30 in 30ish: MLB Preview — San Francisco Giants

We end our monthlong preview of all 30 MLB teams with the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Tomorrow, leading up to the first game of the regular season, will be a playoff prediction post.

The Giants are the defending World Series champions and have won the Series three times since 2010. The Giants pretty much much kept their team intact over the offseason while their biggest rivals in their division, the Dodgers and Padres, brought in a number of new players to give their teams a new look. The Giants will be starting the season at a disadvantage, with OF Hunter Pence on the DL for the first several weeks with an arm injury suffered in spring training. Their pitching is healthy, though, led by the reigning World Series MVP, SP Madison Bumgarner.

While the Giants won the World Series last year, they weren’t the best team in the NL West, finishing in second place — six games behind the Dodgers. They finished behind the Dodgers in most major offensive categories. Their offensive ranks for 2014 include: fourth in the NL with a .255 batting average, sixth with a .699 OPS, seventh with 132 home runs and fifth in the league with 4.10 runs per game. As far as pitching goes, the staff ranked seventh in the league with a 3.50 ERA — despite Bumgarner’s 2.98 mark — and sixth-best with 3.79 runs allowed per game. Their strikeout total was third-worst in the league, with 1211 Ks.

Looking ahead to 2015, you might expect to see more production out of 1B Brandon Belt, who was limited to just 61 games last season with a thumb injury. He hit .243 in his limited playing time last season, well under his .268 career average. If he can stay healthy for the season and have a bounce-back season, he could help make up for some of the offense that will be lost with Pence missing the first part of the season. In Pence’s absence, it’ll be up to C Buster Posey to carry the team’s offense. On the mound, Bumgarner is, of course, going to lead the charge as he looks to continue his streak of two consecutive seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA. As you could tell from last year’s pitching ranks, he didn’t have much help in the rotation last season. One reason for that is the disappointing, injury-plagued season for SP Matt Cain, who started just 15 games last season. Like If he can have a return to the sub-3.00 ERAs he put up in 2011 and 2012, as opposed to the 4.00+ ERAs he posted the last two seasons, that will be a big help to improving the team’s pitching performance.

It’s going to be a three-team race in the NL West, with the Giants, Dodgers and Padres all competing to end the year on top of the division. I don’t think the Giants have enough to pass the Dodgers and won the division, and even the Wild Card could be out of their reach this year with other teams in the NL having improved over the winter.

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