5 Reasons Why San Francisco Giants Will Win NL West in 2014
5 Reasons Why San Francisco Giants Will Win the NL West in 2014
The two-time World Champion San Francisco Giants took a backseat to the arch-rival Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013. The Giants’ dramatic pitfall was fueled by several key injuries and below average performances from the team’s main contributors. San Francisco’s vaunted pitching staff fell into the depths of mediocrity, posting a cumulative 4.00 ERA to rank 22nd in the league.
The Giants are bound for a turnaround this season, though. The 2012 campaign saw several key pitchers exhaust themselves, largely contributing to below average production last season. San Francisco was also plagued by an inability to effectively execute in situational at-bats, a former strength that aided the team to championship glory.
The orange and black failed to efficiently execute the fundamentals of the game, ranking near the bottom of the league in fielding percentage and total runs scored. The Giants boast a roster that features a majority of the big-time contributors from their 2012 title squad, though. It would be erroneous to think the Giants are suddenly a disembodied franchise, in spite of finishing in a third-place tie last season.
The fact that San Francisco struggled throughout the 2013 campaign in aspects of the game of which they previously excelled is cause for concern. Still, the Giants have the resilience needed to put last season’s difficulties behind them and reassert themselves as contenders. San Francisco’s gritty never say die band of players are good enough to win the NL West in 2014.
The following slideshow highlights what the Giants need to improve upon in 2014 to upend the Dodgers and reclaim a divisional crown in the upcoming season:
The most crucial component of success for the Giants is starting pitching. In 2013, San Francisco’s rotation struggled to gain momentum, registering just 80 quality starts. It’s possible that some starters, like Matt Cain, suffered from prolonged fatigue from the season prior. Cain pitched 249.1 innings in 2012 between the regular season and postseason, aiding decreased production in 2013. Cain’s career numbers signify he’s destined to reassert himself as a dominant ace, though, which will help the Giants win more ball games in the upcoming season.
San Francisco’s shutdown bullpen is a crucial complement to their starting rotation. The back end is strong, led by perennial All-Star closer Sergio Romo, who saved 36 games in 41 chances last season. Romo anchors the Giants’ pen, but left-handed specialist Javier Lopez and hard-throwing right-hander Santiago Casilla help solidify the unit as a collective strength. Lopez posted a 1.83 ERA in 39.1 innings pitched in 2013 while Casilla recorded similarly dominant numbers, registering a 7-2 record with a 2.16 ERA.
The Giants excelled in situational at-bats en route to two world championships in a span of three seasons, but faltered on a massive scale in similar situations in 2013. San Francisco posted a .238 batting average with runners in scoring position and two outs, a figure that eclipsed what the Giants were able to accomplish in 2012. But the Giants struggled to move runners over with less than two outs. San Francisco needs to get back to basics this season in order to maximize run production, which means playing small ball in certain situations.
San Francisco averaged less than 3.9 runs per game last season, disabling the team from competing at a high level. The Giants ranked eighth overall in team batting average (.260), indicating they were able to set the table, but consistently failed to drive in runs. San Francisco’s .320 on-base percentage greatly contributed to below average run production. To sustain a higher level of success in 2014, the Giants need to be more patient at the plate and force opposing pitchers into stress situations.
"Ownage" Within the Division
The Giants won just 76 games in 2013, but posted the best divisional record within the NL West. San Francisco recorded a 44-32 record against divisional opponents, but managed to win just 32 games while losing 54 outside of the West. Dominating divisional competition is key to earning a playoff berth, but it doesn’t mean much when unable to compete at a high level against the rest of the league. The Giants need to redevelop ownage in the West to win the divisional crown, but also need to improve against non-divisional competition.