2014 San Jose Giants Season In Review
By Joe Ritzo
The 2014 San Jose Giants season saw the club recover from a slow start to post the franchise’s 11th straight winning campaign, but fall short of extending their league-record streak of consecutive playoff appearances.
The year began with high expectations as the Giants, armed with a prospect-laden starting rotation, embarked on a challenging early-season schedule. San Jose though struggled out of the gate as the team endured three separate four-game losing streaks in April. Third baseman Mitch Delfino started the year hot blasting six home runs during the opening month while infielder Blake Miller quickly emerged as a threat in the middle of the order. 2013 co-team MVP Mac Williamson returned to San Jose as a DH-only while attempting to rehab from an elbow injury. To no surprise, Williamson thrived at the plate hitting .318 with three home runs in 23 games, but the elbow didn’t respond and the slugging outfielder was forced to undergo season-ending surgery at the end of the month.
As the starting rotation was marred by inconsistency and the bullpen struggled to hold leads in the late-innings, the Giants fell to a season-high eight games below .500 at 12-20 after a May 5 home loss to Modesto. The tide though slowly began to turn as San Jose recovered to take the next three games from the Nuts before a solid 4-3 road trip against division rivals Stockton and Visalia. Steven Okert stepped forward as a dominant closer and would remain perfect in save chances through early-June. The relief corps, expected to be a major strength of the team coming into the year, recovered from their difficult start. Tyler Mizenko took the reigns as a reliable set-up man, Tyler Rogers joined the team from Augusta and immediately made a positive impact while Stephen Johnson and Mason McVay settled into their roles in middle relief. Joe Kurrasch was added to the roster from Extended Spring Training and stabilized the starting rotation with a string of impressive outings while Miller continued his first half surge at the plate, highlighted by a walk-off grand slam in the 11th inning to defeat Stockton on May 22.A five-game winning streak during the first week of June returned the Giants to .500 for the first time since early-April. Power hitters Brian Ragira and Chuckie Jones began to hit their strides after slow starts while center fielder Jesus Galindo put the finishing touches on a successful half from the leadoff spot of the order. San Jose completed the first half in fourth place in the North Division with a 34-36 record. Okert was the club’s lone All-Star representative after fashioning a 1.57 ERA and converting 19 out of 20 save chances. Okert then went on to save the All-Star Game for the California League against the Carolina League with a scoreless ninth inning.
The Giants looked to start fast in the second half, but again struggled early dropping six out of their first eight games. But unlike in the first half, the team quickly recovered and would put together their best extended stretch of the season. Following three straight victories at home over Visalia to close out June, San Jose traveled to Modesto and took three games in a row from the Nuts – their first road series sweep of the year. Unfazed by a home series loss to hard-charging Stockton over the Fourth of July weekend, the Giants swept three games from first half champion Bakersfield. A 13-strikeout performance from starting pitcher Matt Lujan, who had joined the team from Augusta at the start of the second half, then highlighted a series split at first-place Stockton. San Jose kept streaking through mid-July with their best homestand of the year, a 6-1 week against South Division opponents Rancho Cucamonga and Lake Elsinore that included a pair of walk-off extra-inning victories.
Outfielder Elliott Blair paced the club during the run with a .402 batting average throughout July while infielder Brandon Bednar also excelled at the plate after joining the team from Augusta at the start of the month. In addition to Lujan, Kendry Flores (2.22 ERA) and Pat Young (4-0, 3.04 ERA) thrived in the starting rotation during July. Out of the bullpen, Mizenko and Bryce Bandilla shared the closer’s duties capably after the promotion of Okert to Double-A Richmond. From June 27 to July 22, the Giants went 18-6 to catch Stockton for first place in the second half race while moving three games ahead of Visalia in the Wild Card.
Back-to-back difficult weekends followed, however, against rivals Visalia and Stockton as the Giants fell in the standings. San Jose dropped four straight games in Visalia, including two heartbreaking walk-off defeats, to mark their first time swept since early-April. The Giants then opened August by losing three out of four to the Ports at Municipal Stadium as Stockton began to put significant distance between themselves and the rest of the division in the second half. And for the first time all year, San Jose endured significant roster turnover forcing the club to make adjustments heading into the final month. Kurrasch was sidelined for almost a month due to a groin injury. Pitcher and former first round pick Chris Stratton was promoted to Richmond with offensive stars Blair and Miller joining him a few days later. Flores and Galindo then both suffered season-ending injuries during a doubleheader in Bakersfield on August 6.The result was a Giants roster peppered with new faces as the club looked to make a strong push to the playoffs throughout August. Slugging outfielder Tyler Horan was added from Augusta to give San Jose a feared left-handed power bat in their lineup for the first time all year. And Horan delivered clubbing 10 home runs with a .321 batting average in his 28 games from the middle of the order. Veteran outfielder Ryan Lollis came down from Richmond while Nick Vander Tuig was promoted from Augusta to help bolster a depleted starting rotation. A few days later, top prospect and Cuban defector Daniel Carbonell was added and took over in center for the injured Galindo. The dynamic Carbonell dazzled at the top of the order with a sizzling .344 batting average, three homers and seven stolen bases in his three weeks with the team.
The Giants briefly reclaimed the Wild Card lead thanks to a five-game winning streak against Bakersfield and Lancaster before an up-and-down road trip during the middle of August. San Jose suffered consecutive extra-inning losses in Rancho Cucamonga, but followed that with two wins in Stockton, including a wild 11-10 victory in the series opener. With two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Giants returned home tied with Visalia for the final playoff spot in the North Division.
San Jose began their final homestand with a pair of wins over Modesto, but managed just one hit in the finale in taking a loss to fall a game back. The Giants and Rawhide then matched-up in a showdown series to conclude San Jose’s home schedule. Unfortunately for the Giants, they were shutout twice by Visalia in dropping two out of three. The costly series loss put San Jose two games back of the red-hot Rawhide heading into the final week of the regular season.
The Giants traveled to Southern California to end the year and won three out of their first four games of their final road trip against Lake Elsinore and High Desert, but did not gain any ground on Visalia in the standings. On the third-to-last-day of the season, the Rawhide officially eliminated San Jose from playoff contention – the first time since 2003 that the Giants did not qualify for the postseason. San Jose ended the year with an overall record of 73-67.INDIVIDUAL STANDOUTS
• Joe Biagini, RHP (23 GS, 10-9, 4.01 ERA) – Bay Area native was a steady performer in the starting rotation leading the team in wins and ranking fifth in the league in ERA.
• Elliott Blair, OF (.316, 5 HR, 35 RBI) – Versatile outfielder returned for his second season in San Jose and was leading the team in batting average at time of his promotion to Richmond on August 1. Played all three outfield positions and hit .360 after the All-Star break.
• Daniel Carbonell, OF (.344, 3 HR, 12 RBI) – Top prospect outfielder joined San Jose in early-August after signing a major league contract with San Francisco two months earlier. Batted .344 and had multi-hits in nine out of his 21 games.
• Mitch Delfino, 3B (.289, 12 HR, 77 RBI) – Tied for the team lead in games (131) and won San Jose’s Defensive Player of the Year award for his play at third base. Steady performer offensively who led the club in doubles (28) and hits (154), was second in RBI’s and third in home runs.
• Kendry Flores, RHP (20 GS, 4-6, 4.09 ERA) – 40-man roster member, struck out 112 in 105 2/3 innings. Had a 2.60 ERA in eight second half starts before an early-August season-ending shoulder injury.
• Tyler Horan, OF (.321, 10 HR, 27 RBI) – Had a stellar final month with the Giants after his promotion from Augusta. Hit 10 home runs in 28 games and had an OPS of 1.046.
• Chuckie Jones, OF (.256, 15 HR, 66 RBI) – Primary right fielder hit 12 out of his 15 home runs after June 1 and was second on the team with 17 stolen bases.
• Joe Kurrasch, LHP (15 GS, 8-4, 3.05 ERA) – Inserted into the starting rotation in early-May and went onto win the team’s Pitcher of the Year award. Allowed two runs or fewer in 11 out of his 15 starts.
• Matt Lujan, LHP (12 GS, 6-2, 3.42 ERA) – A workhorse in the starting rotation during the second half after his midseason promotion from Augusta. Pitched at least six innings in 10 out of his last 11 starts and had a 1.64 ERA in his final five outings.
• Blake Miller, 2B/SS (.299, 8 HR, 73 RBI) – San Jose’s team MVP and Offensive Player of the Year after a stellar first full professional season. Hit over .300 in April, May and June. Was among the league leaders in RBI’s at the time of his promotion to Double-A on August 1.
• Tyler Mizenko, RHP (59 G, 3.48 ERA, 14 SV) – Led the league in appearances and was San Jose’s primary closer in the second half. Had a stretch of 17 consecutive scoreless innings throughout June and July.
• Steven Okert, LHP (33 G, 1.53 ERA, 19 SV) – San Jose’s lone All-Star representative was leading the California League in saves at the time of his promotion to Richmond in late-June. Struck out 54 in 35 1/3 innings. Named the club’s Relief Pitcher of the Year.
• Brian Ragira, 1B (.260, 20 HR, 82 RBI) – Everyday first baseman recovered from a slow start to lead the team in home runs and RBI’s. Hit .297 with 15 home runs in the second half.
• Tyler Rogers, RHP (47 G, 2.00 ERA) – Standout set-up man in the Giants bullpen. Allowed just one earned run over his last 25 2/3 innings.
• Ben Turner, C (.298, 2 HR, 40 RBI) – San Jose’s main catcher hit .336 from June 1 through the end of the season.
Playoff Streak Ends… San Jose (73-67) finished the regular season two games behind the Visalia Rawhide (75-65) in the North Division Wild Card standings. It was the first time since 2003 that the Giants did not reach the postseason. During their league record streak of 10 straight playoff appearances (2004-2013), San Jose won four league championships. Despite not qualifying for the postseason, the Giants still posted their 11th consecutive winning season – the longest active streak in the league. This year’s San Jose club was just the fourth team since the California League expanded to its current playoff format in 1995 to not reach the postseason with a record above .500.
League Rankings… Offensively, the Giants ranked sixth among ten teams in the California League in batting average (.267), ninth in runs scored (4.7 per game) and ninth in home runs (103). On the mound, San Jose’s team ERA of 4.51 was fifth in the league and the highest for a Giants team since 2003.
Winning Months… After struggling in April (11-16) and finishing .500 in May (15-15), the Giants posted winning records in June (13-11), July (18-11) and August (15-14).
Count ‘Em Up… 51 players suited up for the San Jose Giants during the 2014 season (27 position players and 24 pitchers). Of the 25 players on the opening day roster, 12 were still with the club at the end of the regular season. Three San Francisco Giants had rehab assignments with San Jose this season: Jeremy Affeldt, Brandon Belt and Santiago Casilla.Odds And Ends… San Jose’s longest win streak of the year was six games (June 27-July 3) while their longest losing streak was four (five times) … The Giants had five walk-off wins this season with one coming on a home run (Blake Miller’s grand slam vs. Stockton on May 22) … Miller had the longest hitting streak this year when he hit safely in 15 straight games during the first half … San Jose was a streaky team in extra-innings dropping their first four games in extras before winning six out of the seven and then losing three out of their last four (7-8 overall) … The Giants’ 21-13 record in one-run games was second-best in the league … Three San Jose players had five hits in a game (Mac Williamson – April 24 vs. Visalia, Jesus Galindo – June 28 vs. Visalia and Brian Ragira – August 27 at Lake Elsinore) … The Giants’ largest margin of victory this season was a 13-0 shutout of Lake Elsinore during the final week (August 27) while their worst lost came on the Fourth of July at home against Stockton (17-6) … San Jose was a combined 22-34 (.393) against Stockton and Visalia and 51-33 (.607) against the rest of the league.
Sixth Straight Year Of 200,000 Attendance… 2014 marked San Jose’s sixth 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 (200,124) and average fans per home game (2,859).
A LOOK TO 2015
The 28th season of San Jose Giants baseball opens on Thursday, April 9 at Lancaster. The Giants begin the year with seven straight road games before their home opener on Thursday, April 16 versus the Bakersfield Blaze. San Jose hosts games at Municipal Stadium on Mother’s Day (May 10), Memorial Day (May 25), Father’s Day (June 21) and Independence Day (July 4) next season.
Full and half season ticket packages for the 2015 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 2015 roster projections.