By Jordan Smith
February 18, 2014
San Rafael, CA -- The San Francisco Giants had an underwhelming 2013, with their starting pitching at the forefront of the turmoil. Almost everyone had a down year, especially compared to the championship years of 2010 and 2012. The Giants organization preaches consistency and, for the most part, the same rotation will be back for another year.
Matt Cain, for the first time since his rookie year in 2006 pitched less than 200 innings and had an ERA over 4.00. But this is Matt Cain, and he has been a model of consistent high performance for his entire career. The Giants hope 2013 was an aberration, and a bounce back year is probable. He is the cornerstone of the starting rotation and the Giants will need his consistency to bounce back to playoff form.
Without a career year from Madison Bumgarner, 2013 would have been much bleaker than it already was. Opponents hit .199 against him and he is the rare lefty that is just as good against right-handed batters as he is against left-handers, plus he’s only 24. The 6-year, 35 million dollar contract he signed before 2012 is proving to be one of the best bargains in baseball, and he may be scratching the surface of his talent.
This offseason the Giants paid Tim Lincecum 35 million dollars over the next two years despite his decline in performance the last three years. He has been one of the least productive pitchers in the National League. Lincecum means more to the Giants than any other team because he is a former superstar and incredibly marketable. His value on the field remains inconsistent, but his strikeout rates are still top-notch. Lincecum can still help the team, but the production is minimal compared to his Cy Young days.
Ryan Vogelsong had one of the most improbable success stories in baseball in 2011 and 2012 to turn his career around. 2013 was an inconsistent and injury-plagued contrast. His varied performance over the last three years with the Giants is concerning, but he is a key to the rotation. Pitching was a weakness in 2013 and Vogelsong could be a boost the Giants are looking for. Pitchers that are 36 don’t often improve drastically though.
The Giants had one spot in the rotation to fill after Barry Zito’s contract ended and Tim Hudson was their choice. Formerly of the Athletics and Braves, Hudson, 38, has a career 3.44 ERA and 205-111 record. He joins Cain as the new team workhorse, but that reputation is on the line after a gruesome ankle injury suffered from a first base collision that ended his 2013. He is signed for two years, 23 million dollars to be a clubhouse leader and presence, completing the rotation turnaround the Giants strive for.