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Chavez Ravine Opening Day Giant Season Preview

April 4, 2014

The Giants invade the Ravine with a different type of team compared to the teams that won two of the last four World Series. With the decline of previous aces Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, no longer is pitching at the forefront of the Giants success. If the Giants are to contend in 2014 it will be on the backs of what could be their most potent offense in years led by Posey/Belt/Pence/Panda/Pagan.

Last year I picked them 3rd coming off of their World Championship season, with the current injuries hitting Arizona/Padres I can see 2nd place for them this year.

1st Base – Brandon Belt went unnoticed by many, but by the end of 2013 he was as good an offensive 1st baseman as Freddie Freeman. Freddie Freeman was rewarded with a top five MVP vote, and a huge contract. Brandon Belt was rewarded with most Dodger fans making fun of his spring training chemistry comment. With Belt entering his 26 year old season expect more of the same from 2013 where his OPS+ of 142 ranked fourth among NL 1st baseman. Maybe a little more power as he has already hit 3 home runs in 2014.

2nd Base –this will be the Giants biggest bugaboo for most of 2014 unless they find a replacement. Scutaro is now 38, and already hurt. The back up is Joaquin Arias or Hicks. Scutaro has done an incredible job since showing up at the back end of 2012 to help lead the Giants to their 2nd world championship, but his ship should have sailed. Deals with the devil have a shelf life, and his should have expired last year.

SS – Brandon Crawford holds down shortstop by playing solid defense with some hot offensive streaks thrown in. He is no longer the offensive hole he was at the start of his career. Each season he has shown growth with an OPS+ climb of 67 to 86 to 96. The Giants would do well to find him a right handed platoon partner as he simply can’t hit left handed pitchers at all with a career OPS of .578 against lefties.

3rd – The Panda will always be made fun of because of his weight, but when he swings the bat, good things happen. He’s only 27 and has now accumulated almost 3000 plate appearances with a career OPS+ of 126. How many NL 3rd baseman have an OPS+ higher than 125 with 3000 plate appearances this century? One – David Wright. So laugh if you want but the Panda can hit at a position not many seem to be able to do so anymore.

C –The franchise player is of course Buster Posey. He’s such an impact player; MLB changed the game just because of him. There is little doubt he’s the best offensive catcher in baseball.

RF – Hunter Pence is the goofiest great player you will ever get to see play MLB. He does not do anything easily but does everything well. He’s never been the best right fielder, but he’s always been one of the top five, year in and year out.

CF – Angel Pagan is why you can’t laugh too hard at the Zach Wheeler for Carlos Beltran trade. The Giants went for all the marbles and lost big, but the following winter they fleeced the Mets out of Angel Pagan for someone no one longer in baseball. So I look at it like this – Pagan / Beltran for Wheeler/ Andres Torres. That looks better, a quality starting CF for a young pitching prospect. At least if I was a Giant fan that is how I’d look at it. Doesn’t hurt so much. Pagan is good; it was an awful trade by the Mets even at the time. Problem for Pagan is staying healthy, and the Giants need him for 500 at bats not 300 if they want to make hay in the West.

LF – Ok, this could also be a bugaboo. Mike Morse is probably not the answer. But Gregor Blanco surely was not the answer. The Giants should have done a better job of dealing with the LF problem, and because they didn’t, they will probably be fighting for 3rd place.

Bumgarner is good, and might be great, but he’s going to need to be brilliant to carry the staff. Tim Hudson is a big name, but he’s now 38. RyanVogelsongs pixie dust finally wore out, and I’m not expecting much of a change in 2014. The Giants gave a ton of money hoping a different Tim Lincecum is going to show up in 2014, or they felt the 2013 version was worth 17 million. Is Matt Cain entering his decline phase or was 2013 simply an aberration where his good luck finally hit a snag? I have no idea. He seemed to be close to the same Matt Cain in the second half but not close enough to erase the doubts that he’s seen his peak.

Diehard Dodger fan Sergio Romo has done a fantastic job since taking over as the closer for Brian Wilson. Since closer jobs are not long running, I would expect his to be coming to an end.

The Giants should have enough to battle for second place. I could see them finishing anywhere from 2nd – 4th. They are the only team in the West who has not lost a frontline starter yet. That could be the difference for them. As with most teams if everything breaks right, great things could happen. Belt might have the talent to be a MVP candidate. Posey is already a perennial MVP candidate. Can this be the year Bumgarner is in the Cy Young conversation?

From → Series Previews

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