The San Francisco Giants‘ starting rotation has been virtually untouchable in Spring Training, showing substantial improvement from last season. Big league camp typically features widespread inconsistency as ball players make dedicated efforts to fine-tune their crafts before the regular season. The Giants are far from perfect, but their starting rotation has combined to allow just one earned run in 23.0 innings of work.
Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum continued that trend on Friday afternoon, logging three shutout innings while throwing 26 of his 35 pitches for strikes. Lincecum is in the process of tweaking his delivery to avoid tipping his pitches before releasing the ball from his grip. His self-proclaimed problems don’t pop off the stat sheet, though. Lincecum has allowed just three hits and a walk in five innings pitched so far this spring.
The most glaring number on Lincecum’s pitching line is one strikeout. That figure might seem alarming to some, but it’s a product of Lincecum’s new-found ability to get hitters out on balls in play. It’s a craft that Lincecum is far from perfecting, but his accelerated improvement likely wouldn’t exist without the presence of veteran hurler Tim Hudson, who has been instrumental in providing guidance to Giants’ pitchers this spring.
Hudson will enter the 2014 regular season tied with C.C. Sabathia for the most wins among active pitchers with 205. He’s a tremendous upgrade over junk-balling left-handed pitcher Barry Zito for the Giants. Hudson has looked sharp in camp, allowing two hits while striking out four batters in five innings of work. His presence in itself has already made a positive impact on the Giants’ pitching staff. He has the potential to be a concrete difference-maker for a staff that registered a disappointing 4.00 ERA as a unit in 2013.
The Giants’ other three starters have been equally as impressive as Hudson and Lincecum. Southpaw Madison Bumgarner has been crisp, giving up just three hits without allowing a run in five innings of work. Bumgarner could potentially contend for the Cy Young Award in the NL this season. He’s a dominant force on the mound and effectively mixes all of his pitches to keep hitters off balance.
Innings-eating machine Matt Cain has also been dominant in camp. “The Horse” has allowed one hit with two strikeouts in three innings of work. The trend continues, but doesn’t end with No. 5 starter Ryan Vogelsong, who is the singular member of the Giants’ rotation to allow a run in Spring Training. Vogelsong is “struggling” in comparison to his teammates. The longtime journeyman has allowed one run on four hits in five innings pitched.
The Hudson effect has already made itself known at camp. The 15-year veteran isn’t the only reason why Giants’ pitchers have been untouchable in the early-going of Spring Training, but he’s established himself as a catalyst. The Giants need their pitching staff to reassert itself as a dominant unit in 2014 in order to stun the archrival Los Angeles Dodgers and win the NL West.
It wouldn’t be a shock to the gentlemen in the Giants’ clubhouse of they achieve that goal, especially if their starting pitchers carry their current trend of dominance throughout the season.