San Francisco Giants: Biggest Storylines at the Start of the 2015 Season

Dan MoriCorrespondent IApril 10, 2015

San Francisco Giants: Biggest Storylines at the Start of the 2015 Season

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    Madison Bumgarner started the 2015 season off just like he ended 2014.
    Madison Bumgarner started the 2015 season off just like he ended 2014.Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    The San Francisco Giants have won three of their first four games. In traditional Giants fashion, all of the games have been close, tightly contested contests.

    In recent history, the Giants have excelled in these types of games. They have a quiet confidence that is perpetuated by manager Bruce Bochy.

    Arguably, the most exciting development for the Giants is that Madison Bumgarner looks strong and is poised to lead the San Francisco pitching staff. In his first start since his incredible performance to close out the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, Bumgarner looked in top form.

    Bumgarner threw seven strong innings, allowing six hits and a walk and striking out three batters. He allowed only one run and earned his first victory of the season.

    In addition to Bumgarner's stellar performance, there have been several other major developments already this year.

    The Giants opened the season with Hunter Pence and Travis Ishikawa on the disabled list. Unfortunately, additional injury concerns have hit the club in the first few days of the year.

    Let's take a look at the biggest developments of the 2015 season, thus far.

Goodbye, Lon

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    Lon Simmons was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.
    Lon Simmons was inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2004.JOHN DUNN/Associated Press

    The day before the Giants' 2015 season opener, beloved announcer Lon Simmons passed away at the age of 91. 

    Simmons was the Ford C. Frick recipient in 2004 and was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. His contributions to the game as a broadcaster definitely warranted this honor.

    As a young boy, getting my introduction to Giants baseball, it was a privilege listening to Simmons and Russ Hodges, also a Hall of Fame broadcaster. Whether it was Hodges' famous "Bye, Bye Baby" home run call or Simmons' "Tell It Goodbye," you knew you were listening to Giants baseball.

    Simmons' rich baritone voice, quick wit and self-deprecating sense of humor will always be remembered.

    Simmons was a true fan of the Giants, and his friendships with Willie Mays and Willie McCovey are well-chronicled. That the Giants were able to win three World Series titles in the past five years could not have made Simmons any happier.

    It was a sad day learning of Simmons' passing. He was one of the great men in the game and a treasured icon for the franchise and fans of San Francisco.

    One of Simmons' most well-known moments was his call of Willie Mays' 600th home run, originally heard on KSFO radio.

    I have met Simmons, and he was a gentleman in every sense of the word. RIP, Lon. We will all, Tell You Goodbye.

Jake Peavy Misses a Start

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    Jake Peavy missed his first start and was replaced by Ryan Vogelsong.
    Jake Peavy missed his first start and was replaced by Ryan Vogelsong.Ben Margot/Associated Press

    Following the 2014 season, the Giants signed Jake Peavy to a two-year, $24 million contract, per Baseball Prospectus.

    Peavy was expected to be the second pitcher in the San Francisco starting rotation. Unfortunately, a bad back caused him to miss his scheduled start.

    Peavy will be 34 years old in late May and has a lot of mileage under his belt. That he is having back problems is a bad sign.

    The Giants replaced Peavy with Ryan Vogelsong, who proceeded to allow seven runs to Arizona, in a 7-6 Giants loss on Tuesday.

    Peavy threw on the side recently and could make his first start Sunday. His successful return will be an important development for the injury-plagued Giants as they fight to defend their World Series crown.

Matt Cain Goes on the DL

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    Matt Cain is unable to open the season.
    Matt Cain is unable to open the season.Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

    The Giants were hoping that Matt Cain would be fully healthy this season after he missed the second half of 2014.

    After eight consecutive years of 30 or more starts, Cain was limited to only 15 starts last year. In August, he had surgery on his elbow to remove bone chips. Then, in September, he had an additional surgery, this time on his ankle.

    Andrew Baggarly reported on Cain's injury and the MRI results on MercuryNews.com.

    The injury appears to be a flexor strain, and Cain probably won't need surgery at this stage. Nevertheless, losing him for any extended period will put an additional strain on an aging pitching staff that already has Jake Peavy ailing.

    Rookie Chris Heston stepped in admirably for Cain. In his start against the Diamondbacks, Heston threw six solid innings, allowing only two unearned runs. He gave up three hits and two walks while striking out five.

    It was a promising start for Heston; however, if Cain is out for any major length of time, big league hitters will study plenty of film on the rookie and make adjustments. It will be up to Heston to counter and continue to be effective. 

    Time will tell how quickly Cain can return from this latest setback.

Brandon Belt Is Injured Again

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    Brandon Belt exits the game with the Giants trainer.
    Brandon Belt exits the game with the Giants trainer.Matt York/Associated Press

    Brandon Belt played in only 61 games last year, as a broken hand and a freak concussion cost him a majority of the season.

    With the departure of Pablo Sandoval and Michael Morse via free agency, the Giants could use a big year from Belt. He has the ability to supply power and RBI and hit for a high average. However, that can only happen if he stays healthy and gets consistent playing time.

    Belt is the type of player who can bang 20-25 home runs, drive in 80-90 runs and hit .300. He will be 27 years of age this month, so he should be entering the prime years of his career. If he can have a breakout season, it will greatly solidify the Giants offense.

    His latest injury, a groin strain, is the type of thing that the Giants must be careful with. If he were to tear the muscle by coming back too soon, he could be out for a long time.

    The Giants already have had injuries to Pence, Ishikawa, Cain, Peavy and now Belt. They can ill-afford any additional injuries and will hopefully be back to full strength later in the month.

The Top Three in the Giants Batting Order Are Producing

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    Angel Pagan is off to a good start this season.
    Angel Pagan is off to a good start this season.Lenny Ignelzi/Associated Press

    The Giants have won three of their first four games, and a big reason for that is the top of the order has been producing.

    Nori Aoki, batting at the top of the order, is 7-for-17, for an average of .412. He also has three walks and an OBP of .500. 

    Joe Panik has hit second in three of the games, with Matt Duffy batting No. 2 in the other. Combined, they are hitting .313, with two RBI.

    Angel Pagan, batting third, has been valuable. He is 6-for-18, for a .333 batting average and also has an OBP of .400 and OPS of 1.067.

    Pagan also has four doubles and a triple. When healthy, he is a huge catalyst for the Giants offense.

    Cumulatively, when batting at the top of the order, Aoki, Panik, Duffy and Pagan are a combined 18-for 51, for an average of .353. Their OBP is .421, and they have scored seven of the Giants' 17 runs.

    If the top of the batting order can continue to produce, the Giants will score runs. That, plus good pitching, is a recipe for success.

    Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.