COMMENTARY | The San Francisco Giants had a miserable 2013. There's no other way to put it. Hopes of another World Series championship were quickly killed by the summer, and the last few months were a slog to an inevitable losing record. It was an incredibly disappointing year.
So what went wrong?
A number of things, actually. But since we don't have all day, here's a list of five reasons the Giants were so bad in 2013:
Injuries, injuries, injuries: Blessed with (mostly) good health during their two World Series-winning seasons, the Giants had no such luck in 2013. Angel Pagan, the offensive catalyst, missed more than half of the season with hamstring problems. Ryan Vogelsong missed nearly three months after breaking his finger. The bullpen was decimated by injuries to Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt, and Chad Gaudin. The bench suffered through injuries to Hector Sanchez, Andres Torres, Tony Abreu, and Joaquin Arias. And besides Pagan, lineup regulars Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Marco Scutaro, and Brandon Crawford all dealt with nagging injuries throughout the year. Every team has to deal with injuries over the course of a season, but the Giants were ill-equipped to handle so many, mainly because of...
Lack of depth: The Giants went into the season with one of the weakest benches they've had in years, and when injuries started to pile up the team had no one ready to step in and produce. On top of that, the farm system had virtually no viable major leaguers -- pitchers or position players -- to send to San Francisco. Roger Kieschnick, Francisco Peguero, Nick Noonan, Mike Kickham, Eric Surkamp -- all of them failed to make any impression in the big leagues. Juan Perez looks like he could stick as a backup outfielder and Heath Hembree will get every chance to make the Giants' bullpen next spring, but they weren't enough to help stop the bleeding. If the Giants hope to be back in contention next year, they must improve their depth through trades or free agency.
The starting pitching failed: When the foundation on which your team is built crumbles, you're in a whole lot of trouble. The Giants' vaunted pitching staff completely let them down. Eighty percent of the starting rotation -- Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Barry Zito, and Ryan Vogelsong -- all had down years. They wore down the bullpen at the beginning of the year, and by the time Cain and Lincecum started to turn things around the team was already falling like a rock in the standings. For the first time in a long time, the Giants head into the offseason with a great deal of uncertainty regarding their starting rotation. If 2013 was any indication, they're going to need a big overhaul.
The offense failed (after the pitching failed): The Giants were actually scoring runs early on this season, when the starting pitching was trying to sort itself out. But by the time the pitching started to turn things around, the offense had gone stagnant. Losing Pagan was a crippling blow the Giants couldn't withstand, but Posey, Scutaro, and Sandoval all had years that weren't up to their usual standards. There were a few bright spots on offense, like the bounce-back year for Hunter Pence and the breakout season for Brandon Belt, but they weren't enough to carry the load. The Giants also made the mistake of thinking they'd be OK with a Gregor Blanco/Torres platoon in left field all year long, and that worked out about as well as one might have expected.
The same formula didn't work, again: After winning it all in 2010, the Giants returned basically the same team in 2011 to defend their title; while Posey's catastrophic injury certainly doomed that season, the fact that the Giants failed to upgrade at several key positions over the offseason (first base, second base, left field, shortstop) hurt them considerably. The same thing happened in 2013: The Giants returned almost the exact same team and crossed their fingers they'd repeat their success. Left field and the rotation were the most glaring places where they could have used better talent, and we've already covered how bad the bench was. Getting the band back together for another run might sound like the right thing to do, but it's come back to bite the Giants twice now.
Dave Tobener is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer whose work on the Giants has appeared on sites such as Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Sports' Big League Stew. Follow him on Twitter @gggiants.
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