BY AXEL BOADA
2013 Record: 76-86 (t-3rd Place NL West, 16 GB)
Recent history shows that the San Francisco Giants like to follow up World Series titles by missing the playoffs the next season. Fortunately for the team, this season is one of those alternating years.
So does this mean that Los Gigantes are championship-bound? Well, there is definitely a good chance. Do not be surprised if they do find their way into the Fall Classic once again.
It is quite a bold statement about a team that was two losses away from finishing last in the NL West—the same division the Los Angeles Dodgers currently have a tight grip on—but San Francisco’s rotation remains one of the best in the game, and their young core is still intact.
LF Michael Morse (1 yr/ $6M)
SP Tim Hudson (2 yr/ $23M)
Morse is looking to regain his inner “Beast Mode” after an injury-plagued 2013 campaign that saw him split time between the Seattle Mariners and Baltimore Orioles. With the Washington Nationals in 2011, Morse batted .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs. Morse played in just 102 games with the Nats in 2012 but managed to match his career averages, for the most part. But in just 88 games last season, he hit .215 with only 13 home runs and 27 RBIs. Now, 100 percent back from a wrist injury, Morse gives San Francisco an offensive boost they have been lacking the last few years.
Last year, Hudson broke his right ankle in one of the most sick-nasty ways ever. However, he is on pace to be ready for the regular season and will bring consistency to a normally tremendous starting rotation that disappointed in 2013. There is no denying that the 15-year veteran is not the player he once was, but playing in cavernous AT&T Park should help him maintain his 3.44 career ERA, as well as keep his winning percentage above 60 percent, a mark he has missed only twice in his career.
Barry Zito: This is more “good riddance” than “key loss” for the Giants. The lefty pitcher went 63-80 in seven seasons with San Francisco. Pair that with his bloated contract, and Zito made about $1.89 million per win. But in his defense, he earned at least some of it during the 2012 postseason. He kept the Giants’ postseason alive by improbably defeating the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the NLCS. He followed up that elimination-saving performance by outdueling Justin Verlander game 1 of the World Series. Strange stuff indeed. Zito’s 2013 season was more run-of-the-mill, though, going 5-11 with an ERA of 5.74.
Chad Gaudin: When Gaudin is a team’s key loss, the team did not lose much. But the soon-to-be 31-year-old was more than serviceable for San Francisco last season while stepping in for an injured Ryan Vogelsong. He went 5-2 with an ERA of 3.06 in 30 game appearances for the Giants. It was a pretty small sample size, but a solid season nonetheless.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Brandon Belt: The first baseman showed some of his all-star potential last season. Belt hit .289 with an .841 OPS, along with 17 home runs and 67 RBIs. At just 25 years old, Belt may establish himself as a team stalwart for many years to come. However, his power is hindered by the Giants’ ballpark—only six of his home runs were at home last season. If Belt is to elevate himself to the upper-tier of first baseman, he is going to have to it around 25-30 home runs a season. Even if he is unable to achieve this level, his career trajectory is very exciting for Giants fans.
Projected Opening Day Lineup
The Giants have a really good thing going for them right now. After a down year, they should return to form. And the subtle additions of Hudson and Morse address two of San Francisco’s biggest concerns the last couple years—consistency and power. Unfortunately for them, the Dodgers are loaded and are early picks to win the World Series. Expect the Giants to win about 88 games this season and contend for an NL Wildcard.