The 2013 San Jose Giants season was full of memorable moments and significant individual accomplishments. Behind a prospect-laden pitching staff and a powerful lineup, San Jose claimed their eighth first half title in the last nine years, finished with the best overall record in the league and won the North Division championship.
The regular season began with high expectations as the club broke camp with a star-studded rotation and a potent middle of the order. San Jose would deliver a fast start to the year winning their first seven series' of the regular season through the last week of April to race out to an 18-6 record. Ty Blach, Edwin Escobar and Clayton Blackburn each produced dominant results during the opening month to set the tone for a stellar year team-wide on the mound. Offensively, veteran third baseman Ryan Cavan ranked among the league leaders in batting average while outfielder Devin Harris homered in a team-record six straight games late in April to vault the Giants into first place.
Despite a rash of key injuries throughout the first half, San Jose remained at the top of the standings in the North Division. Talented young starting pitchers Kyle Crick and Adalberto Mejia went down early in the season, but experienced arms Austin Fleet and Kelvin Marte stepped forward to help keep the Giants in first place. First baseman Angel Villalona recovered from a slow start to hit eight home runs during May while catcher Jeff Arnold added six homers and a team-best 18 RBI's. A challenging 11-game road trip through Southern California during the second half of May saw San Jose endure more injury setbacks. Closer Hunter Strickland went down with a season-ending elbow injury while starting pitcher Chris Marlowe and Cavan suffered injuries that knocked both out of action until July. Still, the Giants persevered thanks to their talented crop of starters, an offense that produced enough timely hitting and a group of late-inning relievers led by Josh Osich, Bryce Bandilla and Cody Hall that formed the most dominant bullpen in the California League. Among the club's most notable accomplishments during the first half was an 11-game road winning streak that stretched over five weeks into mid-May.
A tough first week in June trimmed San Jose's division lead to two games, but the team once again responded. The Giants returned home to sweep a four-game series in convincing fashion from South Division leading Lancaster before taking two out of three from Modesto. Entering the final series of the half down in Visalia, San Jose owned a four-game lead over the second-place Rawhide needing just one victory to take the division. The Giants lost the first game at Recreation Park, but came back the next night with a thrilling 5-4, 10-inning win to secure a playoff spot. The clinching victory saw more dominant work from the bullpen as the trio of Hall, Bandilla and Osich combined for 3 2/3 innings of hitless relief to slam the door on Visalia and spark a night of celebration.
After a 43-27 first half and a league-best eight All-Star selections, it was no surprise to see a roster overhaul throughout late-June and July as several top performers earned promotions. The relief duo of Osich and Hall along with Villalona were called-up to Richmond while Escobar joined them less than two weeks later. However, the winning would continue in San Jose. The return of Crick and Mejia coming out of the All-Star break bolstered the starting rotation and each excelled throughout the second half. 2012 standout Ricky Oropesa came back from Richmond to take Villalona's spot at first base and provided a vital left-handed power source from the middle of the order. Shortstop Matt Duffy and closer Derek Law joined the club from Augusta and immediately became top contributors. Regulars Harris and Arnold continued to produce and workhorses Blach and Blackburn didn't slow up in the starting rotation as the season entered its dog days.
One player though would emerge above the rest during the second half of the season. Right fielder Mac Williamson began the year expected to anchor the Giants lineup and after going through an up-and-down opening two months, the 2012 third round draft pick found his groove and became one of the most feared hitters in the California League. After batting .320 with six home runs in June, Williamson hit .321 with seven homers and 24 RBI's during the month of July. He followed that up with an even better August batting at a .356 clip with six home runs and an OPS over 1.000. The roster had endured several changes and the club already knew they were playoff-bound, but behind Williamson, the San Jose Giants continued to roll through the second half.
A stretch during the first part of July saw the Giants win 10 out of 11 games. San Jose won six straight home series' throughout late-June and into July to maintain the top record in the league. The club's only prolonged slump of the regular season occurred in early-August when the Giants dropped nine out of 11 games, but their fortunes would turn. Beginning on August 16, San Jose rattled off 10 straight victories allowing two runs or fewer in nine of those contests. The Giants ended the year having won 14 out of their last 17 games officially clinching the top overall record in the league (83-57) during the final weekend of the regular season.
By virtue of winning the first half title, San Jose enjoyed a four-day break before opening their playoff run. In the best-of-five North Division Series, the Giants found themselves matched-up with the Visalia Rawhide, the club that provided a stiff challenge in the first half and easily secured a wild card spot after an outstanding month of August. San Jose fell behind 1-0 in the series, but behind seven scoreless innings from Crick, shutout the Rawhide in Game Two to even the series. The Giants then erupted offensively in Game Three claiming a 9-2 decision from the host Rawhide to take the series lead. Visalia battled back in Game Four overcoming a four-run deficit and eventually winning the contest with a run in the bottom of the ninth, but San Jose was resilient. Back at home for the decisive Game Five, the Giants scored runs in each of the first six innings, saw Oropesa homer for a fourth straight night and used a dominant long relief effort from Marte to post a 9-5 victory and win the North Division title.
Unfortunately, the thrilling victory over Visalia to take the division would be the Giants' last win of the year. San Jose would fall one step short of the franchise's 12th league championship as the upstart Inland Empire 66ers, fresh off a miraculous 15-inning win over heavily favored Lancaster in Game Five of the South Division Series, swept the Giants three-games-to-none in the final round. A frustrating series offensively for San Jose saw the club shutout in Game One before managing a total of just two runs over the next two nights.
Despite the difficult ending, the 2013 Giants season was still one full of memorable moments and great success, both from individual and team standpoints. San Jose ended the regular season with the best overall in the league, won another first half title and took home the club's fifth division championship in the last nine years. Additionally, many Giants players thrived during their time in the California League this season and took important steps in their development as they look to eventually become major leaguers.
INDIVIDUAL PLAYER NOTES
• The 2013 San Jose Giants will be remembered most for the work of their starting pitchers. Blach (12-4, 2.90) won the California League ERA title in his rookie professional season. The left-hander walked only 18 batters compared to 117 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings and was the lone Giant selected to the postseason California League All-Star team. Blackburn (7-5, 3.65) ranked fourth in the league in ERA and strikeouts while making a team-best 23 starts and leading the club with 133 innings. Blackburn finished the year strong posting a 2.09 ERA over July and August (nine starts). Crick solidified his standing as the #1 prospect in the organization despite missing two months during the first half with an oblique injury. The hard-throwing right-hander fashioned a 1.57 ERA in 14 starts, struck out 95 batters in 68 2/3 innings and limited the opposition to a .201 batting average. Crick struck out at least 10 batters in five of his starts. Mejia (7-4, 3.31) began the year as the youngest pitcher in the league (19 years old) and recovered from his early-season injury to put up excellent numbers throughout the second half. He finished the year averaging over a strikeout per inning (87 IP, 89 SO). Escobar ranked among the league-leaders in ERA (2.89) and strikeouts (92 in 74 2/3 IP) at time of his promotion to Richmond, where he continued to impress. Meanwhile, Marte (6-4, 3.67) provided a steady veteran presence in the rotation and has now won 20 games in a San Jose Giants uniform - tied for fifth all-time.
• While the starting rotation made most of the headlines throughout the year, the Giants late-inning arms were just as impressive. Three different relievers excelled in the role of closer over the course of the season. Before his injury, Strickland was a perfect 9-for-9 in save opportunities and possessed a 0.86 ERA. Osich returned to the California League this year and ultimately led San Jose was 12 saves despite a midseason promotion. Osich compiled a 2.45 ERA with the Giants and averaged over a strikeout per inning. Finally, Law became a dominant closer late in the year and into the playoffs after his call-up from Augusta. A perfect 11-for-11 in save chances, Law fashioned a 2.10 ERA and boasted a remarkable 45-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 25 2/3 innings. However, often the most dominant relievers on the club didn't even close games regularly. Hall recorded a 1.34 ERA before his promotion to Richmond on July 1. Over his last 22 appearances with San Jose, Hall allowed just one earned run over 29 2/3 innings (0.30 ERA) and struck out 41 batters. While it was Bandilla who took home the club's Relief Pitcher of the Year award after striking out a whopping 72 batters in just 44 1/3 innings while holding the opposition to a paltry .167 batting average. A top set-up man, Bandilla was leading the league in appearances before going down with an arm injury in early-July.
• At the plate, Williamson was honored the as the club's Offensive Player of the Year and co-MVP (with Blach). In his first full professional season, Williamson led the team in home runs (25), RBI's (89), runs scored (94) and hits (152). He was also second on the club in doubles (31), chipped in 10 stolen bases and finished with a .292 batting average. Williamson hit .331 with 16 homers after the All-Star break while his 15 outfield assists for the year tied for the league lead. Williamson ranked tied for third in the California League in home runs.
• Other offensive standouts this season included Harris leading the league with 40 doubles. Harris became just the fourth player in San Jose Giants history to produce 40 or more doubles in a single-season. His 23 homers were fifth in the league while he also contributed 84 RBI's and a .258 batting average. Villalona (14) and Arnold (13) gave the Giants two other double-digit home run hitters this season while Oropesa added eight homers, 38 RBI's and a solid .295 batting average after returning from Richmond in early-July. With a late-season surge, third baseman Myles Schroder (.296) led the club in batting average.
10 Straight Playoff Seasons… The Giants set a new California League record this year by reaching the playoffs for a 10th consecutive season (2004-2013). The previous record was held by the Stockton Ports, when they qualified for the postseason in nine straight years from 1985-1993. San Jose's first half North Division title this season was the franchise's eighth in the last nine years.
League-Leading Pitching Staff… The Giants pitching staff compiled a stellar 3.66 ERA this season to lead the California League. San Jose has now led the California League in ERA eight times over the last ten years. The Giants were also first in the league in strikeouts (1282) and fewest home runs allowed (103), second in shutouts (8) and third in fewest walks (425).
Winning Ways… San Jose posted a winning record in all five full months of the regular season (18-7 April, 16-13 May, 15-12 June, 16-13 July, 17-11 August). The Giants also had a .500 or above record against every other team in the California League this year. San Jose's 23 one-run victories (23-12) led the league. Finally, the Giants have now boasted the top overall record in the league six times in the last nine seasons.
Count 'Em Up… 56 players suited up for the San Jose Giants during the 2013 season (26 position players and 30 pitchers). Of the 25 players on the opening day roster, 12 were still with the club and active during the playoffs. Six San Francisco Giants had rehab assignments with San Jose this season: Santiago Casilla, Angel Pagan, Hector Sanchez, Pablo Sandoval, Eric Surkamp and Ryan Vogelsong.
Odds And Ends… San Jose's longest win streak of the year was 10 games (August 16-26) while their longest losing streak was five (August 5-10) … The Giants had the best road record in the league (42-28) … Eight of San Jose's 41 home wins (41-29) came in their last at-bat … The Giants hit two walk-off home runs this season: Brock Bond (June 12 vs. Modesto) and Oropesa (July 9 vs. Lake Elsinore) … San Jose's two grand slams were hit by Cavan (May 17 at Rancho Cucamonga) and Williamson (June 7 vs. Lancaster) … Cavan had the longest hitting streak this year when he hit safely in 19 straight games during the first half … San Jose's highest-scoring game and their largest comeback of the year came on the same night: 16-11, 10-inning win at Stockton on August 21 (rallied from 11-5 down in the eighth inning) … 2013 was the first time since 1999 that the Giants lost the Championship Series … San Jose had won the title in their last four Championship Series appearances (2005, 2007, 2009, 2010).
Fifth Straight Year Of 200,000 Attendance… 2013 marked San Jose's fifth consecutive year with a total home attendance figure of at least 200,000 (after never having reached the milestone prior to 2009). The Giants ranked second in the California League in both total attendance (201,011) and average fans per home game (2,872).
A LOOK TO 2014
The 27th season of San Jose Giants baseball opens on Thursday, April 3 at Rancho Cucamonga. The Giants begin the year with seven straight road games before their home opener on Thursday, April 10 versus the Bakersfield Blaze. San Jose hosts games at Municipal Stadium on Mother's Day (May 11), Memorial Day (May 26) and Independence Day (July 4) next season.
The bulk of San Jose's 2014 roster will likely be made-up of this year's late-season call-ups and many of the standout players from the 2013 Augusta GreenJackets (San Francisco's Class-A affiliate). Augusta (82-55) posted the best overall record in the South Atlantic League this season before falling in the South Division Series. The GreenJackets were led offensively by third baseman Mitch Delfino (.270, 13 HR, 76 RBI) and center fielder Jesus Galindo (.273, 1 HR, 25 RBI, 48 SB), who both joined the Giants for the playoffs. First baseman Joey Rapp (.267, 6 HR, 54 RBI) was also a top performer while the middle infield duo of Duffy and Trevor Brown were both late-season call-ups to San Jose.
The strength of the GreenJackets club was seen on the mound behind 2012 first and second round draft picks Chris Stratton (9-3, 3.27 ERA) and Martin Agosta (9-3, 2.06 ERA, .180 AVG) along with Kendry Flores (10-6, 2.73 ERA, 17 BB, 137 SO). Tyler Mizenko (2.75 ERA, 25 SV) and Jorge Bucardo (1.84 ERA, 6 SV) both excelled out of the bullpen.
A handful of players from the Short-Season Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, who led the Northwest League with a 47-29 record this season, could also join San Jose next year.
Full and half season ticket packages for the 2014 San Jose Giants season are on sale now. Tickets are available for purchase online at sjgiants.com, over the phone at (408) 297-1435 and in person at the Municipal Stadium box office Monday through Friday from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM.
Be sure to visit sjgiants.com and the Inside the San Jose Giants Blog throughout the offseason for all of the latest team news and 2014 roster projections.