Daniel Shoptaw is a many-faceted baseball blogger who has been in the business since 2007. He is a dedicated and knowledgeable St. Louis Cardinals analyst who has his writing thumb in many pies.
Every year Mr. Shoptaw publishes his "Playing Pepper" series which features a number of questions about each MLB team answered by the bloggers who write about those teams.
And check out the sites of the other Giants bloggers who participated in this year's Giants Playing Pepper:
> Dan of The Ball Caps Blog. Dan lives in New Jersey (someone has to) and writes succinct pieces about the Giants and a host of other sports subjects.
> Craig authors THE San Francisco Giants Blog and backs up his reckless use of caps in "THE" with strong opinions and observations.
> Kevin J. Cunningham writes (and draws) The Lunatic Fringe blog which takes a webcomic perspective on all things Giants. Also check out Kevin's ebook, “To Hell With Fate; or, Why The Best Valentine’s Gifts Come From Mini-Marts".
The Giants Cove response to Playing Pepper 2014:
1) How would you grade the offseason?
San Francisco’s 2013 performance was a disaster: finishing third in the NL West, 16 games out of first place and 5 games under .500. Forget about the injuries excuse—every team has injuries to key players; well-built teams have the depth to survive injuries and continue winning.
The Giants did very little in the 2013-2014 offseason. In terms of improving the team’s most glaring weaknesses (left field run production, having only two quality starting pitchers, lack of power, second base questions, a weak bench, and little help from the farm system) the Giants get a solid “D”.
San Francisco made two moves to improve their third place team: they swapped veteran Barry Zito for veteran Tim Hudson, and they swapped veteran Michael Morse for veteran Andres Torres. These moves don’t come close to keeping up with what other NL West teams have done this offseason.
2) How strange (and perhaps liberating) will it be to not see Barry Zito on the Giants’ roster this season?
It certainly is not “liberating” to see Barry Zito leave the Giants. Without Barry Zito the Giants don’t win the 2012 NL West title. Zito went 15-8 with a 1.39 WHIP in 2012, and the Giants finished eight games ahead of the Dodgers.
Without Barry Zito the Giants don’t win the 2012 postseason. Zito went 2-0 with a 1.68 ERA, 16 IP, 13 SO, and 6 BB in the playoffs. He won Game 1 in the 2012 Series sweep against the Tigers.
Zito had a number of poor seasons and several good ones with San Francisco, but I will always remember his performance and contributions during the 2012 season.
3) Which roster battle will be the most intriguing during spring training?
There are no Giants “roster battles” in 2014. This is the same team from 2013 with two changes (and Hudson and Morse are not “fighting” to make the roster).
The roster “battles” this season will happen during the season when the Giants have to replace players who are past their prime and/or can’t play 125 games. With no offensive help coming from the minor leagues it won’t be much of a battle.
4) What rookie, if any, will make the most impact on the team in 2014?
The one bright light in the Giants 2014 season is that several young pitchers will likely have a chance to make the team. Starter Edwin Escobar and RP Heath Hembree should be on the squad out of Spring Training, but might have to wait until July.
No position players look to be ready to contribute any time this season.
5) What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division?
Unless four or five players have “career years”, the Giants look like they’ll finish in third place again in 2014. A .500 finish for San Francisco in 2014 would take a 5 game improvement over 2013. To win 90 games they would have to improve by 14 games.
Right now the improvements made by the Dodgers and D-Backs have made those teams even more competitive than last year.
6) Which player from your team do you most enjoy watching?
The Giants have several really exciting players to watch. First baseman Brandon Belt’s development has been very exciting to see. If the Giants are going to achieve any success over the next few years it will happen because Belt breaks out even more and becomes a dominant NL run producer.
I never get tired of watching Pablo Sandoval. Sandoval is easily one of the game’s top hitters and an animated and quirky joy to watch every day.