2014 San Francisco Giants Team Preview

There’s now a shelf life to Fat Panda pictures on the internet.

The 2013 San Francisco Giants had a weird year coming off their World Championship which saw them go 76-86 and finish fourth in the NL West.

This season will be interesting for the Giants. They are a veteran team with much enough of the core remaining from the World Championship runs that if they were to make a run, it wouldn’t be completely shocking. At the same time, I look at this Giants roster and I just don’t get excited. That’s not different from how I felt writing the 2010 and 2012 season previews for the Giants.

Really, the Giants play a certain style of game out in that big park by the bay. It’s a slow paced game most nights. There are a lot of ugly wins. The Giants have built a quality organization of which the main cornerstones remain in-tact. They will be competitive, but they have a few blemishes we see that will keep them from making a serious run in 2014.

Major Off-season Moves:

  • Signed Tim Hudson to a 2-year, $23 million dollar contract
  • Signed Mike Morse to a 1-year, $6 million dollar contract
  • Signed Tyler Colvin
  • Signed Hunter Pence to a 5-year, $90 million dollar contract extension
  • Signed Tim Lincecum to a 2-year, $35 million dollar contract extension
  • Signed Javier Lopez to a 3-year, $13 million dollar extension

There’s nothing that overwhelms me here. I like Mike Morse more than a lot of the new-age sabermetrics crowd. But you have to wonder what kind of team the Giants were trying to scrape together here. Defense? Keep the core together? I look at the amount that Lincecum and Hudson signed for, and I say to myself the Giants could have landed a top-tier arm for this amount. At the end of the day, it’s kind of cool that Big-Time Timmy Jim is staying put in San Francisco. He’s an icon there, and the contract kind of signifies that the Giants got sentimental on us.

Click through the jump to learn the fates and facts of the 2014 Gigantes.

Projected Starting Lineup:

Screen Shot 2014-03-05 at 9.35.11 PM

You look up and down the Giants lineup and it’s simply not a team that will want to get involved in a lot of slugfests in the upcoming year. That’s a pretty flat generalization statement, but this team will be well-suited to play great defense and win tight games with a nice bullpen to shut the door.

Their park isn’t conducive to surrendering huge offensive seasons – Barry Bonds not withstanding. Last year’s home run leader was Hunter Penter with 27. The Giants didn’t have another player eclipse the 20-mark otherwise. Pablo Sandoval has dropped a lot of weight, and we think while it will help his average it won’t make him any better in the power categories.

Buster Posey should ‘rebound’ into a season where he hits .300/25/100 fairly easily, not that he didn’t do well last year. He hit 15 home runs to go with an .821 OPS and .294 average, but it just felt like Posey was worn down all last year even in the early going. This is Posey’s age-27 season which the baseball fan knows often proves to be magical. We think he’ll be a great threat once again.

The real X-factor in the lineup is Brandon Belt. He is quietly emerging. He OPS’d a solid .841, and we feel like that has the propensity to rise in 2014. There’s something about Belt that makes us think he could become an unheralded offensive star. It’s just happening very slowly so a lot of folks aren’t noticing. He’s got a nice approach that could make him a plus bat that seemingly emerges without a lot of talk before it happens.

Mike Morse won us over when he was a National with a couple huge seasons, but man was last season an odd year for him. He arrived in Seattle with much hype. The latest and greatest set to save a moribund Mariners offense. He hit .226 in 76 games in the great Northwest and then was jettisoned where he finished the season quietly as an Oriole. It’s okay to think at age 32 that Morse is in decline.

Hunter Pence is awkardly solid in all phases of the game. He posted a 4.1 bWAR last season after hitting .219 for the Giants in 2012. Pence will be 31, but doesn’t have a body that figures to age poorly or anything like that. He should continue to be a steady middle of the order presence.

This isn’t a group that would grade out high, and like we said; it’s not a team built to sit around and wait for the three-run homer. It never has been. So that’s all fine and dandy.

Projected Pitching Staff:

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The unit that was once the backbone the Giants were built upon failed them a little bit last season. They allowed 62 more runs than they scored, which is not a hallmark of Giants baseball by the Bay.

I didn’t follow Matt Cain’s story last season closely enough to know what happened last year, but the results weren’t good. Was he tipping his pitches? Losing a little on the fastball? Loss of command? All of the above? Eno Sarris said he made too many hittable mistakes despite all of his advanced metrics remaining near his career norms. He finished 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA. This is a pivotal year for Cain to prove he’s still one of the elite or if he’s entering a decline phase. On top of his game, I felt like Cain threw one of the heaviest, nastiest repertoire’s in all of baseball.

The Giants best pitcher will probably be Madison Bumgarner. He’ll be just 24 and looking at his 2.77 ERA and 199 strikeouts to to 62 walks, it’s alright to say he’s already arrived as one of the elite.

Lincecum went 10-14 with a 4.37 ERA. We’re a long ways down the road from the elite Lincecum seasons when he owned the Cy Young Award consecutive years. At this point, the Giants probably hope he can improve just slightly while mentoring some of the younger arms on the staff. It’s a lot like when folks that own a racehorse who once won the Kentucky Derby retire the horse to their stable and pasture to live out his days. People will still stop by the farm just to see the horse of past glory for a few moments.

Tim Hudson is coming off a gruesome injury sustained last July. Before he got hurt he was acclimating himself just fine for the Braves. Hudson will be fine – he’ll be the same pitcher he’s always been. Steady and dependable, he’ll never embarrass himself too much because he really knows how to pitch and that compensates for any loss in stuff he’s had through the years. He did the smart thing and signed with a team who plays half their games in a pitcher’s park.

The Giants have a nice pen with Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, and Javier Lopez highlighting the group. If you’re a team that has some big lefty sticks in the lineup you’re counting on late in a game, you’re not going to get to enjoy them against the Giants.

Predicted Record and Finish:

82-80, Third in the NL West

I might have went against my better judgement here in putting the Giants with a projected better than .500 finish, but I really think a lot of Bruce Bochy. On paper, they aren’t better than a .500 team. We aren’t high on the pitching staff but their blemishes won’t show to the degree they would in a bandbox park. Their bullpen has great overall upside if Romo and Affeldt remain healthy all year.

The storylines this year worth watching would be seeing if Buster Posey can put together an MVP type of season offensively in his age-27 season and if Brandon Belt can take the next step in his development. AT&T Park is one of the most ranted about venues in all of baseball, so people are going to turn out to see the Giants play even in a year that they’re not competing for the title.