In recent years when a person mentioned the San Francisco Giants they were usually talking about their fearsome young starting pitching and how they were the main reason why the Giants won two World Series titles in three years. Well that has changed and the Giants’ starting pitching staff has become a rather large question mark. In 2014 the Giants’ starting pitching rotation will be made up of Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong. Although it is very tough to grade the starting pitching because of what happened in 2013, I would have to give them a C+. Here’s why:
Bumgarner: At age 24 he’s the Giants’ staff ace. He is the quiet 6’5″ southern southpaw we have all come to know and love and he has absolutely dominated the major leagues in his short career. Bumgarner has posted a 3.11 ERA and averaged 204 innings per season since 2011, his first full season. He has compiled a 12.8 fWAR and has averaged a 115 ERA+. It’s safe to say this kid is the best pitcher the Giants have and he has a very bright future ahead of him.
Cain: Cain is coming off of a year where he performed far below his career numbers. In 2013 he had a 4.00 ERA and an 83 ERA+. He also had a 1.1 HR/9 while throwing 184.1 innings. To make a long story short, he wasn’t very good at all. From 2007-2012 Cain averaged an ERA of 3.18 and an ERA + of 126. During that time span he also averaged a HR/9 of 0.8 and 216.5 innings. Hopefully Cain’s woeful 2013 season was just an aberration and he will return to his dominant and reliable form in the coming year. He is only 29 so it is reasonable to think that he will have a better year in 2014 than he did in 2013.
Lincecum: Lincecum is one of the strangest cases I have ever seen for a starting pitcher. He went from a perennial Cy Young Award candidate to pitching far below league average in what seems like overnight. From 2008-2011, he was an All-Star every year and averaged a 2.81 ERA and a 145 ERA+. In 2012 and 2013 we saw a completely different pitcher. In those two years he averaged a 4.77 ERA and had an ERA+ of 72. Though, he did show some signs of improving last year and if you take May out of his numbers, he had a season ERA of 3.94. Hope still remains for the 29 year old right-hander, but he needs to fix his problem if he wants to remain a starting pitcher.
Hudson: Hudson suffered a terrible injury to his right ankle after he was covering first base and Eric Young of the New York Mets stepped on his ankle and fractured it. He was carted off the field and didn’t throw another pitch the rest of the season. Prior to the injury, Hudson was having a solid season. He didn’t perform well in May, posting a 7.33 ERA, but in April, June, and July he averaged a 3.13 ERA. He has had a very good career, but the biggest question is if he will be able to come back healthy for the 2014 season. He is 37 years old and that remains to be seen. If he can be healthy and pitch a full season, I expect him to be productive and help the Giants win.
Vogelsong: Vogelsong is coming off of a year where he also suffered injury, breaking his right hand after being hit by a pitch on May 20th. Before and after the injury he pitched absolutely dreadful. He compiled a 5.73 ERA in 103.2 innings and had a 58 ERA+. From 2011-2012 he averaged a 3.04 ERA and a 117 ERA+. Again, age is a big factor for Vogelsong as he is 36 years old. He needs to return to his 2011 form to be considered worth the Giants’ money.
As you can see, the Giants’ starting rotation is a huge question mark. It is likely that Cain will return to his usual form, but as for Lincecum, Hudson and Vogelsong, there is no way of knowing or predicting what they will do. I give the starting rotation a C+ for now, but I could see that turning into an A- if they all return to their previous numbers in the coming season. A lot remains to be seen and their playoff hopes depend on their starting rotation.
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