Few surprises are on the brink of becoming reality for the San Francisco Giants in the 2014 MLB season, as the club remained mostly predictable in announcing its official opening day 25-man roster. The Giants’ active roster includes 16 players from their 2012 World Series team, indicating that perhaps the team is capable of upending the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are astronomical favorites, to win the NL West. That formula didn’t result favorably for the Giants in 2013, though. The team suffered several key injury setbacks and also endured lackluster pitching efforts.
The Giants ranked 22nd in team ERA last season, compiling a highly inefficient 4.00 mark. That simply can’t happen if the Giants are going to somehow win their division. San Francisco possesses the veteran leadership needed to plow through the marathon otherwise known as a baseball season, but their pitching staff needs to reassert itself as a dominant force in order to earn a division crown.
It’s not likely for San Francisco to suddenly become a run-producing juggernaut in 2014, even though certain players are bound for better statistical seasons. The addition of slugger Mike Morse should lengthen the Giants’ lineup and ideally result in a higher number of home runs. Morse isn’t a concrete difference-maker despite his supposed upside. He essentially spent the entirety of the 2013 campaign battling injury, which led to the worst statistical season of his big-league career.
The Giants averaged less than 3.9 runs per game in 2013. It’s a figure that basically screams mediocrity. The club’s pitching staff can mitigate the negative impact of poor run production, though. It’s a must for the Giants, who will assuredly rely on their starting rotation and bullpen to uplift the club into contention. Giants’ pitchers endured the fatigue resulting from an extra month of playing ultra-competitive baseball en route to a championship last season. That won’t be a problem for the team this season.
Opening day starter Madison Bumgarner has emerged as the Giants’ ace. He was the lone bright spot for San Francisco in 2013, registering a solid 13-9 record with a 2.77 ERA in 31 starts. He’s a potential Cy Young Award candidate this season and needs to post impressive numbers yet again in order to help propel his team into the playoffs. The Giants need contributions from each of their five starting pitchers, including Tim Lincecum, who has battled severe inconsistency for the better part of the past two seasons.
It’s entirely possible for the Giants to stun most baseball pundits to win the NL West, but they’re going to need to overachieve to some degree in order to accomplish that feat, which begins with the pitching staff. The Giants’ starting rotation is key to their success, but the back end of the bullpen is also crucial. Closer Sergio Romo needs to have a similarly productive season in the ninth inning. He closed 38 games for the Giants in 2013, marking half of their win total. If he’s able to record the 27th out in roughly 45 to 50 games this season, it’ll be a strong indicator that San Francisco is in contention.