The run producing challenged San Francisco Giants head into the new year with similar expectations. The Giants hope to contend for their third title in five seasons in 2014 despite winning just 76 games while finishing in a third-place tie in the NL West last season.
The new season presents new opportunity for all 30 teams around the league, but few teams can actually dub themselves as concrete contenders. The Giants are arguably on the bubble, presumably boasting a 25-man roster similar to their 2013 squad. General manager Brian Sabean upgraded the Giants’ roster at several key areas this offseason, though.
San Francisco shored up their starting rotation by acquiring veteran right-handed pitcher Tim Hudson who has a respectable track record of sustaining success despite battling injury. The Giants also increased the potency of their lineup by adding power-hitting outfielder Michael Morse who blasted 31 home runs for the Washington Nationals in 2011.
The seeming upgrades the Giants have made this offseason will ideally pay dividends in the new season, but San Francisco needs to get back to the basics in order to reassert themselves as legitimate World Series contenders in 2014.
The Giants ranked 12th in fielding percentage in the National League last season by recording a .982 mark. Playing high-caliber defense on a game-by-game basis is an integrated aspect of the “Giants Way” which essentially notes the franchise’s strategy for success: stellar starting pitching and lights-out defense.
San Francisco failed to post adequate numbers in either key category last season, largely contributing to their first losing season since 2008. Giants’ pitchers combined to record a 4.00 ERA, ranking 21st in baseball. San Francisco’s vaunted pitching staff figures to reignite itself as a formidable unit in 2014 but will need greater contribution from the team’s everyday players to become title contenders.
The Giants’ average run production frequently forces added pressure onto starting pitchers and late inning relievers. San Francisco scored 3.88 runs per game in 2013 while giving up 4.27 runs per contest. That number needs to flip-flop for the Giants to challenge the arch-rival Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL West crown next season.
If the Giants are going to sustain better run production in 2014, they need to efficiently execute the fundamentals of situational at-bats, especially in the early innings. San Francisco stands a much better chance to win ball games when getting on the scoreboard first. In addition, the Giants were 56-17 in games where they scored at least four runs in 2013, signifying the critical importance of run support.
San Francisco failed to score at least four runs in 89 games last season which tremendously disabled their opportunities to win games. The Giants need to place a greater emphasis on scoring runs in 2014 which means playing small ball in certain early inning situations. San Francisco now boasts a long ball threat with Morse in the lineup, but they don’t have the consistent power presence necessary throughout to rely on three-run home runs to generate offense.
The “Giants Way” needs to be rewritten to include taking advantage of scoring opportunities, like lead-off doubles, where a base hit isn’t needed to score a run. The Giants won two championships because of their ability to execute fundamentals at an extremely efficient rate. They need to get back to the basics in 2014 in order to reclaim their previously held status as a successful baseball team.