Baseball is a game of superstition, so don’t be surprised if the San Francisco Giants look for creative ways to switch up their mojo in 2015. After World Series victories in 2010 and 2012, manager Bruce Bochy ended up presiding over a pair of hangover seasons in which his team failed to return to the postseason. Though some regard the “Odd-Year Slump” as a coincidence, it’s worth exploring how pressure-filled innings, massive parades, media fanfare and a sense of complacency can impact a team following a championship season.
The 2010 Giants were frequently trumpeted by the media as a scrappy “Band of Misfits.” Bochy struck gold with transplant players like Pat Burrell and Andres Torres hustling alongside rookies Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. Their offense was rarely consistent, but the 2010 Giants scraped past opponents with stellar pitching and timely hitting.
Most baseball fans in San Francisco will forever associate 2011 with Posey’s brutal season-ending injury at home plate. However, the Giants’ famed pitching staff also suffered as veterans Aaron Rowand, Aubrey Huff and the once-promising Cody Ross failed to consistently drive home run support. After Posey’s injury, the Giants’ offense seemed to lose their magic and often looked incapable of scoring more than a couple of runs a game. Thanks to their dominant pitching, the 2011 Giants were still competing for the division title until a disastrous August derailed their hopes. Though general manager Brian Sabean hoped lightning would strike twice with this group of players, 2011 likely spurred him to seek out better offensive talent to compliment his pitching staff.
The next year, Sabean and Bochy cut ties with some dead weight during the offseason, then subsequently brought in Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan and Hunter Pence. Bochy’s revamped batting lineup thrived even after the sudden suspension of Melky Cabrera. Posey returned to baseball with a vengeance and lead the Giants to a sweep of the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series.
Though Bumgarner continued his storied development, most of San Francisco’s starting rotation seemed to regress in 2013. While their offense was respectable for most of the season, Bochy’s batting lineup broke down in July as the Giants went 8-17. Barry Zito, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong all struggled with command as the team finished just two games out of last place in the NL West.
San Francisco’s fortune shifted yet again in 2014 as they improbably parlayed a wild-card berth into another World Series victory. Though Lincecum remained suspect, their pitching staff returned to impressive form. World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner found himself skyrocketed to national prominence as the Giants achieved their “Even-Year Dynasty.”
But what about the “Odd-Year Slump,” and how might Bochy and Sabean prevent another hangover season in 2015? Obviously, the team needs to remain healthy, but that’s true for every club in MLB. Even though Sabean doesn’t participate on the field, his roster moves are crucial to the prosperity of the Giants’ homegrown talent. Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford are excellent alongside Posey and Bumgarner, but their collective success depends on the supporting cast arranged by Sabean.
While many Giants fans shrugged at the anti-climactic signings of Casey McGehee and Nori Aoki, these two players will be important to the team in 2015. Likewise, look for Sabean to infuse his roster with younger prospects rather than relying on veterans like Vogelsong or utility player Joaquin Arias. Though it’s possible these players could perform well in 2015, Sabean might avoid another late-summer slump if his roster can tolerate the grind of a 162-game season. Also, don’t forget that the Giants’ front office is eager to orchestrate trades that can help lift their team to the postseason.
Whether he’s superstitious or not, Brian Sabean will be crossing his fingers throughout the upcoming year. Though he didn’t make any major splashes this offseason, Sabean knows that just one player can make all the difference. If he and Bochy can steer the Giants back to the postseason, they’ll have an excellent chance to break the “Odd-Year Slump” in 2015.