the bullpen is currently 17-22. Those statistics are slightly skewed, given San Francisco's lack of offense which often results in their starters being removed without game leads, but the record is worth noting.

    Key among the struggles were injuries to two of the Giants' principal relievers: Affeldt and Santiago Casilla.

    Casilla suffered a knee injury in early May and would miss a sizable portion of the regular season before returning in July.

    Affeldt also suffered a similar fate, injuring his groin in July which resulted in an elongated stint on the disabled list. Affeldt's return is yet to be determined.

    While injuries can easily derail any bullpen, San Francisco could ill-afford such injuries to two of their primary late-inning relievers. The result meant more work for some of the lesser-quality arms employed by the Giants.

    Which pitchers would the Giants rather see in the late innings of a close ballgame: Affeldt and Casilla or George Kontos and Jose Mijares?

    Granted, teams with deep bullpens can usually overcome an injury, or two, to a key reliever. 

    However, the extended losses of Affeldt and Casilla were burdens that critically hampered what once was a San Francisco asset.

No. 8: Ryan Vogelsong's Injury

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    There was a time earlier this season when starting pitcher Ryan Vogelsong was in jeopardy of losing his spot in San Francisco's rotation.

    In the month of May alone, Vogelsong's ERA soared to 9.00 in four starts where he allowed a total of 16 runs over 16.0 innings pitched.

    In contrast, Vogelsong was one of the primary reasons behind the Giants' success in 2012. That year, he posted a 14-9 record with a 3.37 ERA logging 189.2 innings in the process. He was also a key element in San Francisco's championship run.

    The lack of effectiveness in 2013 was a cause for concern, endangering his prospects for remaining a part of the Giants starting rotation.

    Overall, his pre-injury record was 2-4 with a 7.19 ERA which ranked dead last among the 107 MLB pitchers who have pitched enough innings to qualify for consideration.

    Later in May, Vogelsong suffered a broken finger against the Washington Nationals while batting against Craig Stammen. The injury was initially projected to keep Vogelsong out for four to six weeks according to CSN Bay Area's Joe Stiglich.

    It is difficult to predict how Vogelsong would have worked out had the injury not happened. 

    There is the possibility that he may have corrected things early on after an abysmal start to 2013, thus turning into at least an effective pitcher for much of the season. Initially, Vogelsong thought that is what would have happened.

    In a May 9 article posted by CBSlocal.com, Vogelsong stated:

    I came through it after 13 years, I came through it after August 2011, I came through after August and September 2012, and I’ll come through it again this year. I feel really close.  That’s dangerous to say, but I feel closer to being where I need to be than further away.

    Let us assume for a moment that Vogelsong was correct in his predictions and the injury had not happened. 

    Vogelsong would have stayed in the Giants rotation and slowly would have whittled his substantially high ERA down to a respectable number. Chad Gaudin, the Giants pitcher who eventually replaced Vogelsong in the rotation, would have remained a key member of the bullpen which would have alleviated some of the injuries mentioned in the previous slide.

    Thus, the starting rotation would have remained intact, and the bullpen would have been stronger. 

    Vogelsong has now made a full recovery and has returned to the rotation. Yet Aaron Gleeman of NBC Sports feels that San Francisco will still keep a close eye on him given how he performed at the beginning of the season.

    Gleeman writes:

    Even before the injury Vogelsong’s rotation spot may have been in jeopardy because he posted a 7.09 ERA in nine starts, so it’ll be interesting to see how much patience the Giants show if he struggles initially.

    Vogelsong's lengthy absence from the rotation put tremendous strain on San Francisco's rotation and entire pitching staff. Given how much the Giants rely on their pitching, this loss was critical regardless of his early season struggles.

    For that reason, Vogelsong's injury finds itself as the eighth-overall reason behind San Francisco's failed 2013 season. 

No. 7: Angel Pagan's Injury

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    While the aforementioned injury to Ryan Vogelsong thwarted the pitching staff, the May 25 injury to Giants center fielder and leadoff hitter Angel Pagan hampered the offense.

    The key difference, and what makes Pagan's injury more critical, is the fact that Pagan is an everyday player and a vital component atop San Francisco's lineup.

    After additional setbacks, Pagan will likely not return to the Giants until the middle of September, if at all this season. 

    If he does return in 2013, it will be too late.

    Pagan became a spark plug for the Giants offense in 2012 and was one of the many reasons San Francisco had the success it did that year. Not only did he provide solid defense in the outfield, but he was also good at getting on base, setting up situations for the bigger bats behind him.

    In 2012, his on-base percentage was .338 and his league-leading 15 triples certainly helped.

    It makes sense why he was one of San Francisco's key offseason targets to be re-signed before the 2013 season. Because of this, general manager Brian Sabean signed Pagan to a four-year, $40 million contract.

    The first season of that contract now stings quite a bit, and not only because the Giants are paying him $8.25 million this year to undergo rehabilitation.

    It stings more because San Francisco has lost its legitimate leadoff guy, which has hampered the offense in a number of ways. 

    To alleviate the situation, the Giants have experimented with a number of different options. Key among them was a platoon between outfielders Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres—neither worked.

    Torres, who assumed the role in part because of his performance in 2010 when he was the principal leadoff hitter, has been a major reason behind San Francisco's .241 batting average for leadoff hitters.

    Yet Henry Schulman of SF Gate feels that the injury cannot be solely to blame for San Francisco's lack of production.  Late in June, when the Giants were enduring an abysmal month, he wrote:

    This no longer is about injuries. Yes, the Giants miss Angel Pagan. Still, the Giants should be able to score more than they have during a true June swoon. The same cast—with Pagan—averaged a healthy 4.5 runs a game in April and May; in June, 3.4. Pagan’s absence hurts, but not 1.1 runs a game worth.

    In a way, Schulman is correct about one thing. 

    San Francisco should still be getting some production offensively, and there is no way that Pagan can be that critical to the offense. 

    The team-wide lack of offense must then be categorized as an even greater blunder this season and shall be mentioned soon. 

    Yet Pagan's injury cannot be avoided, and it is unquestionable that San Francisco would have been better with him in the lineup. 

    Given that, Pagan's injury and subsequent absence finds itself in seventh place on the Giants' 2013 woes.

     

No. 6: An Elongated 2012 Schedule

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    The Giants have played a lot of games since the 2012 season started.

    If one counts the 162 regular season games from last year and adds the 16 additional games from the playoffs, San Francisco played in a total of 178 meaningful games in 2012.

    The postseason had an unquestionable effect on their chances this year. 

    Playoff games can put an incredulous burden on a team and a rotation, and there is no doubt that strain is being felt by the entire team in 2013. In the postseason, each pitch is magnified, and the added stress can carry over in a variety of ways.

    One can also factor in San Francisco's efforts in 2010 and realize that the team has played in a lot more games than many other teams around baseball.

    In 2011, the Giants suffered a similar "playoff hangover" of sorts, yet the pitching staff that year was able to keep San Francisco in the division race into September. 

    In 2013, that has not been the case.

    During a recent interview with the Giants' flagship station KNBR in San Francisco, former Giant and current Washington Nationals commentator F.P. Santangelo pointed out just how big the strain of a postseason run is on a team that makes the playoffs consistently.

    Santagelo emphasized that the stress levels upon each player are increased from the regular season. They carry an extra burden and can have lingering effects into the following year. For a team that carried over almost its entire 2012 playoff roster, that stress is team-wide.

    While this is certainly true, the elongated schedule cannot be the sole problem.

    For example, take a look at the Detroit Tigers, the team San Francisco faced in last year's World Series.

    As of August 12, the Tigers are 69-48 and sitting comfortably atop the American League Central.  There does not seem to be much of a playoff hangover there.

    For that reason, the Giants' long season in 2012 can bear a portion of the blame, but it cannot be the primary reason. Yet it is partially responsible for some of the slides to come.

    Thus, it has to be included on this list.

No. 5: The Regression of Barry Zito

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    It is easy for Giants fans to beat up on Barry Zito.

    I need not describe the vast majority of problems that have plagued the veteran left-hander during his seven-year, $126 million contract with the Giants. It is also not necessary to remind Giants fans of his being left off the 2010 San Francisco playoff roster.

    Instead, the comparison shall be made between Zito of 2012 and 2013.

    2012 was one of Zito's better years with the Giants, which saw him finish the season with a 15-9 record.  More important was how he pitched down the stretch—performances that carried him over into the postseason.

    Fans will remember his Game 5 start in the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, and they can recall how he beat Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the World Series.

    Then there is 2013.

    It is worth mentioning that Zito is still effective at home, totaling a 3.01 ERA In 71.2 innings, but he has a whopping 9.50 ERA away from AT&T Park, having allowed 44 earned runs in 41.2 frames.

    Bad does not adequately describe it.

    Thom Tsang of Rant Sports elaborates on the saga of Zito in 2013 in a July 16 article by writing:

    [T]here might be no better reminder of this for the 43-51 defending World Series champs than Barry Zito, the redemption story-going-wrong. Remember that improbable/incredible winning streak that the Giants were on whenever Zito took the mound? That’s distant history now, as the team is just  1-7 in his last eight turns, with the lefty carrying a personal four-game losing streak.

    As a result, Zito has been demoted to the bullpen—a fate that has happened to him before.

    In a year that is seeing almost every member of the Giants rotation struggle at some point, it would have been nice for Zito to emulate his 2012 form. Sadly, he has done little of the sort.

    It is also sad that Zito has often been the poster child of many of San Francisco's struggles, both in the last decade and in 2013 as well. 

    Yet understanding the nature of Zito's 2013 season and the effect it has had upon the Giants over the course of the year will remind us of this abysmal year.

    His performance, or lack thereof, is more critical to the Giants' results this year than any injuries or elongated season.

    As such, Zito winds up taking the fifth spot on this list.

     

No. 4: The Defense Has Faltered

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    San Francisco's defense was a critical reason behind its success in 2012.

    Fans may remember that it did not start off well that year.

    Fortunately, excellent defensive work from players like Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford picked up down the stretch and became an indelible aspect of their championship.

    At the start of 2013, the pattern seemed to repeat itself. 

    Unlike 2012, however, the Giants defense never corrected itself. As of August 13, San Francisco has a total of 83 errors which is good for sixth-highest in the majors. Perhaps more critically, their fielding percentage is only .981, third from last in MLB.

    Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is lowest among Giants starters with a .936 fielding percentage. While Sandoval cannot bear the entire blame for the lack of defensive production, he certainly is a part of the problem. Sandoval's season-wide issues shall be described on the next slide.

    Manager Bruce Bochy has repeatedly elaborated on the team's defensive woes over the course of the season. In a July 27 article written by Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News, Bochy was quoted:

    We're last in the league in errors and that's not us. That's who we've become, but that's not who we are. We're going to spend more time on the basics. The thing for us is getting back to playing sound fundamental baseball.

    The nature of bad defense is easy to describe.

    Poor defense leads to long innings and increased opportunities for opponents to drive in runs. It also increases pitch counts which can accumulate fatigue over the course of a season. Fatigue puts more strain on an entire pitching staff.

    It also can wear out other members of the defense, both physically and mentally.

    These factors are critical to a Giants team that is not prone to big offensive numbers. San Francisco has long championed itself on good pitching and defense—elements the Giants are not getting in 2013. 

    As a result, the struggles of pitching and defense go hand in hand. That is something that the Giants have not been able to overcome; it is a vital reason behind why this season has been so bad.

    Given the importance of defense and the intermingled effects it has had on the rest of the team, lack of defense ranks high on this list.

No. 3: Pablo Sandoval Not Impacting the Lineup

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    Buster Posey cannot do it all on his own.

    Because of this, there was high emphasis placed upon the bats of Pablo Sandoval and right fielder Hunter Pence. Both were expected to provide lineup protection for Posey in 2013 with the hopes that the threat of each of them in the lineup would complement Posey's ability to get better pitches to hit.

    While Pence has done a decent job in 2013—hitting a respectable .280 with 14 home runs and 56 RBI—Sandoval has been a major disappointment.

    It was not long ago that Sandoval was receiving the 2012 World Series MVP award, highlighted by his historic three-home run performance in Game 1.

    That was the Sandoval the Giants were hoping to see in 2013.

    Instead, San Francisco is witnessing Sandoval hit .256 with only nine home runs towards the middle of August.

    Sure, Sandoval's wild-swinging approach may thwart his chances for better numbers at the plate, but there have to be more factors in the mix here.

    Chief among them are concerns over Sandoval's weight. At 240 pounds, the weight problems are nothing new. Yet the problems beg questions regarding how his ballooning size will affect his health, performance and durability.

    Because of this, Sandoval is no stranger to the disabled list. 

    2013 was no exception, and Sandoval has already spent time on the list for a strained foot. Whether or not that injury was directly related to his weight can be debated, but his large stature was surely a concern during his recovery.

    While Sandoval was on the disabled list, San Jose Mercury News columnist Alex Pavlovic reported that Sandoval would spend some time trying to address his weight issues. Obviously, his weight was a concern to the Giants to a certain extent.

    Before the season began, Sandoval set a goal for himself to lose the weight within the next couple of seasons.  In a preseason article published on Yahoo Sports, Sandoval stated:

    I've got this year and next year to change all the things. It's going to take me a while, but I can do it. I know I can do it. You need to learn. You need to grow up. You need to step up and know the difference between what you can do and what you can't.

    The question is whether or not that goal will come too late for the Giants and Sandoval's future in San Francisco. 

    It is already too late for Sandoval in 2013. Yet Sandoval is due to become a free agent following the 2014 season. Given his history of weight problems and injury, do the Giants see Sandoval as a part of their long-term plans, especially after such an abysmal year?

    That much is hard to speculate.

    What is known is that Sandoval has been a huge disappointment in 2013.  His offensive production is down and his defense has struggled, as mentioned earlier. 

    San Francisco was hoping for big things from Sandoval this year. The team got big things, but not in the way they anticipated.

    As a result, Sandoval may be the largest aspect behind the Giants' offensive woes over the year.

     

No. 2: The Pitching Is Not What It Used to Be

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    Sans Tim Lincecum, San Francisco's pitching staff was peerless in 2012. 

    Fans know just how critical that pitching staff was last year, as well as in 2010.

    Pitching has been an integral part of the Giants' success over the past few seasons. The franchise has drafted well and developed even better, producing young arms that include Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner and Sergio Romo. 

    All of those pitchers have carried over into 2013.

    Even pitchers that San Francisco has brought in, such as Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito, were integral parts of the team's 2012 rotation and hoped for similar success this year.

    If these pitchers were, as a group, hoping to emulate last season, they have failed miserably.

    While there are pitchers who deserve their own spots on this list, the pitching staff as a whole must be incorporated as the second-overall reason behind San Francisco's demise.

    It has already been established that the Giants are heavily reliant upon their pitching. It has been the key component since 2010 and deserves credit for two World Series championships. 

    When it went well, San Francisco looked good. When the pitching faltered, the team looked bad.

    Let us compare 2012 and 2013.

    Last year, San Francisco had a team ERA of 3.68, good for fifth in the National League. Three of the five Giants starters had an ERA of under 3.40 with Zito and Lincecum posting higher ERAs—4.15 and 5.18 respectively.

    In 2013, the situation and statistics have become vastly different. 

    The team ERA is 4.03 which ranks 12th out of 15 National League teams. Aside from Madison Bumgarner, whose season ERA is an impressive 2.73, the remainder of the starting rotation is over 4.00. 

    While Chad Gaudin has made a nice stretch of spot-starts for Vogelsong, resulting in his 2.42 ERA, the rest of the pitching staff has struggled, resulting in the contrast between the two seasons. 

    Should the blame fall on Bruce Bochy for mismanaging his starters? 

    Perhaps, but it is more plausible that we are seeing the reality of San Francisco's rotation. While it is hard to place blame on Bumgarner, and a few other pitchers who have showcased decent years, the pitching problem is team-wide.

    Even Matt Cain, who emerged as the Giants' ace in 2012, has turned in a lackluster season thus far—a 7-8 record with a 4.44 ERA as of August 13. Hopefully this season is a lone blemish for Cain looking forward, but his bad season cannot be overlooked.

    Some of the issues can be credited with the elongated 2012 season mentioned previously. Aside from Bumgarner and Gaudin, the entire Giants staff has endured troubles this year, and what was once as strength has turned into a liability.

    Bochy has addressed fatigue among his rotation, yet he does not feel it is the sole reason behind their struggles. He stated via SF Gate:

    You can talk yourself into being tired, like all of us. It’s not a subject we’re going to sit here and discuss with these guys. We have to trust our eyes and see how these guys are going.  We don’t stink as a club. We don’t stink as players. That’s a temporary thing. You just don’t have the success we’ve had without these pitchers. They have to remind themselves how good they are.

    Hopefully the temporary lapse Bochy described does not last beyond 2013.

    The story is simple. San Francisco has not been getting the good outings it was once accustomed to. Bad outings mean fewer innings from the starting rotation. That, in turn, taxes the bullpen. Tired bullpens are vulnerable.

    It is a staff-wide problem.

    The aforementioned reality is that pitching staffs evolve and change. While the names may be the same from a year ago, Giants pitchers are very different. Players and coaches alike can have up-and-down seasons, and this year is no different.

    Perhaps most of San Francisco's pitching staff is suffering a down year. Hopefully the down year will be answered by a positive one next season. 

    Sadly, the Giants' dependence on pitching—and the subsequent letdown of the staff—mandates their spot as the second-overall reason behind San Francisco's lost 2013 campaign.

No. 1: The Offense (Or Lack Thereof)

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    Saying the Giants offense was a problem in 2013 is kind of like saying, "Swimming will get you wet."

    Yet if there is one overwhelming factor that sums up San Francisco's season disasters, it resides entirely with the offense.

    Certainly the offense was not the sole problem, yet few other team-wide aspects can garner as much attention as the lack of production at the plate. There are previous slides that focus on more specific elements of the Giants' offensive production, yet the total incompetence can be summed up in this final slide.

    Sadly, this element will probably be the one factor that Giants fans will remember most about the season.

    Let us look at the team splits over the 2013 year thus far. March and April saw the Giants offense hit .261 with 107 runs batted in. In May, San Francisco batters were hitting .279 with 123 RBIs. That is not too bad. In June, hitters batted .267 with only 83 RBIs. There was a little fall-off, but nothing to worry about, correct?

    Wrong. 

    July was outright bad. The offense hit .238 and drove in only 75 runs. Eleven games into August and San Francisco is hitting a whopping .224 and has only 24 RBIs. 

    The power has also drastically decreased. 

    San Francisco hit 24 home runs in May compared to only nine in July. Granted, the Giants are not a power team, but the offense needs to come from somewhere—anywhere—at this point.

    Thus far, San Francisco is hitting only .249 with runners in scoring position compared to their opponents' average of .264 according to ESPN.

    I could go on with all sorts of stats highlighting the Giants' ineptitude at the plate, but fans know that could go on for a long time.

    In short, this problem is as multifaceted as the statistics themselves. In a way, this slide incorporates all the offensive problems showcased in previous slides into one. There are a number of Giants players who should bear part of the blame. The coaching staff begs a pointing finger as well. 

    A lot of the offensive woes can be blamed upon fatigue and underachieving as well, factors that have been previously described in detail. Yet wrapping all of these elements together gives us more insight into just how significant San Francisco's issues on offense were in 2013.

    For that reason, the principal reason behind the Giants' failure this season has to be their lack of offense. 

    It is a simple phrase, "You cannot win if you don't score runs."


    San Francisco was a flawed team in more ways than can be described by a few slides. 

    It truly was a team marked by problems and ineptitude in a number of different areas. While the 2012 Giants seemed to get everything right, in 2013 San Francisco figured out how to do the exact opposite. 

    Hopefully the organization is able to recognize this year's faults and address them in the offseason. Perhaps the faults shall provide motivation to draft and develop better, get more out of the current roster and smartly bring in help where it is most needed.

    If that is the end result of the 2013 season, San Francisco may be on track to righting things next year.  The organization is well-led and does feature a solid core of talent. The elements need to fall back into place.

    Hopefully this article will be very different one year from now.

     

    All records, statistics and accolades courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise indicated.

     

    Peter Panacy is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.  Follow him @PeterMcShots on Twitter.

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