Here we are, folks: the End of Season Post-Mortem series. If you're new here (which about 50% of our reader base is in comparison to last year), here's a brief explanation: after a team is eliminated from playoff contention, we're going to put their season under a microscope and look at just what the hell went wrong, what went right, and so on and so forth. The goal is to post these the day after a team is eliminated. Also, for the first ten teams eliminated, we're going to post a series called "Hope for the Hopeless", which is going to be an expanded version of the "What Went Right" portion of the Post-Mortem series pieces.
To say that the 2013 season didn't go the way that the San Francisco Giants and general manager Brian Sabean planned would be a massive understatement. Sabean brought virtually everyone back from the 2012 World Series championship team, re-signing outfielder Angel Pagan, infielder Marco Scutaro and reliever Jeremy Affeldt in an attempt to win again. Instead, the Giants could join the exclusive club of teams that went from first place to last in their division. (First-to-worst!) Even worse, they could be one of the very few World Series champions who failed to make the playoffs the following season.
Preseason prediction: This Giants team is going to contend in the NL West, and they can do some big things if the team stays healthy. However, as Posey goes, so goes the Giants. If he gets injured again or struggles, this team is going to have a tough time contending in the NL West.
What Went Right: Well, Buster Posey didn't get injured again, nor did he struggle. No, he didn't match his MVP numbers of 2012, but has still had a fine season, batting .311 with an .859 OPS. Was Posey worn down due to playing 16 postseason games? Perhaps. Regardless, the Giants fell out of contention in the NL West by early July.
San Francisco should also be encouraged by first baseman Brandon Belt and shortstop Brandon Crawford, both of whom have shown improvement in their offensive numbers. Hunter Pence also rebounded nicely after struggling during last year's playoff run. That should help his free agent value and make the Giants more willing to try and re-sign him.
Other than that, the Giants received their World Series championship rings on April 7, before their third home game of the 2013 season. They're really nice rings, befitting a champion. Designed by Tiffany and Co., the rings have a white gold face, with the "SF" logo made of 53 small diamonds. On each side of the ring are seven diamonds, representing each of the franchise's championships. Each ring also included the player's name, jersey number and a cable car design. Very impressive.
Players who were on the 2010 and 2012 World Series winners will be able to make a clinking noise with their rings when clapping their hands together. How many major leaguers can say that?
What Went Wrong: During the Giants' recent run of success, their team has been built around strong starting pitching. So it shouldn't be a surprise that San Francisco is facing a last-place finish when the starters haven't performed to their usual standard.
Matt Cain followed up a Cy Young-worthy 2012 with his worst season in the majors, compiling a 4.37 ERA and giving up home runs at the highest rate of his career. Ryan Vogelsong missed more than two months with a broken hand, but wasn't pitching very well before he got injured. He's carrying a 5.82 ERA and allowing 11 hits per nine innings. And while Tim Lincecum has improved from his terrible performance last year, he doesn't appear to be the dominant starter he once was.
After signing a four-year. $40 million contract in the offseason, Pagan only appeared in 57 games due to a hamstring injury that eventurally required surgery. Pablo Sandoval battled a foot injury, which may have factored into a lower batting average and a 40-point drop in OPS. He also continued to struggle with his weight and conditioning.
Most Surprising Player: Crawford's offensive improvement was mentioned above, but if there were any worries that the third-year shortstop was a strong glove/weak bat player, his 2013 performance may ease such concerns. The 26-year-old put up better numbers across the board. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the power Crawford's shown. He's already hit nine homers, two more than in his first two big league seasons combined.
Crawford hasn't been as impressive in the field as he was last year, when he was among the top five in Ultimate Zone Rating at shortstop. But he still saves three runs more than the average player at that position.
Most Disappointing Player: The spotlight here has to go on Cain, who was expected to be the rotation's No. 1 starter but has pitched like anything but an ace this year. There's no noticeable change in his strikeout rate or hits allowed per nine innings. Yet some believe Cain is struggling with his release point or dealing with bone chips or spurs in his right elbow. He did suffer an arm injury after being hit by a line drive. Going on the DL in late August will probably prevent Cain from throwing 200 innings for the first time in his past seven seasons.
The Future: The Giants' offseason questions will focus on Lincecum and Pence. Will Sabean be able to re-sign both players? Pence would seem like a must, as there's no suitable in-house replacement for his offense in right field. Lincecum is, of course, extremely popular among San Francisco fans and it would be strange to see him pitch in another uniform next year. But his decline over the past two seasons has to be a concern. The Giants could certainly use Lincecum in their rotation (should we mention trading Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran two years ago, or just let that go?) but probably at a lower cost than he would've demanded in his prime.