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Friday, January 22, 2016

Giants a powerhouse, but not perfect

After what has been one of the most exciting, intriguing and expensive winters in recent San Francisco Giant history, there will be plenty of expectations in 2016. Despite having some smaller question marks (mostly health related) surrounding some of the key players, those expectations should be high to the point of World Series or bust.

I mean, let's take a look at the caliber of acquisitions the Giants made this winter, not being shy and making savvy decisions. Move one: bringing flame-throwing Jeff Samardzija back to the NL where he had a lot of success with the Cubs in 2012 and 2014 especially. Move two: bringing in an even bigger, more potent arm in Johnny Cueto who clearly gives them one of, if not the best, 1-2 combo's with Bumgarner. Move three: Shore up the outfield in a big way with Denard Span, a dynamic leadoff man and center fielder who completed the lineup. And even better, I don't feel like they overpaid anyone except for possibly Samardzija, but I think he'll be just fine at AT&T. Had he not had that 4.96 ERA and allowed 228 hits and 29 home runs and was coming off his '14 season after a solid '12/'13 when being made a full-time starter, this guy would easily have gotten something like 5/$125M, if not more. Some want to worry about Cueto's fall-off with KC last summer and his little arm issue but I mean let's be real, any of these hard-throwing big-time arms are always at risk of injury. Even Matt Cain, the guy who seemed so much like the iron man of the Giants rotation has run into problems the last few years.

What I really want to talk about though is the outfield, and how things have come together with the Span signing. First off, let's not forget that Angel Pagan was a integral part of two of the championship teams and the Giants aren't about to give him a short leash at the beginning. Some fans want to pick on Pagan after the sub-par season he's coming off but the guy was playing hurt a lot cause the Giants just didn't have the options. When he's healthy though, he's gonna hit .285'ish and he's gonna hit for some sneaky extra-base power with an OBP around .340. Plus, he's great on the base-paths and is a shoe in for 20+ swipes if healthy and a decent center fielder (for the most part) on top of all that. That said, if he's hitting .242/.303/345 come June and isn't providing anything, then yes, a team with aspirations such as the Giants' will certainly be looking at alternative options. That's so far away from happening though and so far off the Giants current radar right now. I'm actually optimistically curious to see how Pagan fairs lower in the lineup. He does have more extra-base power than your typical leadoff guy and now can let a little more swing out, and his very average OBP isn't really great for the leadoff role anyway.

The other Giants' outfielders have questions themselves. Hunter Pence should be OK, as his injuries last year were pretty much just freak accidents, but boy was that a different offense during those 52 games Pence was out there. Barring something un-foreseen, he should be good for his usual 150+ games as his DNP's last year were his first for any reason since joining the Giants in the middle of 2012. Denard Span, the newest Giant and the guy who could end up being one of the biggest steals of the offseason, also spent more than half of 2015 on the DL. All signs and reports out of his camp and from the people who did his physical say his hip is back to normal but only time will tell for the 32 year-old who played just two games in the 2nd half of '15. The exciting thing about him though, and the reason why the Giants took that risk is because of the player he is when he's healthy and right. He's got the ability to change a game with his speed, his glove and his extra-base abilities. He doesn't hit for home run power, but averaged 36 doubles and 8 triples from '12-'14 (and that was with him only playing 128 games in 2012). His career batting average of .287, OBP of .352 and his average of 28 SB/full season show why the Giants and many other teams were so keen on him.

Matter of fact, I'd be willing to bet, as long as they both stay healthy, Span's average, hits, OBP, stolen base total and runs scored will all be higher than Jason Heyward during the next three seasons. Heyward will hit a dozen or so more big flies, drive in a 15-20 more runs thus carrying a higher slugging percentage, but it's the fact that he's 6 years younger is what makes him much more valuable. Basically, for what the Giants need over the next three years though, Span should outperform or equal Heyward in many areas and is coming at $31M instead of $184M. We already mentioned how he's a better leadoff man than Pagan and should lock that spot down for the next three years as well as center field.

I liked the idea off bringing in a slugger with the capability to be a threat to hit a 3-run jack every time he steps up with guys on but would you rather have paid Yeonis Cespedes say, 5 years and $130M or Span the 3/$31M deal he got? Seeing how the Giants aren't power starved by any stretch and could have used an upgrade at leadoff and a guy to take over center field as early as '16, it became a no-brainer. I mean, just look how that move completes the lineup now. They've not only upgraded over Pagan and Aoki at leadoff over last season, but also have lengthened the lineup a lot with Pagan moving down to the bottom of the order. It's not going to make things any easier on pitchers that have to face one of the best hitting shortstops in the game now in Brandon Crawford and a guy who's hitting either 1 or 2 in plenty of other lineups in Pagan, holding the 7-8 holes.

So yes, they should be good, they should be really good. That is if they don't end up having "Hunter Pence doesn't strain his oblique after Denard Span pulls his hammy, Brandon Belt suffers another concussion and Joe Panik's back knocks him out a month" kind of luck. Because while the starting lineup and rotation certainly do look nice, they don't have a lot of room for error in terms of depth. They do have Gregor Blanco, who's a solid 4th outfielder, as well as some intriguing younger options, but they're not deep with experience, that's for sure.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 12:49 AM, Anonymous FastEddie138 said…

    Defnitely looking forward to this year the most of all the teams in the last half decade.

    They have the star front-three guys. They have a nice talented lineup that is majority home grown.

    To me it's going to come down to the pitching. I think they have enough good veteran and solid young hitters on their team to enable their offense to keep them in most games. I mean, if Cueto is healthy, and Cainer and Peavy can give them 180+ quality innings things could be looking great in San Francisco come September. Big if for sure, but Cain isn't 32 until mid-season and I think this is the year that will tell what his career will be like here on out. Me thinks he's going to be way hot and cold. Maybe a nice 7 IP, 2H, 1 ER start followed buy a 4.1 IP,10 H, 3 BB, 7 ER. Hope I'm wrong but um still worried a wee bit about our 4/5 starters?

  • At 1:40 PM, Blogger MosesZD said…

    I am pretty bullish.

    1. Even if Cueto & Samardzija only replicate last year's performances, we're 10 Quality Starts to the better in the starting rotation.

    2. The Pythagorean wins last year pegged the Giants at 89. So the RF/RA is very good and there's little doubt, to me at least, we're going to do better with Runs Against with the pitching upgrade.

    3. We upgraded CF with Span, he's got to be worth a couple of wins.

    4. The bullpen is in better shape than last year if only because of the growth of Strickland who had the second-best swinging-strike percentage or some such stat after Chapman. He's really growing into relief dominance. But I think there are other BP stars in the rise as well.

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