SF Giants Season Preview: Starting Rotation

Ty Blach of the San Francsico Giants

Ty Blach/Photo: @SFGiants Twitter

The San Francisco Giants have wrapped up spring training and have their roster for the 2018 season. I guess. It hasn’t been officially announced as of Tuesday afternoon. Cactus League action is finally over. It feels like it took forever. I’m ready for some baseball that matters. I bet you are too.

The next few days, I’m going to take a look at the roster to get prepared for the start of the season. First up, the starting rotation. After that I’ll cover the bullpen and the position players. All projections are from the 2018 Baseball Prospectus. Let’s get this season started.

THE STARTING ROTATION

Ty Blach LHP (proj. 28 GS, 9-9 W/L, 148 IP, 150 H, 2.5 BB/9, 5.9 K/9, 97 K, .290 BABIP, 1.27 WHIP, 3.68 ERA, 1.1 WAR)

Johnny Cueto RHP (proj. 24 GS, 9-8 W/L, 144 IP, 134 H, 2.6 BB/9, 7.9 K/9, 126 K, .288 BABIP, 1.21 WHIP, 3.56 ERA, 1.3 WAR)

Derek Holland LHP (proj. 23 GS, 6-9 W/L, 115.2 IP, 124 H, 4.1 BB/9, 7.1 K/9, 91 K, .293 BABIP, 1.53 WHIP, 5.68 ERA, -0.2 WAR)

Chris Stratton RHP (proj. 18 GS, 6-6 W/L, 95 IP, 94 H, 3.3 BB/9, 7.5 K/9, 80 K, .297 BABIP, 1.35 WHIP, 3.65 ERA, 0.7 WAR)

Is this the starting rotation you expected to see? Yeah, me neither. Notably absent are Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija. Last year Samardzija led the NL with 207.2 innings, and Bumgarner is, well, Bumgarner. That’s 2 huge holes in the starting rotation and it’s not just because they are large men. The Giants are scrambling because both injuries took place in the last week.

Bumgarner will be out 6-8 weeks with a displaced fracture of the fifth metacarpal. The bottom knuckle of his pinky. Bum had pins put in to stabilize the injury on March 24 and they will be removed in 4-6 weeks. Then he will need a few weeks to get back his grip and feel. The Giants are saying June is a possible target date. I’m not a doctor, so I have to take their word for it.

Shark will be back in the rotation at some point this season. Apparently, his injury is a strained pectoral muscle, and not an arm or shoulder problem. Which could be considered good news. I guess. Not sure it accounts for all the home runs, but his velocity has been down a tick this spring. The Giants say that Shark should be out a few weeks and may be back by the end of April.

As it stands, the Giants are actually opening the season with a 4-man starting rotation. Because of the way off days line up over the first 2 weeks of the season, there’s no need for a 5th starter until April 10.

Ty Blach gets the nod opening day in Los Angeles. Just like last season, he is thrust into Bumgarner’s spot in the rotation after an injury. The Giants went 6-8 in starts Blach made last season while he was filling in for Bum and stayed in the rotation after Bumgarner’s return from injury. Blach was originally slated to be the number 4 or 5 starter in 2018.

Johnny Cueto is going to have to carry a heavy load this season. He’s coming off a rough 2017 that was marred by blisters and ineffectiveness. He’s the ace for now on this hodgepodge of a starting rotation. The Giants are counting on Cueto to return to his 2016 form when he started the All-Star Game, had a sub 3 ERA, and led the NL with 5 complete games.

This spring was up and down for Cueto. He was hittable early but seemed to gain better control late in the spring, showing his best stuff on Sunday in Oakland.

Derek Holland is a bit of a wild card in this rotation. The Giants signed him to a minor league deal with an invite to spring and Holland earned himself a spot in the rotation with a pretty good camp. Holland went 7-14 with a 6.20 ERA for the White Sox last season. Yes, you read that right, a 6.20 ERA. His lifetime ERA is 4.57 but the best years Holland put together were back in Texas during 2011-2012 when he went 28-12 with a 4.29 ERA during those 2 seasons.

That leaves Chris Stratton as the number 4 starter, and who knows as the 5. Last season, Stratton started 10 games for the Giants and wasn’t bad. After allowing 5 runs to Detroit in his first start, Stratton never allowed more than 3 runs in his final 9 starts. Strat has a great curveball and reminds me of a young Matt Cain. Will he have the stamina to be the new Horse? Time will tell.

Other Guys

Madison Bumgarner LHP (projected 29 GS, 12-10 W/L, 182 IP, 161 H, 2.5 BB/9, 9.2 K/9, 187 K, .286 BABIP, 1.14 WHIP, 3.29 ERA, 2.3 WAR)

I can’t believe I have to put Bum in the “other guys” category. Thank you for that,Whit Merrifield.

If Bumgarner does return by June, he could still make over 20 starts this season and have an impact on the campaign.

Jeff Samardzija RHP (proj. 29 GS, 13-10 W/L, 194 IP, 186 H, 2.3 BB/9, 8.1 K/9, 175 K, .295 BABIP, 1.22 WHIP, 3.44 ERA, 2.1 WAR)

Shark is supposed to be back by the end of April. The best I can tell you is he eats a lot of innings when healthy. This spring, Samardzija allowed 6 home runs in 11 innings before being shut down with the pectoral strain. If he doesn’t get that corrected, it won’t matter how many innings he eats.

Tyler Beede RHP (proj. 15 GS, 5-5 W/L, 79 IP, 77 H, 3.2 BB/9, 7.8 K/9, 69 K, .296 BABIP, 1.32 WHIP, 3.72 ERA, 0.6 WAR)

Andrew Suarez LHP (no proj)

I don’t know what to say. One of these guys will be the 5th starter until Shark comes back. Neither Beede or Suarez have pitched above AAA in their young careers. Beede was a first round draft choice in 2014 and the Giants have been waiting for him to make the leap. Suarez was a second round choice in 2015 and the chatter is that he has good upside. I think the Giants stay with Beede because he’s a right-hander and put Suarez in the pen. It’s possible the Giants sign someone at the last minute, but unlikely.

There’s your 2018 San Francisco Giants starting rotation to start the season. Believe me when I tell you, it will probably look a lot different by August and September as certain guys prove they can hang and others are washed out.

I’ll be back with a look at the bullpen tomorrow and the position players Thursday before the opening game against the Dodgers.

We recorded our Season Preview episode this week. Chad, Willie, and I made some predictions and tried to guess the Giants win total. Our annual tradition. You can find that in all the normal places as well as some new ones. Podcast episodes are also now available on YouTube and Spotify.

-Eric

 

 

 

 

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