2013 San Francisco Giants
The Giants won their second World Series title in three years last season and return a roster that is more than capable of adding another in 2013, but will the much improved NL West prove to be too much for them to handle this season?
The San Francisco Giants had been searching for a World Series title for decades before they finally got one in 2010. Last season, they notched up another title, dispatching the Detroit Tigers in four games to walk away with their second title in three seasons. This year, they return nearly their entire roster and are the early favorite to return to the NLCS in October to compete for a shot at yet another World Series appearance.
The Giants will turn to Matt Cain to lead their rotation again this season following an impressive 16-5, 2.79 ERA performance from 2012 which also saw him strike out 193 batters while issuing 51 walks. Cain is the true ace of the staff and is a work horse, logging at least 200 innings of work in each of his last six seasons. With him on the mound, the Giants have as good a shot as any team in baseball to notch a win every five days. Behind Cain will be Madison Bumgarner who turned in a 16-11 record with a 3.37 ERA in his second full season as a major leaguer last year. Bumgarner also had a good year in strike-outs, fanning 191 batters while issuing 49 free passes and posting a WHIP of 1.11. The combination of Cain and Bumgarner at the top of the rotation worked out perfectly for the club last season and should be good enough for a combined 38 wins this season given the capabilities of the Giants’ offense.
Former two-time NL Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is slated to pitch third again this season after struggling to a 10-15 record in 2012. The club hopes that he can bounce back to his pre-2012 form, but so far this spring he has not shown signs of that happening, and he has been battling a blister on his throwing hand which has set him back as well. If Lincecum can rebound and put up 15 wins this season, there should be no reason why we aren’t talking about the Giants playing in the World Series again this fall, but if he falters the rest of the rotation will have to work hard again to pick up the slack.
Barry Zito finally lived up to his enormous contract last season, going 15-8 with a 4.15 ERA in 32 appearances and did a fine job making up for the slip in Lincecum’s production. If he is able to do the same this season, the Giants will be able to work their way around another off year from Lincecum, but if he slips back to his performance in the first five seasons with the Giants, the club is going to be in trouble as they can ill afford to have two starters who struggle to give them innings this season. Ryan Vogelsong will round out the rotation and after giving the Giants a 14-9, 3.37 performance last season they will be more than happy to trot him out at the back end of their rotation. Most clubs are lucky to get 10 wins out of their number five starters, so Vogelsong was a true blessing for the Giants last season, and his 3-0 record in 4 postseason appearances played a big part in the club winning the World Series.
Other than former closer Brian Wilson, the Giants are returning the same bullpen from last season. Closer Sergio Romo will have his work cut out for him as he will need to log more innings than he has pitched in his career this season. Coming into 2013, Romo has never logged more than 62 innings in a single year, in comparison Wilson logged in 74 2/3 innings in 2010 when he led the Giants to their first World Series title. The club managed without a full-time closer for much of last season, but for them to have a legitimate shot of repeating their success this year they will need Romo to step up and close out at least 40 games and post an ERA under 3.00.
Santiago Casilla, Javier Lopez and Jeremy Affeldt are the three other main players in the Giants’ bullpen, with Lopez the most likely to be used as the set-up man for Romo this season. Jose Mijares and George Kontos are expected to round out the Giants bullpen and both were quite effective for the club last season. Overall the bullpen looks very strong but their success or failure will rely on Romo’s ability to adjust to the closer role on a full-time basis as their options are limited beyond him should he struggle to be the go-to-guy in the 9th inning.
The Giants should have plenty of offense this season as their line-up looks stacked from top to bottom. Lead-off man Angel Pagan did a fantastic job last season, hitting .288 with 29 stolen bases, 38 doubles and 15 triples. Pagan gets on base a lot which bodes well for number two hitter Marco Scutaro who turned in a great 2012 campaign as well, batting .306 with 32 doubles, 4 triples, 7 homers and 74 RBIs. The two of them do a fine job to set the table for the heart of the Giants order which is powerful enough to put fear into even the most confident opposing pitchers.
The combination of Pablo Sandoval (.283, 12 HR, 63 RBI), NL MVP Buster Posey (.336, 24, 103) and Hunter Pence (.253, 24, 104) is as good as any in baseball at the three, four and five spots. Sandoval was named the MVP of the World Series, but he has come into camp overweight, which is an issue with the Giants’ front office and he will have to do something this spring to try to lose a few pounds so that defensively he does not see his production slip. He was also limited to 108 games in the regular season, so the club will need him to stay in the line-up once the season starts if they hope to repeat their success from 2012. Posey will see some time at first base this season to keep his bat in the line-up more often and to give his knees a break from the rigors to being behind the plate at catcher.
Coming off his first full season in the majors, first baseman Brandon Belt will be a fun hitter to watch this season as he is expected to be penciled into the six spot in the Giants’ line-up. Last season Belt hit .275 with 7 homers and 56 RBIs in 145 games for the club; he will split time with Posey at first base this season, but his bat is simply too good to keep him out of the line-up for very long so expect to see the team use him in late-inning situations as a viable pinch hitting option. Gregor Blanco and Brandon Crawford will round out the line-up and while neither man hits for a lot of power, they are both consistent at the plate and will get on base regularly as well as drive in runs.
The Giants will score runs this season, their line-up is solid from 1 to 8 and they have one of the best looking three, four, five combinations in all of baseball. The key to their success will be their starting pitching and how deep they are able to get into ball games. If closer Romo is expected to be called upon several times a week, the ball club will struggle as he will still be adjusting to his new role and their options are limited to fill the void if he struggles. The rest of the bullpen looks solid, but they are not likely to be able to survive another season without a closer to finish the job that they start. The Giants will make a run for the division crown again this season, but the Dodgers look to be the team to beat in the NL West. With the uncertainties of Romo, the team is likely to slip a bit from their 94-68 finish last season and finish somewhere around 89-73, which will be good enough for 2 nd place in the division, but may not be good enough for a Wild Card spot given that both Cincinnati and Philadelphia are likely to finish with 90 or more wins while missing out on their division crowns as well.
By Robert Gonzalez