Defending World Series Champs San Francisco Giants Unlikely to Make Playoffs

Ryan Braun #8 of the Milwaukee Brewers slides across home plate to score a run as catcher Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants applies a late tag during the third inning of a Cactus League game at Scottsdale Stadium. (Mandatory Credit: ESPN/Getty Images)

The San Francisco Giants have won the World Series in 2010, 2012, and 2014, but look too shallow to be a postseason competitor this year. Outside of stars Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Madison Bumgarner, who can step up to buoy a team showing signing of stagnation?

With a whittled offense and fragile starting rotation, the San Francisco Giants look unlikely to contend for a playoff spot, something Giants’ fans might be prepared for given the franchise’s streak of even-year Series wins.

While it is possible for the Giants to scrap out a path toward the postseason, they may have to hope for a breakout season from youngster second-baseman Joe Panik to buoy a stagnant offense, but his .160 batting average in spring training is worrisome. Panik, however, is unconcerned over his inauspicious start. “It’s such a small sample size. You’ve got 600 at-bats during the season and that’s when things even themselves out,” Panik said in a postgame interview.

Giants fans no doubt mourned the loss of third baseman Pablo Sandoval, dubbed “The Panda,” to the Boston Red Sox, but from a sabermetric standpoint, Sandoval’s bat has declined steadily in his 7 seasons with the Giants, and his .258 AVG, .304 OBP, and .419 in 2014 was mediocre, at best. As the season gets underway, the lineup may miss Sandoval less than fans might think, but The Giants have a shallow field of offensive weapons outside of perennial powerhouse Buster Posey and right-fielder Hunter Pence, who fractured his forearm in early March and will miss the Giants’ opener.

It would be remiss not to discuss the MVPs of the Giants’ 2014 postseason, their rotation. Madison Bumgarner, who showcased arguably the best postseason pitching performance in baseball history—undeniably, numbers-wise—is returning as the ace, and he’s struck out 14 batters in roughly 14 innings pitched thus far in spring training. Against the Oakland A’s Triple-A line-up Friday afternoon, Bumgarner allowed 2 hits, 1 walk, and struck out 11 in 6 innings pitched. In 2014, he shouldered one of the heaviest workloads in Giants pitching history, but Bumgarner was unfazed, and even wanted to see more playing time at the plate. “I felt dang good about it . . . I mean, I’m trying to get some at-bats in,” Bumgarner told beat reporters after the game.

Starting pitcher Matt Cain is returning from surgery, and could be a contributing factor if he is able to pitch a full and improved season. Tim Lincecum is, yet again, a question mark, as he is nearly unrecognizable from the back-to-back Cy Young winner he once was, and 39-year-old Tim Hudson’s ERA crept up to 4.73 in the late half of the season.

On the raw talent and consistent power of stars Posey, Pence, and Bumgarner alone, San Francisco looks too shallow to be a postseason competitor, but more than once, circumstances have turned favorably toward the Giants. They open the season in Arizona against the Diamondbacks on April 6th.

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