Predicting The 2014 Starting Rotation For San Francisco Giants
No Surprises in San Francisco Giants' Starting Rotation
When the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in 2012, their team was built on clutch hitters and a strong starting rotation. Tim Lincecum overcame his struggles as a starter and thrived as a relief pitcher. Shining performances by all Giants starters carried them through the playoffs and to a World Series Championship. But last year, Giants pitching wasn't anywhere near what it was the previous season.
Catcher Buster Posey is the leader of San Francisco and has had back-to-back great seasons; one of which included an MVP trophy. Posey's calls behind the plate have much to do with the success of Giants pitching in recent years and with him healthy this spring, the starting rotation will be given every chance to succeed.
For a team built on great starting pitching, San Francisco did not have a good 2013 season. The Giants finished last season with a record of 76-86 and their five starters compiled an uncharacteristic ERA of 4.52. Relief pitchers were stellar and completely outplayed the starters last season. It's evident that the Giants starting rotation just had an off-year.
San Francisco's lineup this season will be almost the same as last year with the exception of the free agent signing of outfielderMike Morse. Morse will add power to the lineup and is only two years removed from a 31-HR season. The Giants regulars will be back. Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence will all be opening day starters. With the way the Giants are built, they must have strong starting pitching to get them deep into games so that clutch hitting can win at the end. Other than the loss of Barry Zito who is a free agent, San Francisco will have four of their five starters from last season. In Zito's place lies a great upgrade. Here is the 2014 San Francisco Giants projected starting lineup.
1. Madison Bumgarner
Madison Bumgarner was the Giants best starter last season and he's also the youngest. The 24-year-old lefty, who is the only lefty in the rotation, went 13-9 with an ERA of 2.77 and struck out 199 batters in 201.1 innings. Bumgarner's 90-93 mph fastball has great movement and was unhittable at times last season. He also throws a changeup, a slider and a curveball and if he mixes them well as he did last season, he'll be a top pitcher in the National League. Bumgarner will have to be the anchor of this rotation but fortunately, he has some help behind him.
2. Matt Cain
Matt Cain had the worst season of his eight years as a starter in 2013. He finished at 8-10 with an ERA of 4.00. Cain only gave up 158 hits, the second lowest number of his eight seasons and he only walked 55 batters, also the second lowest of his career. He was knocked out of games early and pitched under 200 innings for the first time since his rookie season. Cain gave up a career high 23 home runs. Though he didn't have a bad season in regards to pitch location, he was just slow at the beginning of games. Cain has been the Giants best pitcher the last few seasons and I expect a big season from him.
3. Tim Hudson
Tim Hudson came to San Francisco as a free agent on a two-year, $23 million contract. He is up there in age; he'll turn 39 near the All-Star Break. Hudson has had some great seasons over his 15 year career and has only had two injuries in those years. Last season was cut short due to an ankle injury last July but Hudson showed up at spring training ready to work. With the Atlanta Braves last season, Hudson finished with a 3.97 ERA, which was the highest ERA he's had since 2006. If Hudson is healthy, he will be a solid third starter for the Giants. He's been pitching in the National League since 2005 and I look for him to have a good year as he isn't the only veteran the way he was in Atlanta so there's not as much pressure on him.
4. Tim Lincecum
It's hard to believe that Tim Lincecum won back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009 with the way he's looked the last two seasons. Lincecum is still young at only 29 but his sharp decline may have to do with his small frame. He's only 5-foot-11, 170 pounds and all those innings early in his career seem to have taken a toll on him. In the 2012 playoffs Lincecum was excellent as a reliever but to stay on this team, he needs to produce as a starter. Last year his ERA was 4.37 and he only won 10 games. But that was still an improvement from 2012 when his ERA reached 5.18. At this point, Hudson is a safer bet in the 3rd spot of the rotation so at No. 4, Lincecum will have the chance to really do well. If Lincecum can pitch anywhere near the way he did in 2011, he could reestablish himself as a great pitcher.
5. Ryan Vogelsong
The fifth and last starting spot for the 2014 San Francisco Giants will belong to Ryan Vogelsong. Vogelsong enters the season at 36 years of age and is coming off his worst season the the Giants. He finished with a record of 4-6 and a 5.73 ERA. Vogelsong was a revelation for the Giants in 2011 and 2012, winning 27 total games and helping them win a World Series. Vogelsong only started 20 games last season as he missed time with a fractured right hand. He is signed to a one-year contract with the team. Thus, he will be pitching this season for 2015 job, wherever it may be. As a fifth starter, Vogelsong is solid as long as his hand is fully healed. He tops off what could be one of the best rotations in the National League.