Both the Oakland A's and San Francisco Giants come into 2013 ready to hang their banners—the A's earned an AL West title, the Giants were World Series champions—on Opening Day. Will either (or both) repeat their success? Did they do enough in the off-season to make another run?
Our resident sports guy has been following the action closely, and breaks down the three keys to each team's 2013 season here:
The fate of their 2013 season rests in the hands of the exceptional, but young, pitching staff. With the acquisitions of Josh Reddick and Yoenis Cespedes before last year, General Manager Billy Beane assured himself of having a lineup worthy of playoff contention again this season. But amid all the dramatic comebacks, the surprising young starting pitchers were overlooked. Here are the A's three keys to success in 2013:
1. Develop the pitching staff
It sounds simple enough, but as young stars grow, opposing teams learn how to hit them. The really great pitchers in baseball can adjust and continue to fool batters year after year. Coming into this season, the league knows what they are getting with Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, and the rest of the crew. The A's must continue developing those guys' all-around repertoires to make another run at the playoffs.
2. Find a place for all the outfielders
The A's traded for centerfielder Chris Young, despite already having Coco Crisp, Reddick, Cespedes and Seth Smith in the oufield. All five are everyday guys who need to get at-bats to stay fresh. It's nice to have depth out there, but utilizing Young or Smith as a pinch-hitting, role playing option only may cause a significant dip in their performance.
3. Keep the pressure on
One of the reasons the A's were so successful last year is that they didn't skirt risks. They won't be taking anyone by surprise in 2013, but they do still have the personnel to bring the fire and excitement every game. Manager Bob Melvin is not the type to slow down, which bodes well for Oakland and its fans. Just make sure Crisp and Reddick are Bernie-leaning, fans in right field are Grant Balfour-raging and that the constant fun never ceases. Keeping the team loose again will be huge in a repeat run.
San Francisco Giants
Despite 94 regular-season wins last year, not many analysts believed the Giants could pull off a run to the World Series. Cincinnati was a juggernaut and St. Louis was on fire, but both were dramatically dispatched by late-series heroics from the Giants. San Francisco is as good, or better, as they were a year ago, but will they catch the breaks again in 2013?
1. Get Timmy back on track
Until the playoffs, the Giants and its fans were confounded by the poor performance from Tim Lincecum. His velocity dropped significantly and he couldn't seem to find the strike zone for innings at a time. He's back with intent to rebound (and a haircut...) this year and regain his ace status. If that happens, the National League is in trouble.
2. Production at the top
Down the stretch, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro were unstoppable for Bruce Bochy's Giants. When you get such consistent production from the top of the order, chances are you're going to get some runs on the board. It's very unlikely that either player keeps up such a scorching pace, but playing up to their career averages will make a huge difference in itself.
3. Power from Pence
Giants fans can expect at least moderate power numbers from stars Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval in 2013 (assuming both stay healthy). But one of the reasons General Manager Brian Sabean went out and traded for Hunter Pence last season is to bring some pop to the lineup. If Pence can hit 25 homers for the Giants, they field their most talented lineup since the Barry Bonds era.