San Francisco Giants: The good, bad, and the room for improvement

It’s hard to get excited about the first series of the baseball season. It’s also difficult to get too depressed if your team had a disappointing start to the season. The San Francisco Giants are no exception. There were obvious things that stood out, both good and bad throughout the Giants’ successful opening series with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Coming into the season the Giants were a team that would be more reliant on their offense than in years past due to the uncertainty surrounding their pitching staff.  That played out exactly the way it was expected to against an Arizona Diamondbacks team that doesn’t have the strongest pitching. The Giants scored 23 runs during the 4 game series. That comes out to a 5.75 runs per game. If the Giants offense keeps producing at around that clip they should have a very successful season, regardless of how well the Giants staff pitches.

The long ball was also expected to be a big part of the Giants offense this season. So far, that’s been true. The Giants  already 6 home runs this season, which is on pace to shatter the home run total they had last year of 150. This was the biggest reason why the Giants were able to win their series with the Diamondbacks. They had home runs and timely hitting at key times during two of their comeback wins in the series.

A couple of players in particular, potential breakout player Brandon Belt, as mentioned in the San Francisco Giants 3 up 3 down preview series article is off to a good start, as well as Angel Pagan. Buster Posey has also been solid, but that’s pretty much not a story, because that’s expected.

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt, right, shakes hands with teammate Pablo Sandoval (48) after Belt homered during the sixth inning of an opening day baseball game, Monday, March 31, 2014, in Phoenix. The Giants defeated the Diamondbacks 9-8. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Photo: Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press

Giants First Baseman Brandon Belt has been scorching to start the season and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. He’s finally the hitter that the Giants knew he could be. AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin) Photo: Ross D. Franklin, Associated Press

Belt has been a guy who’s always had huge potential across the board. He had potential to hit 300 as well as hit 25 home runs and drive in 90 runs. Most people felt that Belt’s failed to live up to the hype that he had surrounded him for the first few years in his career. However, in his defense, the Giants brought him up to the big leagues one year too early, he was shuffled in and out of the lineup a lot by Giants Manager Bruce Bochy, and he’s been unfairly scrutinized by a select group of Giants fans. Even with all this, Belt seemed to figure it out once he changed his swing with about 2 months left in the season. He became the Giants best hitter down the stretch last year and is continuing that into this season.

The power that he has is finally starting to show itself. To put this into perspective, Belt is now only one of four Giants players to hit 3 home runs in the first 4 games of the season. The other three went onto win National League MVP honors; Willie Mays, Barry Bonds and Kevin Mitchell. That’s some pretty good company to be included in.

PHOENIX, AZ - APRIL 03: Angel Pagan #16 of the San Francisco Giants salutes teamamtes in the dugout after hitting a three run home-run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the eighth inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on April 3, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) ( Christian Petersen )

PHOENIX, AZ – APRIL 03: Angel Pagan #16 of the San Francisco Giants salutes teamamtes in the dugout after hitting a three run home-run against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the eighth inning of the MLB game at Chase Field on April 3, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) ( Christian Petersen )

The next guy, Pagan, might not look like it or might not have the numbers that show it, however, he’s the most important Giant. When he was in the lineup last year the Giants were 10 games over 500 and 20 games under when he was out for a majority of the season. The year before he was a main catalyst in their World Series Run. When he’s on his game there’s very few leadoff hitters who can do what Pagan can do: speed, average, on base percentage as well as play centerfield as well as anybody. So far Pagan is on a terror to start the season with 6 RBI’S and a game winning home run yesterday which won the game for the Giants. He’s also batting 421 so far, which is the highest on the Giants. If Pagan stays healthy the Giants will remain a dangerous team.

Although it’s still early to panic, the one thing that looks to be very suspect is the Giants middle relief. With pitchers like Yusmeiro Petit, David Huff and Juan Gutierrez struggling to get consistent outs and giving up runs, it begs the question. How long will the Giants stay with those guys, especially when better arms like Derek Law and Heath Hembree are in the Minor Leagues. It’s easy to see what the Giants plan is. They want to have more long relievers earlier in the season, to ensure that they don’t wear their starters out too early in the season. However, if those guys don’t perform then the Giants will look to make changes.

The middle relievers were really a contrast to the backend of the bullpen of Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo and Jean Machi. Those four guys have so far been lights out although it’s only been four games. Those four, possibly five once Jeremy Affeldt returns from injury, could be as good as any five members in all of baseball. If Law and Hembree are brought up later in the season, then the Giants bullpen could be absolutely devastating. It’s intriguing to see the backend of the bullpen being so good so far.

There’s really only a few things that need to be improved upon. The fielding wasn’t great, the Giants had too many errors and cost their pitchers especially, Madison Bumgarner extra pitches. Chase Field is a fast infield, but a key to the Giants success has been great fielding. That needs improvement moving forward.

Finally, three-fourths of the Giants need to pitch better and should turn it around as the season goes on. Although Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum didn’t pitch badly they are all capable of pitching better than they did. Bumgarner went just 4 innings and wasn’t sharp. Cain gave up 3 runs and also didn’t look sharp. The new look Lincecum, looked better than Bumgarner and Cain for most of his start but made a couple mistakes to power hitters as well as running out of gas in the sixth inning. If these guys can pitch up to their potential then the Giants will be in really good shape.

Winning 3 out of 4 games in Arizona is a successful way to start the season. The Giants showed the comeback prowess that they had in 2010 and 2012. The Giants certainly have a team that has the potential to surprise the experts once again and compete. They need to sure up a few things as all teams do after their first series. The Giants will get their first look at the division favorite Los Angeles Dodgers as they travel to the hostile Chavez Ravine to start a 3-game series with the Dodgers today.

  • swede

    Great perspectives Paul! You ought to forward your piece to Bleacher Report or the Sporting News or event the Giants organization for consideration to write columns for one of those entities.