The San Francisco Giants failed to sustain a consistent ability to put forth championship-level performances in 2013, leading to their first losing season in five years. The Giants never fully developed forward momentum, relentlessly fighting to avoid “rock bottom” while falling further behind the eventual NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
It would be dimwitted to simply state the Giants need to play better quality baseball in order to contend in 2014. But the Giants’ projected 25-man roster features a majority of the players who won a World Series title as a unit in 2012. In fact, the Giants could have as many as 19 players from that team on the opening day roster in April. Talent fades fast in professional sports, although that shouldn’t be an ongoing issue for a team that features a relatively youthful core of difference-makers.
It’s no secret that former National League MVP Buster Posey is the face of the Giants. He’s regarded as one of the best all-around players in the game, but he struggled mightily in the second half of the 2013 campaign. Posey seemingly couldn’t make an out in the season prior when the Giants were crowned champions for the second time in three seasons. The opposite happened in 2013.
Posey recorded an uncharacteristically low OPS (.643) in the season’s stretch run, a full 459 points below what he was able to accomplish in his MVP season in 2012. If San Francisco is going to reassert themselves as a dominant force in the NL this season, Posey needs to reestablish himself as a run producing machine.
San Francisco’s offense is average at best which means they need to efficiently take advantage of run scoring opportunities, especially with runners-in-scoring-position and less than two outs. That was a big-time issue for the Giants in 2013 when they averaged a mere 3.9 runs per contest while slugging .369 in such situations.
The ultimate key to the Giants’ success is stellar starting pitching. Their staff faltered on a massive scale last season, fueling the team toward defeat. Giants’ pitchers were often forced to pitch from behind, though. San Francisco’s lack of ability to manufacture runs in the early innings added stress on their starters to keep deficits to a minimum.
As a staff, Giants’ pitchers struggled in the middle innings, allowing 181 runs and a .405 opposing slugging percentage the second time through the lineup. That can’t continue if the Giants are going to consistently give themselves a chance to win in 2014.
San Francisco isn’t built to come-from-behind. Establishing a constant ability to put runs on the scoreboard in the early innings will ease some pressure off the starting staff and allow the offense to avoid the need to press in the batter’s box. The Giants sometimes flashed signs of a team that could contend in 2013 but failed to consistently play at a high level, ultimately causing them to miss the postseason.