We asked our resident Giants and Royals fans to walk us through their respective 2014 seasons, from spring training to the 7-game World Series. In part 2 of the week-long series, Darius Austin and Walter Cook look back at SF’s preseason expectations. (Previously: Part 1 – KC’s preseason)

Darius: Although I expected a better year than 2013, I really felt like there was no way the Giants were going to remotely challenge the Dodgers in 2014. I like Tim Hudson and thought he would be a useful addition, but didn’t think that Michael Morse would rebound much in San Francisco, and was concerned about both his defense and health. I felt the likes of Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and Madison Bumgarner could be relied on, saw Brandon Crawford as solid if unspectacular, liked the bullpen and thought a rebound was coming from Matt Cain, but saw too many question marks elsewhere for a great season. Marco Scutaro’s back was already a concern before we even made it to the spring and at 38, I feared his performance would decline even if he did get onto the field. To make matters worse, there were no great backup options at the position. Although I had confidence in Angel Pagan when he was on the field, his health was always a worry, especially after a difficult 2013.

The back of the rotation was also shaky; even as one of the world’s biggest Tim Lincecum fans, I no longer believed he was even going to make it back to being even an average starter and Ryan Vogelsong pitched very poorly in 2013 when he wasn’t sidelined with injury. I thought a second-place finish in the NL West was likely, but wasn’t sure we’d be good enough for the wildcard, and thought their PECOTA number was a little high, expecting more like 84 wins.

Walter: Heading into 2014, the Giants seemed to me to a team that projected to be a little north of .500. I remember thinking that the 87 wins projected by PECOTA seemed a little generous. The five biggest questions on my mind were:

1) whether Matt Cain would rebound after a disappointing 2013;
2) whether Brandon Belt would continue improving;
3) whether a contract year would produce a great season out of Pablo Sandoval;
4) when Marco Scutaro would return; and
5) what would Tim Lincecum would bring to the table.

On all five points, the Giants came up short: Cain not only failed to rebound, but of course missed half the season; Brandon Belt took a step back with a pretty mediocre season interrupted by two freak injuries; Sandoval would continue to be a good-but-not-great hitter; Scutaro basically missed the entire season; and Lincecum–the no-hitter notwithstanding–had a pretty terrible 2014 and finished the season out of the rotation.

If you had showed me the actual 2014 stat lines of Cain, Belt, Sandoval, Scutaro and Lincecum alongside the projections of the rest of the team back in March, I could not have imagined how the team could have finished above .500, let alone win the second Wild Card and go on to win the World Series.

Hudson and Morse basically wound up producing for the Giants what I expected. I was not particularly excited about either signing, but they seemed like solid values and I appreciated that Sabean avoided signing a LFer to a big multiyear deal. Morse’s hot start at the plate caught me a bit by surprise, but then cooled down and inevitably missed time to a nagging injury (strained oblique). Among the lower profile acquisitions, I sort of liked Tyler Colvin (NRI) as a darkhorse to contribute as a backup outfielder and thought it had the chance to be Sabean’s best off-season acquisition. I never really found myself on the Brandon Hicks bandwagon, even when he had a surprisingly strong start to the season.

Entering 2014, the consensus regarding the Giants farm system was that they had a couple of high ceiling pitchers that were a year or more away and not much in the way of major league-ready hitters. I was aware of guys like Panik, Susac, and Duffy, but based on the prospect reports that I read none of them seemed likely to be contributors for 2014.

So heading into the season, it seemed to me that the Giants seemed unlikely to catch the Dodgers, but could compete for the Wild Card if everything broke their way. But they did not seem to have much margin for error due to a weak farm system and really needed good things from Cain, Belt, Sandoval, Scutaro, and Lincecum. But aside from a solid-but-unspectacular season from Sandoval, none of those breaks came the Giants way.

And, of course, that’s why they play the 162 games and a reminded as we begin this project that the curious task of baseball prognosticators is to demonstrate how little we really know about what we imagine we can predict (apologies to Friedrich Hayek).

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  1.  ’14 Flashback: Recollections of the Giants and Royals’ Pennant Seasons (Part 3) | Banished To The Pen
  2.  ’14 Flashback: Recollections of the Giants and Royals’ Pennant Seasons (Part 4) | Banished To The Pen
  3.  ’14 Flashback: Recollections of the Giants and Royals’ Pennant Seasons (Part 5) | Banished To The Pen

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