CHICAGO, September 14, 2013 — Today, the Better Luck Next Year series examines the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants. They brought the same players back from last year, but with drastically different results. Better luck next year, San Francisco Giants.
To read about the previous teams in the Better Luck Next Year series, click here.
What Went Right: The Giants won the World Series last year and have allowed 15 fewer runs scored this year than last year at the same date. The staff has been led by Madison Bumgarner who is enjoying a his best year as a full time starter relative to the rest of the league posting a 119 ERA+. His strikeout ratio has increased to 24.4% while his walk rate has also ticked up slightly to 7.6%, which is still below the league average.
Gerald Dempsey Posey, better known as Buster, has turned in another great year, although not up to his MVP standards from last year. Posey has put up a .306/.375/.473 slash line with an OPS+ of 145, while providing good defense behind the plate.
Hunter Pence has also enjoyed a great deal of success at the plate in his walk year. Pence has a slash line of .290/.341/.482 and has 22 homeruns and 21 stolen bases. Pence has expressed a desire to re-sign and was very happy when he was not traded at the deadline. It is likely he will look to be back with the Giants next year.
Finally, Brandon Belt has started to fulfill the promise that he showed in the minor leagues now that he has been allowed to get playing time solely at first base. Belt’s production has ticked up each year so far and this year, he has a slash line of .282/.357/.469 to go with 15 homeruns.
What Went Wrong: Surprisingly, given what went right for the Giants, the primary difference between the Giants last year at this time and the Giants this year is that they have scored 160 fewer runs. It is difficult to pinpoint exactly where this falloff has come from, but the team OPS is .027 below last year.
Another thing that is hurting the Giants right now is their farm system entered the year ranked 28th by Baseball America and lacks the marquee names that it has graduated in the past, like Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey. Although Kyle Crick could find himself a part of the big league staff next year, there is not much on the way as far as immediate help.
The Giants starting staff, despite the overall numbers, has been disappointing, individually. Tim Lincecum will likely not be back next year as, although better than last year, he has been not only below his previous lofty performance, but also below league average with an ERA+ of 76. Matt Cain has turned in a performance below league average for the first time in his career with an ERA+ of 79. Although most of his numbers are in line with his career norms, his line drive allowed percentage jumped to 25%, well above his 18% career average. Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong have engaged in a battle to see who can perform at a lower rate this year as Barry Zito has posted an ERA+ of 57, while Vogelsong has checked in with an ERA+ of 58. That is four out of five of the Giants’ staff entering the year with an ERA+ below league average yet they have still managed to allow 15 fewer runs than last year as a team.
What to Expect in 2014: The offseason will be an interesting one for the Giants. They have a lot of free agents and whom they choose to re-sign will be the first interesting move. It is likely they re-sign Pence and Lopez, who have both expressed interest in returning. If they choose to not pick up Zito and Vogelsong’s options, however, they will need to find starting pitching via free agency. There are not enough pitchers in San Francisco’s minor league system to fill the three vacant spots that could emerge if Lincecum, Zito and Vogelsong are jettisoned.
Free Agents/Options: Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito (Club Option), Hunter Pence, Ryan Vogelsong (Club Option), Javier Lopez and Chad Gaudin
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