San Francisco Giants 2015 Preview
With Major League Baseball’s 2015 Spring Training officially underway we will take a look into the upcoming seasons for all 30 clubs over the next month and a half as we approach the regular season. We will review team performance in 2014, key changes made to the rosters in the off-season, and the outlook for the 2015 campaign. The series will begin with the league’s defending champs and will alternate between American and National League, going division by division. The first stop is San Francisco, where the Giants look to repeat as world champs in the upcoming season.
2014 Record (88-74, 2nd in NL West, Won World Series)
2014 in review
The San Francisco Giants won their third World Series title in the last five years in 2014 with a victory over the Kansas City Royals. The offense was led by the trio of Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Pablo Sandoval. While the offensive production as a whole was middle of the pack in relation to the rest of the league, the dominant pitching staff once again carried the Giants to victory through late October. Led by another stellar season by Madison Bumgarner, the staff finished in the top-10 in all of baseball in ERA (Earned Run Average), WHIP (Walks + Hits per inning pitched), and BAA (Batting average against). Bumgarner went on to win the World Series MVP award, delivering an historic and impressive 21 innings pitched while allowing one lone run in the series. In a sport in which building lasting dynasties seems to be a thing of the past, manager Bruce Bochy appears to have the magic touch in getting the most out of his teams in the late stretches of the season.
3B Pablo Sandoval, OF Michael Morse
The biggest piece missing in 2015 will be fan favorite third baseman Pablo Sandoval, also known as the “Panda.” With Sandoval’s departure to Boston, the Giants will be missing the cornerstone of their offense for the last six seasons. In his time with San Francisco, Sandoval accumulated a career batting average of .294, with 106 home runs and 192 doubles. In an offense that relies on clutch hitting to produce its runs, they will now look for other means of run production since they now lack their most consistent hitter for the better part of this decade.
The loss of production from outfielder Michael Morse will also be a point of concern in 2015, as Morse posted numbers very similar to those of Sandoval. The pair hit 32 home runs – nearly a quarter of the Giants’ home run total for the season. This will lead to a major power outage in the Bay Area that cannot be overlooked. In a division in which the Dodgers, Rockies, and now the Padres look to bolster their offenses, the Giants must address this glaring hole in the middle of the lineup in order to relieve some pressure off of their pitching staff.
OF Nori Aoki, 3B Casey McGehee
The Giants had a quiet off-season, and seem to be content with filling the voids of the departed players they lost in free agency. In Aoki, the Giants get a reliable glove in the outfield and a fresh look at the top of their lineup. The 33-year-old from Japan provides a steady bat, gets on base consistently, and is a constant threat to steal bases. Last season he proved to be a great spark in creating scoring opportunities for Kansas City.
McGehee was brought in to fill the void left by Sandoval at third base, and should give the Giants another reliable bat in terms of contact hitting, as his power days appear to be well behind him. While Aoki and McGehee are proven hitters in their own right, the two fall drastically short of the output they are trying to replace. Morse and Sandoval combined for 32 home runs. Last season Aoki and McGehee combined for 5 home runs. It will be interesting to see where McGehee is placed in the lineup, as he may feel some pressure if placed in the middle and is relied on to drive in runs.
The lineup will be centered around catcher Buster Posey, who led the Giants in batting average, home runs, RBI, and on-base percentage last season. He and outfielder Hunter Pence will be leaned on heavily as the power supply to fill in for the departed power hitters. Brandon Belt also provided 12 home runs in just 61 games last season, and the team will look to him to put together a full campaign. If he can chip in 20 home runs this season the Giants will actually have a dangerous middle of the lineup, especially with Aoki and breakout second baseman Joe Panik at the top to set things up. It is clear the Giants will not be relying on home runs for their offensive production. Manager Bruce Bochy, however, has proven year after year to have mastered the art of small ball.
The backbone of the Giants championship run has been this stellar pitching staff. Led by Bumgarner, who has cemented himself as a superstar in the league after his dominant 2014 regular season and his historic run in the World Series. The ace will once again lead a starting rotation of Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Hudson, Tim Lincecum, and Matt Cain. Cain will look to bounce back after an injury riddled 2014 that ended in season ending surgery. His presence will solidify an already strong rotation, as he has proven to be a dominant force on the mound over the years. Lincecum also looks to improve in a contract year for the former breakout phenom. His last three seasons have shown a drastic decline, but history shows that playing for that next paycheck can bring out the best in an athlete. As good as the Giants starting rotation has proved to be, bullpen is just as reliable. In 2014, the club’s relievers compiled a stingy 3.01 ERA as a unit.
Looking to 2015
This spring started with a scare as Bruce Bochy was taken to the hospital to undergo a heart procedure. Their fearless leader is already back with the team and ready to lead them once again. Look for the emphasis during Spring Training to be the execution of small ball on which this team will rely heavily for offensive output. The Giants will have their work cut out for them this year, competing with the Los Angeles Dodgers and now the new and improved San Diego Padres. Las Vegas sportsbooks project 84 wins for the Giants, which is third best in the NL West. Heavy pressure will be placed on the pitching staff to once again carry the team. This isn’t usually a recipe for success, but as the Giants have shown, they have the right arms to carry the load all season long.
Next team preview: Los Angeles Angels
Stats provided by ESPN.
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