Exactly who are the San Francisco Giants?
Are they the pitching-dominant team that won two of the last four World Series?
Or are they the oft-injured, pitching-fail team that allowed more runs than the Cubs did last year (okay, so only two more) and finished 10 games under .500?
Don't get me wrong. The Giants are a good team that should score runs -- they've got a power-hitting third baseman, a power-hitting catcher, and a right fielder who hit .283/.339/.483 with 27 home runs and 99 RBI last year, one of the best years of his career. And yet, all of that power produced just 29 more runs than the Cubs scored. What the...
The Giants also played a very large number of one-run games (56) and went 28-28, which isn't horrible (although they did lose an entire series to the Cubs in July, all by one run, probably the most exciting series the Cubs played all year).
I'm not entirely sure what went wrong with the Giants in 2013. Looking at their overall numbers, it looks like starting pitching was (mostly) the culprit: Matt Cain had the worst year of his career, Ryan Vogelsong was bad and then injured and the replacements included two guys who had been released by the Cubs at various times (Chad Gaudin, Guillermo Moscoso). The Giants hope to have addressed this problem by signing a 38-year-old pitcher whose 2013 season was ended with a gruesome ankle injury.
Well, maybe it'll work. Tim Hudson was having a decent year when Eric Young Jr. accidentally stepped on his ankle last year in New York and ended his season. Hudson, presumably healed from the injury and with no arm trouble, will help, as will Vogelsong if he's healthy.
Offensively, the Giants last year finally gave Brandon Belt their first-base job, something many Giants fans had been clamoring for, for some time. He produced a fine offensive season and at age 26, should be entering his best years. The only big change for the Giants is the signing of Michael Morse to play left field. The Giants have to hope they get the 2011 version of Morse, not the one who has been bad and injured the last two years. Morse will likely have to have defensive help in the late innings, but the Giants have one of the better ones in Gregor Blanco.
What to think of this team? I really am not sure. They could suddenly get good and win the World Series again. Or they could be 76-86 again. It's really that uncertain.
The Cubs and Giants will match up in San Francisco May 26-27-28, and the Giants will be at Wrigley Field August 19-20-21.