This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in the National League. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the Giants, who still boast the same pitching rotation that won two World Championships, and they’re ready to bring that trophy back to San Francisco.
Projected Lineup: CF Angel Pagan, 2B Marco Scutaro, 1B Brandon Belt, C Buster Posey, RF Hunter Pence, 3B Pablo Sandoval, LF Michael Morse, SS Brandon Crawford
The Giants’ disappointing 2013 season reached a low point when a quiet October culminated with Kim and Kanye’s engagement ceremony at AT&T Park. Such a violation of the field should give the Giants extra incentive to ensure the only ceremony taking place this October will be of the World Championship variety.
The key player that hinges on is Brandon Belt. Belt reportedly made a change to his grip in the batter’s box in early August, lining his knuckles up on the bat. It sounds like a pointer you’d get from your little league coach, but nevertheless, Belt responded, hitting .346/.408/.576 in August and September. Manager Bruce Bochy rewarded Belt by elevating him to the third spot in the lineup. That comes with added responsibility, however. Belt now needs to be “the dude” in this lineup. Sorry, I’m using very technical baseball terms here—by “dude”, I mean the guy you want at the plate in a critical spot, feared by pitchers throughout the league because of his ability to come through in big situations.
Now, I’m not necessarily talking about home runs. Belt’s value has always been greatest when he’s getting on base, ever more important now that he’s hitting ahead of Posey, Pence, and the rest of the power hitters. Belt’s career-high for drawing walks in a season is just 54, but he’s absolutely capable of reaching 80 or 90. If he does, that’ll be what keeps the line moving in the Giants’ lineup.
A winning team also needs a spark plug. That’s the guy who starts rallies by becoming a presence on the basepaths, getting into the heads of opposing pitchers. And that role on the Giants belongs to Angel Pagan. The Giants were 39-32 last year in games in which he played, and 37-54 when he didn’t. Talk about a crucial piece of the puzzle.
The Giants also added Michael Morse, addressing their subpar left field situation. Morse will be a great fit for San Francisco because of his raw power, something the Giants have severely lacked in recent years. Along with Hunter Pence, it also gives the Giants the ultimate one-two punch of ridiculous on-deck circle routines.
The pitching staff remains a strength for the team, despite the recent struggles of ace Matt Cain and former ace Tim Lincecum. Lincecum is still struggling to find a rhythm after the perils of aging took hold of his velocity about two years ago. The good news for Lincecum comes in the form of Tim Hudson, the new member of the staff. Hudson is a veteran with the same body type as Lincecum, who has learned to pitch effectively with limited velocity, and who can hopefully help Lincecum find a little consistency. Lincecum doesn’t need to throw a no-hitter every night, but avoiding the early-game implosions and throwing a solid six innings every time out could be within his reach.
With the ever-consistent Madison Bumgarner anchoring the staff, the Giants’ rotation can tolerate a few rough outings here and there, and still vie for the division.
Projected Finish: 89-73, First place in NL West