If a distinct pattern holds true, the San Francisco Giants are destined for an unprecedented third World Series title run in five seasons. After suffering the unfortunate familiarity of championship defense failure, the orange and black look toward a different brand of recurrence in 2014.
As the countdown to spring training officially becomes a common topic of discussion in the minds of sports fans, several renowned entities have spit out MLB preseason power rankings. Spoiler alert: the Giants aren’t touted as perennial contenders in any of them.
San Francisco had risen to the upper echelon of baseball’s best after winning the 2012 World Series, but fell incredibly short of expectations last season as it suffered its first losing campaign since 2008. The Giants are hungry again, though, chomping at the bit for respectability.
The orange and black always seem to play at a stratospheric level when they’re written off. The start of the new season features a familiar storyline, begging the question of whether a similar band of players can rise to the occasion and steal the NL West away from the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers.
If the Giants are going to upend the Dodgers and win their division, they essentially need to perform at a higher level in every facet of the game in comparison to last season. According to Mike Oz of Yahoo Sports, the Giants grade as the 16th best team in baseball, smack dab in the middle of the league. The Giants’ impending success, or lack thereof, mostly depends on whether Buster Posey can post MVP-caliber numbers in 2014, much like he did in 2012.
Posey was noticeably fatigued in the 2013 stretch run, registering a bleak .244 batting average with two home runs and just 16 RBI in the season’s second half. Posey was the quintessential proponent of the Giants’ World Series triumph in 2012, even more so than Marco Scutaro. Posey drove in 60 runs and smashed 14 home runs while recording a ridiculous 1.102 OPS in that season’s stretch run.
The Giants’ ability to contend hinges almost entirely on whether Posey can reassert himself as a perennial MVP candidate, but they also need more consistency from their starting staff. San Francisco’s formerly vaunted rotation struggled immensely in 2013, largely contributing to a team-wide 4.00 ERA and 1.31 WHIP. The Giants figure to improve statistically in both categories after a long offseason. They should also benefit from essentially replacing batting practice left-handed starter Barry Zito with veteran hurler Tim Hudson.
The minor tweaks the Giants made this offseason signify confidence from the front office. San Francisco’s 25-man roster could feature as many as 19 players from its 2012 championship team on Opening Day. The differences between that team and this season’s version of the Giants appear subtle on paper, causing most writers (including this one) to question whether winning the NL West is even remotely realistic.
In spite of the numbers, the Giants’ core is solid. Somehow, they’ll force themselves into the forefront of contention, if able to avoid roster-crippling injuries and elongated second half slumps.