The Giants will be a motivated team and certain individuals have a lot on the line this upcoming season. For the orange and black to return to the postseason, five important factors must happen for this dream to become a reality.
1. Will the Giants pitching return as one of the best in baseball?
The Giants pitching staff had a rough season last year with some of their key guys struggling most of the season. Madison Bumgarner was the lone bright spot, clearly establishing himself as the team's ace. Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong were inconsistent, while Tim Lincecum displayed some moments of sizzle throughout the year. The team signed Tim Hudson to replace Barry Zito, giving the Giants five-former All-Stars on staff. The team had a 4.00 ERA last season, compared to a 3.36 ERA in 2010 and 3.68 ERA in 2012. If the Giants pitching can return to form and stay healthy, they will be contenders once again.
2. Can Pablo Sandoval put together that monster season?
2014 is a huge season for Pablo Sandoval, who is entering the final year of his contract and been working so hard during the offseason. Sandoval has reportedly lost over 40 pounds and is ready for that special season. Injuries and weight-issues have affected his play the last few seasons, but Sandoval has showed when he is healthy and right, he can be that threat in the lineup. Sandoval controls his fate and if he produces, the Giants will pay him and the team will benefit greatly.
3. Will the Giants get the best out of Michael Morse?
When players sign one-year contracts, the results can go either good or bad. The Giants have a recent success of getting the best out of players for one season and have two championships to show. Aubrey Huff was magical in 2010, batting .290 with 26 home runs and 86 RBI's, while Angel Pagan was terrific in 2012 with a .288 batting average, 174 hits and 15 triples. Both players played key roles in each of those championship seasons. The Giants are hoping a third charm works this year with the addition of Michael Morse, who is very capable of having a great season and putting up solid numbers. Morse will have a chip on his shoulder and show everyone he is healthy and ready to produce. If the Giants can get a special season out of Morse, they will be one dangerous team.
4. Can the Giants continue their success against the National League West?
The one silver lining last season was the Giants success against the National League West as the team went 44-32 within the division. Had the Giants played better against the rest of the NL and AL, they would have reached the playoffs. It might be tough to duplicate the success of a season ago as the NL West will be one of the best and toughest division in baseball. The Los Angeles Dodgers are the favorites by many, the Arizona Diamondbacks made moves, the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies have young talent and will be better in 2014. If the Giants can own the division once again, they will be in a great position.
5. Can the team stay healthy?
Health is always the main concern for every team heading into the new season and the Giants have learned the hard way in 2011 and 2013. Baseball is a long season and while injuries will occur, the Giants can't suffer a huge blow like losing Pagan last season or Posey in 2011. If the Giants can remain healthy and avoid that major injury, they will be a team to be reckoned with this year.
You can never predict what's going to happen in sports, but that's what makes it so exciting and epic. Baseball is such a long season and anything can happen. The 2014 Giants should be better and be in contention for a postseason berth. It's an even year and new season, so let's play some ball!
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