5 Things We Want to See from San Francisco Giants in 2014
The San Francisco Giants have a lot to improve upon after a disappointing 2013 season. After winning a decisive World Series victory over the Detroit Tigers in 2012, the Giants failed to make the playoffs the very next year.
Starting pitching disappointed, bats sputtered and injuries plagued key members of the San Francisco squad.
However, despite a 76-86 record and a third-place finish in the NL West, expectations remain high for the Giants. Here are five things the Giants must improve upon in order to return to postseason play.
Offseason Moving and Shaking by GM Brian Sabean
After putting together a World Series-winning team in 2012, Giants GM Brian Sabean remained quiet during the following offseason. Although he successfully re-signed key players such as Marco Scutaro and Angel Pagan, he opted not to extend his search for some fresh, new players to fill gaping holes.
Instead, he signed outfielder Andres Torres, who failed to impress as a platoon piece in left field. The intact starting rotation, which was expected to return to form, never got going in 2013, which only made the holes in the lineup all the more glaring.
Still, Sabean's job is nowhere close to being done. In 2014, let's see another Marco Scutaro-like blockbuster trade to push the Giants into the postseason.
A Healthy Team
Ryan Vogelsong, starting pitcher and 2012 postseason hero: hit 60-day DL due to fractured right hand.
Angel Pagan, center fielder, leadoff hitter, key member of an already thin Giants outfield: plagued by a strained right hamstring throughout the year.
Add to that 15-day DL stints by relievers Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt at various junctures in 2013 and third baseman Pablo Sandoval hitting the 15-day DL for a strained left foot almost right after Pagan's 60-day DL announcement, and the Giants were simply not a healthy bunch.
Those injuries only exacerbated the lack of depth off the bench for the Giants. Hopefully, this season, the Giants won't be hit with the injury bug.
More Power Production from the Middle of the Lineup
With Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt and now Michael Morse, the Giants are starting to look formidable in the middle of their lineup. Still, there are question marks as to how some of these players will produce in 2014.
Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is one of the best hitters in all of MLB in terms of pure talent.
However, the Kung Fu Panda is not the picture of consistency in the batter's box. While his 2013 line (.278/.341/.417) remained similar in most respects to his 2012 performance (.283/.342/.447), Sandoval started the season slow and slumping, only batting .266 in the first half and failing to make an All-Star team managed by Bruce Bochy.
He also only hit 14 home runs, which, to be fair, is a tougher task playing at AT&T Park.
Brandon Belt continues to improve year after year. The Giants are still looking for more power out of his bat, although his home run total stood at 17, second only behind right fielder Hunter Pence's 27.
AT&T Park is where home runs come to die, and the long ball is simply not a key part of the Giants' game. The Giants have also not put together a batting lineup this strong on paper since the Barry Bonds era, so look for their power numbers to rise in 2014.
A Consistent Starting Rotation
Let's face it: The first-tier rotation of Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito simply did not perform in 2013.
Staff ace Matt Cain never quite found his mojo, posting a mediocre, uncharacteristic 4.00 ERA in 2013. More troubling? Cain allowed 23 home runs last season. Cain is a fly-ball pitcher, and last season, too many of those fly balls left the park.
Tim Lincecum continued to search for his new identity last season, facing several ups and downs. His no-hitter against the San Diego Padres reminded everyone "The Freak" is still alive.
New addition Tim Hudson is an upgrade from Barry Zito, and Madison Bumgarner continued to excel last season and should do the same in 2014. If Cain can return to Cy Young candidate form and Lincecum can remain consistent, the Giants rotation should rebound from a disappointing 2013 performance.
A Postseason Berth
After previously winning two World Series championships in a three-year span, the Giants should expect nothing less than a postseason berth.
The pieces are coming together, and this is a steadily improving roster dating back to 2010 when the team successfully won the World Series.
2014 is a new year. A clean start. Another beginning. Currently, every team is in first place. Hopefully, by the end of the year, the Giants will be the lone team remaining in that first-place spot.