SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS (NL WEST)
2013 record: 76-86 (T-third, 16 GB)
Projected 2014: 85.5
World Series odds: 20/1
Key additions: Tim Hudson, Michael Morse
X factor: Tim Lincecum
Projected starting lineup: Infield: C – B. Posey; 1B – B. Bolt; 2B – M. Scuturo; 3B P. Sandoval; SS – B. Crawford. Outfield: LF – M. Morse; CF – A. Pagan; RF H. Pence.
Starting rotation: M. Cain, M. Bumgarner, T. Lincecum, T. Hudson, R. Vogelsong.
Closer : S. Romo
This is an even year, which means in 2014 the San Francisco Giants are capable of winning the World Series.
The Giants did it in both 2010 and 2012, but in the season following missed the playoffs. It was a team collapse last year, falling below .500 and into a tie for third with San Diego a full 16 games behind the hated Dodgers.
The Giants didn’t make a lot of moves in the offseason, but the one they did were important. Tim Hudson, though 38, can still pitch and no longer has the pressure of being the ace. Also he should feel at home being back in the Bay Area after so many great seasons with the Oakland A’s.
Michael Morse put up big power numbers in 2011 for Seattle, but has not been able to match that season. If the new environment agrees with him, his presence adds a lot to a solid batting order.
The big buzz in camp is the slimmed down version of Pablo Sandoval, who had a down year in 2013. Also the Giants hope to get the most out of Angel Pagan in centerfield. Pagan was hampered by injuries and played only 71 games.
Buster Posey led the Giants with 178 hits and a .371 OBP, but his stats were well off his MVP seasons when the Giants won the world championship. Not so with Hunter Pence and Marco Scutero, both coming off solid seasons in 2013.
Brandon Belt, the highly touted and somewhat maligned first baseman, has been quietly on the rise. A breakout 2014 would really make the Manager Bruce Bochy’s Giants a serious threat to Los Angeles.
Madison Bumgartner leads the best pitching staff in baseball. Yes, even better than Detroit. Matt Cain really struggled a year and should be better. Tim Lincecum just re-signed and has a couple of Cy Young Awards. Ryan Vogelsong was horrible a year ago, but as a No. 5 starter should flourish.
Sergio Romo is solid as the closer. If the Giants can avoid the injury bug, this is a championship ballclub that could win 95 games and should clearly exceed the projected 85.5 at LVH. .
Bottom line: The Giants play their first seven games on the road at Arizona and Los Angeles, then get them in San Francisco. In fact the Giants play most of April against the NL West. The 6 early games with LA should be epic.
On deck: Seattle Mariners
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].