COMMENTARY | The San Francisco Giants had a nightmare season in 2013, one of the worst seasons that a defending World Series champion has ever had.
It seemed like anything that could go wrong for the Giants went wrong last year, and the season spiraled out of control before the team even knew what hit it.
The Giants hope to avoid the same fate in 2014, but there are a bunch of potholes on the road back to contention that could easily knock them off course. Here's a list of five things that could wreck the Giants upcoming season:
Lack of Depth: The Giants don't appear to have any hitters or starting pitchers in the upper levels of their minor league system that can step into a role on the big league club and contribute right away, and that will turn into a problem if the team has as many injuries as it had last season.
The Giants' major league bench isn't the strongest, either, with most of the players better suited to spot starting rather than being pressed into every day service. The Giants simply can't afford to lose any of their starters because they are ill-equipped to replace them. A number of things have to go right for the Giants to contend again this year, and good health tops the list.
Tim Lincecum: He might never again be the dominant force he once was, but the Giants need Lincecum to at least be a dependable starter at the back end of their rotation after signing him to a contract extension in the offseason. If Lincecum falters -- a very real possibility, considering how bad he's looked at times over the past few years -- the Giants could find themselves in a lot of trouble since they'd have to rely on journeymen like Yusmeiro Petit or unimpressive starters like Mike Kickham to fill the void.
Lincecum showed signs last year that he may have turned the corner and left his troubles behind him, but if those signs were a mirage and he gets knocked around on the mound, the Giants' season could start to unravel.
Left field is a wasteland yet again: Michael Morse is a prime candidate for a bounce-back year after injuries derailed him in '13, but what if he doesn't bounce back? The Giants will be faced with the same problem they had last season: a total lack of offense from left field. Gregor Blanco is a nice fourth outfielder and Juan Perez showed signs of being able to hit at the big league level, but neither of them is a solution.
If Morse doesn't hit, or gets injured again, it's going to be another patchwork job while the Giants struggle to get any offense from a key position. It won't be as noticeable if the rest of the lineup stays healthy and produces, but that's definitely not a given.
Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro can't stay healthy: Pagan and Scutaro are the catalysts of the Giants' lineup at the top of the order, and when they both went down with injuries last year the offense went into a death spiral. Pagan is especially important since no one else on the roster is as capable of a leadoff hitter as he is; without him there, the Giants' lineup looked lost. Scutaro was brought back last winter in hopes he'd continue his hot hitting, but, like so many others, his season was wrecked because of injuries. Scutaro is getting up there in age, too, which makes you wonder if nagging injuries are going to be commonplace for him over the next two seasons. The Giants had better hope not, since they've already seen what life is like without the first two hitters in their lineup.
Pablo Sandoval: Reports are that Sandoval is in great shape, and that's good news for the Giants. Sandoval is the Giants' most talented hitter, but he's also the most frustrating in that he hasn't seemed to take his fitness seriously enough to make use of his talents. If he's truly turned over a new leaf and is committed to staying in shape and staying healthy, there's no telling what kind of year he could put up.
He's fully capable of being the most dangerous hitter in the league if he wants to be, and the Giants certainly could use that version of Sandoval in the middle of their lineup. If it's more of the same from Pablo and his weight gets out of control while nagging injuries pile up, the Giants' offense will be significantly weaker and the team could be hard-pressed to score runs.
Dave Tobener is a San Francisco Bay Area-based writer whose work on baseball has appeared on sites such as Yahoo Sports and Yahoo Sports Big League Stew. Follow him on Twitter @gggiants.
- Sports & Recreation
- San Francisco Giants