The Payoff Pitch finishes its look at the National League West
San Francisco Giants
Last Year: 92-78, 2nd in NL West
Key Addition: The New Fair-weather Fans
Key Loss: Nori Aoki, Free Agent (Mariners)
Outlook: It’s an even year. The Giants win the Pennant! The Giants win the Pennant!
The Giants win the World Series!
Even if this wasn’t an even year- the Giants are strong. The already solid pitching staff got stronger with the additions of Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. It could even be considered the best in baseball. With Mad Bum as their ace and the potential stars behind him, there isn’t much of a drop off throughout the rest of the rotation. Cueto is coming off a solid year in the NL and Samardzija is due to have a career year (although in fairness, every year the past few years he has been due).
In the back end of the rotation, you have Jake Peavy and Matt Cain. Not bad for your number four and five options. Peavy and Cain just need to be their solid selves in this rotation, and that lack of pressure may increase the chances they have better years. And, if this happens to be Samardzija’s year to figure it out AND Peavy and/or Cain can turn back the clock slightly, we could be talking about an absolutely dominant rotation and the Giants will no doubt find themselves at the top of the West.
Offensively, the Giants aren’t sexy, but that’s doesn’t matter, they prefer it that way. To be honest, we look at this squad and, aside from a few guys like outfielder Hunter Pence and first basemen/catcher Buster Posey, we see a handful of starters who would be forming their own benchwarmers show if they played on different teams. Yet, perhaps because of up and comers Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt and Matt Duffy, the Giants simply get the job done. All four are coming off career-best years.
The Giants really didn’t lose anybody of importance either; in the “Key Loss,” we’re lamenting the loss of someone who could have ended up as their fifth outfielder. The Giants were hurt by injuries last year, but should come back strong and be a force to be reckoned with. The stability of the Dodgers and improvements by the Diamondbacks likely won’t be enough to knock off the Giants in their quest for their fourth title in seven years.
The infield is anchored by Crawford, a guy who always seems to be getting a clutch hit for the Giants. The rest of the infield shows a lot of promise: Belt has been steadily improving each year, Panik and Duffy both built off solid debut seasons. Pence, looking to bounce back from an injury-riddled 2015, and Angel Pagan always seem to find themselves in the middle of a Giant rally. And we really haven’t even gotten to the Giants best position player: Buster Poesy.
Of course, this is baseball and the unpredictability of a season is one thing that will never change. On the bright side for the Dodgers, as close as the Giants are to mounting a title run, there is potential for a letdown. Cain has been extremely hittable for a while now, Peavy is up there in years, everyone is still waiting for Samardzija to break out and Cueto was nothing special in KC to finish up last year.
The Giants didn’t lose any key players but also didn’t improve at any spot in the day-to-day lineup, aside from being able to count on guys who were injured last year. Anticipating improvement from young guys is to be expected, but each guy can also falter and take a step backwards. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks need to hope this happens, or else we could be talking about the even-year dominance again in two years.
Best Benchwarmer: Gregor Blanco
We also like Kelby Tomlinson, a stat filler and super sub that played in exactly one-third of the Giants games last year. But Blanco fills an important role for the Giants, in addition to adding some speed and some light pop to the Giant bench. Although he has struggled in the postseason the last two trips with the Giants, Blanco is the fourth outfielder for San Francisco and is really the only true outfielder they currently have on the bench. He’ll be needed to give the starters rest and keep them healthy for the entirety of the season.
Prediction: The even year dominance will eventually end for the Giants. But, with one of the top, if not THE top rotation in baseball, it will take some serious baseball from the other teams to end it this year. The Giants had a great offseason, losing virtually no one and adding great pieces to the mix. It’s tough to win a World Series, but the Giants seem built to win. But, we’re Dodger fans and we control this: We won’t go that far in our praise. The even year streak ends this year.
Final Finish: 100-62, 1st in NL West – World Series Loss
Those Bench Warmers are Derek Cheng (on twitter @DCheng110), Rob Diaz (@_RobJoc) and Riley Saxon (@coachrileysaxon). They enjoyed their time on the bench during their playing days and produce a weekly Youtube show on Tuesdays. Those Benchwarmers can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @warming_benches.