5 Improvements San Francisco Giants Must Make to Contend in 2014

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5 Improvements the San Francisco Giants Must Make to Contend in 2014

Angel Pagan
Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants have won two World Series over the past four seasons, but plummeted into the depths of mediocrity in 2013. San Francisco ultimately needs to make certain improvements in order to contend next season.

The Giants are expected to return a majority of the big-time contributors from last season’s 25-man roster barring a significant trade, which means most improvements need to be made in-house. San Francisco won just 76 games in 2013 despite boasting a roster that featured several key players from a championship team the season prior.

San Francisco seemingly detracted from their strengths. GM Brian Sabean remains active in offseason activity, diligently working toward bolstering the Giants’ pitching staff and offense. Still, San Francisco doesn’t have a ton of available roster spots due to current contracts, which means the players that are already locked in need to drastically improve for the Giants to contend.

The following slideshow highlights five improvements the Giants must make to compete for their third championship in five seasons:

John Shea is a San Francisco Giants writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @shea_prosports. “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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5. Quality of Starting Pitching

Matt Cain
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants are renowned for outstanding starting pitching, but their tired staff managed to post just 80 quality starts last season. For the Giants to reassert themselves as contenders, they need starters like Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner to consistently put forth stellar efforts. Newly re-signed fan favorite Tim Lincecum also needs to post better numbers. “The Freak” was inconsistent in 2013, recording a 10-14 mark with an inflated 4.37 ERA. The Giants should benefit from having veteran right-handed pitcher Tim Hudson, who flaunts an impressive 3.44 ERA. San Francisco will return four starters from last season’s team who combined to win just 35 games.

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4. Fielding Percentage

Pablo Sandoval
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants’ defensive prowess is a pivotal component of their winning mantra. However, their .986 team fielding percentage ranked third to last in the NL last season. If San Francisco is going to reassert themselves as contenders, they need to glove it better in the field. The Giants were specifically hampered by inconsistent fielding efforts on the infield, where second baseman Marco Scutaro (.976) and third baseman Pablo Sandoval (.940) both struggled. Ideally, both players will improve their fielding next season. Sandoval is currently in the process of improving his physique, which should help increase his range. Scutaro recently had surgery to repair a bent pinkie finger on his glove hand, which will hopefully make him less cautious when fielding ground balls.

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3. Hits With Runners in Scoring Position

Hunter Pence
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants struggled in the clutch on a massive level in 2013, specifically with two outs and runners in scoring position. San Francisco’s combined .304 batting average with balls in play was solid, although it didn’t translate into high-caliber run production. The Giants averaged an inefficient total of 3.9 runs per game last season, which failed to complement a pitching staff that recorded a cumulative 4.00 ERA. For San Francisco to become a legitimate contender, they need to post better numbers with runners in scoring position, especially with less than two outs.

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2. Situational At-Bats

Gregor Blanco
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

For a team that seemingly prides itself in an ability to manufacture runs, the Giants were horrendous in situational at-bats last season. San Francisco needs to do a better job of moving runners over and taking advantage of high-percentage scoring chances. The Giants frequently stranded runners that led off innings with extra-base hits, which largely contributed to their losing record last season. Leadoff doubles should translate into automatic runs for the Giants, who don’t feature big-time power in their lineup and can’t rely on home runs.

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1. Gaining an Early Edge

Buster Posey
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants’ anemic offense often disabled them from gaining an early lead, especially against top-tier pitching. San Francisco needs to prioritize manufacturing runs in the early innings next season to increase their chances of winning more games. Moving runners over needs to be a fundamental aspect of the Giants’ offense next season. San Francisco’s hitters recorded a .381 team slugging percentage in 2013 while ranking second to last in the National League with 107 home runs. That figure doesn’t appear destined to increase next season, unless Sabean and co. aggressively pursue a big bat via trade.

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