2014 Season Preview: San Francisco Giants

It's a personal statement about the band itself!

Additions

Tim Hudson, Michael Morse, Guillermo Quiroz

Subtractions

Chad Gaudin, Barry Zito

Injuries

Marco Scutaro - Back stiffness

Players to watch

Brandon Belt

Belt was quietly worth four wins for the Giants last season. He put up a 139 wRC+ in 571 plate appearances. Same on-base percentage as 2012, but the power materialized. His .193 ISO was the second best in the National League, yet for some reason, his performance didn't gather much national attention despite the fact that he matched Bryce Harper's numbers -- almost exactly.

Player AVG OBP SLG% wOBA fWAR "is awesome" search results
Bryce Harper .274 .368 .486 .371 3.8 9,940
Brandon Belt .289 .360 .481 .365 4.0 114

The Giants noticed. They entered into "preliminary" extension discussions with their 25-year-old first baseman. In 2014, Belt could end up being the most valuable hitter on the team, and could earn him a pretty significant extension after the season.

Matt Cain

Cain surrendered 13 of the 23 homers he gave up in 2013 before May 16th. From that point on, he was pretty much the same old Matt Cain -- 3.38 ERA in 128 innings. His career ERA is 3.35. Unless he has some more bogus dinger luck, he should bounce right back to the front of the Giants rotation.

On the other hand, if you're looking for some morbid reason to drag Cain down to your level, you could look at his considerable innings pitched totals over the last eight seasons. It's slowly becoming the norm for pitchers to miss a season in their twenties due to Tommy John surgery, but not Cain. He's put up 30 starts eight years in a row. There. There you go, sadist.

Tim Lincecum

Lincecum doesn't care about "punchies" anymore. He just wants to get outs, which is pretty reasonable approach ... He can't throw 97 mph anymore. Actually, his fastball was his biggest weakness in 2013. He improved on his rock-bottom 2012 season, but he's clearly not as Freakish as he used to be.

If you're a Giants fan and you're feeling a little skeptical, go read Jeff Passan's slightly melodramatic column on "the reconstruction of Tim Lincecum." It'll get you pumped to watch him pitch this season and you might even weep softly to yourself little bit.

Outlook

The West looks like it'll be pretty competitive throughout, and with the Dodgers wedging a few more high-priced additions into their roster, a Wild Card birth could be the Giants best bet at the postseason. There might not be a Cubs/Astros/Marlins-like speed bag at the bottom of the division for teams to pound on, so it could be tough for a second Wild Card team to emerge from the West if the Central and East get top heavy. Clearly, things will change, but as they appear on paper at the moment, the Giants path to playoffs looks tough.

Even punctuation

2010, 2012, ___. That might look like a frivolous pattern, because it is. But before each of the World Series-winning seasons, San Francisco was in a very similar situation to the one they're in now. They have a lot of question marks, but if things break in their favor, they could be a great team. The certainly aren't the favorites to win the Series and continue their even-number prepotence, but they weren't the favorites in 2010, and they definitely weren't the favorites in 2012. Picking the World Series winner at this point is about as likely that one guy you know that picked Dayton in the NCAA tourney -- sure, you were right, but your guess isn't as impressive as you keep telling me it is.

Rotational knurliness

Bumgarner's probably going to be fine, but if Cain and Lincecum struggle behind him and Tim Hudson pitches like a 40-year-old man, the Giants could end up lurching through the season between Bumgarner starts. Those three spots in the middle of the rotation could be a strength for the Giants. However, each pitcher in that group presents a concern of some kind, and the fifth spot in the rotation could be in flux all year -- something terrible appears to have happened inside Ryan Vogelsong.

Injuries could also derail this team rather quickly. If Bumgarner gets hurt, the chances of repeating their even-season dominance of the 2010s would plummet. The same can be said for the offense. Pablo Sandoval's not exactly a gym rat. An extended DL stint could neuter their offensive production from the infield.

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