2015 Season Previews: San Francisco Giants

Over the next several weeks, The Baseball Haven will be creating season previews for all 30 MLB teams. You’ll find their projected records (based on PECOTA records from Baseball Prospectus, as of 2/15/2015), each team’s top three players (based on Steamer WAR projections from FanGraphs), and some valuable notes on each team, including likely bounce-back candidates, potential breakout players or fantasy sleepers, as well as a look back at offseason transactions which led to each team’s projections. Stop back frequently to see where your favorite team ranks!

San Francisco Giants

Courtesy: MLB.com
Courtesy: MLB.com

2015 Projected Record: 84-78 (3rd in NL West, 9th in MLB)

Manager: Bruce Bochy (667-629 in eight seasons with San Francisco, 1,618-1,604 in 20 seasons overall)

Top Three Players: C Buster Posey (6.1), LHP Madison Bumgarner (3.5), 1B Brandon Belt (3.3)

Bounce-back Player: RHP Matt Cain

Since the start of the 2013 season, Cain has gone 10-17 with a 4.06 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 274.2 innings and 45 starts. Over the previous four seasons, Cain had gone 55-35 with a 2.93 ERA and 1.10 WHIP over 882 innings and 131 starts. The last two seasons, Cain has been on the disabled list four times and he has had two surgeries (bone chips removed from his right elbow and right ankle surgery to remove bone spurs). He was never on the disabled list prior to the 2013 season. Some people may think that the 30-year-old right-hander will be a bust after signing his mega-extension, but Cain has had some bad luck the last two seasons with his health, and he has still shown an ability to keep the opposition off the bases, despite the inflated ERA. Look for Cain to be a solid 1B to Bumgarner’s 1A as he returns to form in 2015.

Susac has the tools to be a big producer...if he gets a shot Courtesy: USA Today
Susac has the tools to be a big producer…if he gets a shot
Courtesy: USA Today

Fantasy Player to Watch: C Andrew Susac

Even with Brandon Belt at first base, it doesn’t seem like a smart investment to have your best player at such a vulnerable position in the midst of a nine-year, $164 million contract. For that reason, and that fact that Belt would be an offensive upgrade in a corner over Gregor Blanco, you should keep an eye on Susac, a second round pick in 2011 out of Oregon State. Susac is a slugger with solid on-base skills, while providing a strong arm and solid, but not elite, defense behind the dish. While he is unlikely to log 400 at-bats in San Francisco, possibly even 200 in 2015, there will come a time when Susac is catching and Posey will be manning first base or another position, and this 25-year-old will be worth rostering.

Offseason Overview: The defending world champions lost their star third baseman, Pablo Sandoval, to the Boston Red Sox via free agency, but they did sign OF Nori Aoki and 3B Casey McGehee…Is that enough? The Giants held tight across the board, and they hope to survive with their very good rotation until Hunter Pence returns from his broken forearm to help the offense score some runs. Why fix what has been working? Sandoval was good but not great, and they’ll benefit from the on-base skills from Aoki at the top of the order. That was a sneak-good signing, and the pitching is still there to be competitive.

The Verdict: Well, it isn’t an even year, so the Giants can be written off as champions, since they’ve won in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Maybe next year, they can continue on with their pattern. The 2015 season will be quite interesting. They’ll hope to get some value out of the two-year, $35 million deal they gave Tim Lincecum after his horrific 2012 and 2013 seasons, and they’ll look for continued dominance by Bumgarner, who had one of the most historical performances in baseball history down the stretch and in the playoffs last season. The Giants continue to coast with what they have, adding aging pieces in areas of need, continuing to watch Posey and Pence carry a very average (or worse) group of hitters. If they were able to add something more than what they did this winter, perhaps they could have been capable of repeating, but they’ll settle into the middle of the NL West with another above .500 record, preparing to pounce on some free agents after the 2015 season.


Lincecum-ing Around?

Lincecum2Tim Lincecum won back-to-back Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009 and was an All-Star four consecutive seasons (2008-2011), but in 2012, it all fell apart. Two things happened in 2012:

1) Lincecum was getting big-time money in the first year of a two-year, $40.5 million contract (he did earn $14 million through arbitration in 2011), and…

2) Lincecum’s fastball dropped from 92.3 miles per hour in 2011 to 90.4 miles per hour in 2012 (FanGraphs)

We could add that a third thing happened, as well: Lincecum was absolutely lit up, as he posted a 5.18 ERA over 186 innings and 33 starts before being relegated to a relief role (where he pitched very well) in the postseason. He had just 13 quality starts in his 33 tries (39 percent) and his home run rate, which had never been higher than 9.9 percent, ballooned all the way up to 14.6 percent.

The first two months (11 starts) were about the same for “The Freak” in 2013, as he posted a 5.12 ERA over 65 innings, with just three quality starts. However, something changed in June.

Since June 1, Lincecum has started 12 games and posted a 3.35 ERA and eight quality starts, including a no-hitter on July 13 against San Diego. If you take away his start against Cincinnati the next time out, when he allowed eight runs in just 3.2 innings, due to Lincecum throwing 148 pitches in his no-hitter, his ERA would have been just 2.54.

Lincecum’s strikeout rate has improved, as he has an 82:22 K:BB in 78 innings over this time, a 9.46 K/9 rate, and after having just one double-digit strikeout game in 2012, he has three this season, all in the month of July. While his strikeout rate, even when he was struggling in 2012, never dropped below 9.00 over 9 innings, it is fair to wonder if Lincecum has learned how to pitch with the stuff that he has now as opposed to trying to overpower the opposition with a weaker fastball.

Lincecum1As recently as July 13, there were reports that Lincecum could have been traded to the Detroit Tigers and converted into a reliever, which may have obliterated his earning power as he hits free agency after the 2013 season. Luckily for him, and the Giants (who are reaping the benefits of his sudden effectiveness thanks to their patience), that trade didn’t happen. Considering Lincecum only has one regular season appearance out of the bullpen (4 IP, 4 BB, 4 K in 2008), that could have been a risky mid-season assumption for success. Clearly, his 2012 postseason (when he made five appearances over 13 innings with a 0.69 ERA and 17:2 K:BB) was a factor in the rumors, but the San Francisco Giants appear to be holding out hope that Lincecum will decline a qualifying offer so that they can get a draft pick for their former ace.

Whatever the background or reasons are for Lincecum’s success recently, it is definitely a positive for him as he heads towards being a free agent. He could very well earn a multi-year deal after looking like a lost cause just a couple of months ago. Stars doing what they do best is good for baseball, and Lincecum was a beloved figure in the Bay Area, with good reason, due to his success (and the team’s success) during his tenure there. It wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility that the Giants re-sign Lincecum, especially with Matt Cain looking a lot like the 2012 and early-2013 version of Tim Lincecum, outside of a few solid recent starts.

How the Giants Can Repeat in 2013

The San Francisco Giants won the NL West, won three straight games in Cincinnati in the NLDS to stave off elimination, then won three in a row to stave off elimination against St. Louis in the NLCS, before having an easy go of things while sweeping the Detroit Tigers in the 2012 World Series. The Giants rode the wave of an amazing fan base (over 3.3 million at AT&T Park in 2012) and even more amazing pitching, developing a group of talented arms to lift them to their second championship in three seasons.

Looking ahead to 2013, the Giants have a few players that they may be concerned about as they reach free agency. Marco Scutaro, Angel Pagan, and Jeremy Affeldt played important roles in the playoffs, while Melky Cabrera (prior to his 50-game suspension) was a superstar and Ryan Theriot provided depth for the middle infield throughout the regular season.

Should the Giants bring back Cabrera, trusting that he can be an All-Star without synthetic testosterone, or should they count on the core that brought the team a title, re-signing Pagan and counting on Gregor Blanco in left in 2013? With Freddy Sanchez and his brittle body reaching free agency, can the Giants afford to let Scutaro, who hit .362/.385/.473 in 61 games with San Francisco, leave town?

While the champions have questions at second base and the outfield, they don’t have many elsewhere on the diamond. Hunter Pence struggled to a .219/.287/.384 line once he was acquired from the Philadelphia Phillies, but he is under team control for one more season, he is a solid regular in right field, and his useful right-handed bat will complement the order, allowing Bruce Bochy to have a switch-hitting Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Pence, and left-handed hitting Brandon Belt in the middle of the order. Belt finally has trust from Bochy, as well, taking over the first base job exclusively from Aubrey Huff and hitting .329/.401/.494 over the final two months of the season. Brandon Crawford showed that his slick glove can overcome his career .235/.299/.333 triple-slash, showcasing his powerful throwing arm and range for a national audience during the playoffs.

Courtesy: sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Beyond the everyday players, the Giants are absolutely loaded with pitching. Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito, and Tim Lincecum are all signed for next season. Some have wondered what Lincecum’s role will be, especially after he thrived out of the bullpen in October, but he’ll probably get a shot at the rotation before they pay him $22 million to be a relief pitcher in 2013. Speaking of money…Cain, Zito, and Lincecum combine to earn $62 million in 2013, while Vogelsong’s $5 million and Bumgarner’s $750,000 salaries are clearly bargains.

The bullpen is interesting, as well. Brian Wilson (aka “The Beard) is arbitration-eligible, so could he be non-tendered since Sergio Romo showed that he was capable of dominating as a closer in the playoffs and throughout the season? With Santiago Casilla as insurance in the closer role, it could be possible. Affeldt teamed with Javier Lopez as a dominating left-handed duo. If Affeldt is not re-signed, Jose Mijares, who posted a 2.56 ERA over 78 appearances (27 with the Giants), may see a bump in usage.

The San Francisco Giants are set up to be contenders again in 2013. While the team has a need in center or left field, depending on whether they try to re-sign Melky Cabrera or Angel Pagan, their most glaring hole will be the leadership and skills that second baseman Marco Scutaro brought to the club after being acquired from the Colorado Rockies. With a strong pitching staff from top to bottom, and a solid core of offensive talent, led by Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Hunter Pence, the Giants can and will continue to get by with very little offensive help from their other pieces. It is all because their rotation can be so dominant, as evidenced by their 71-49 record and 3.73 ERA in 2012.

Look for the Giants to find a way to keep both Scutaro and Pagan, their No.1 and No.2 hitters, and do very little else on the free agent market to keep the core of this talented group together. They really can’t afford to do much else due to the contracts to Zito and Lincecum, but selling out AT&T Park and the revenue that comes along with 3.3 million fans and a title could lead to a surprise signing.

World Series Preview

With the Giants Game 7 win on Monday night in San Francisco, the world prepares for its series, with Game 1 on Wednesday night at AT&T Park. The Giants get home-field advantage with that awesome Bud Selig, All-Star Game idea, as the National League won the mid-summer classic in July.

Some things to look forward to:


Courtesy: dcobb1621.blogspot.com

The Tigers’ starting pitchers are 5-1 with a 1.02 ERA in nine postseason games, covering 62 innings, while posting a 66:19 K:BB. That stat includes the absolute domination of the New York Yankees in the ALCS, where Tigers’ starters were 3-0 with a 0.66 ERA. The Tigers have the luxury of setting up their rotation for Game 1, which would allow them to start Justin Verlander in Game 1, 4, and 7; however, Jim Leyland has penciled in a four-man rotation in the World Series, with Verlander, Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez, and Max Scherzer slated to toe the rubber for the Tigers.

The Giants taking the St. Louis Cardinals to seven games and losing Matt Cain is sort of devastating for the outlook on the series. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy could surprise people with what he does, especially after moving Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum around from the rotation to the bullpen already within this postseason. If Bochy keeps his NLCS roster, the Giants could start Tim Lincecum in Game 1, followed by Barry Zito, Ryan Vogelsong, and Cain in Game 4. Due to Lincecum’s struggles in Game 4 of the NLCS, could the “rest” that Bumgarner received allow him to jump back into the rotation, after Bochy said he was “tired” after his Game 1 loss to the Cardinals?

However the Giants rotation shapes up, the spacious ballparks involved in this series will allow for success from the least likely of candidates. The power that lies in the arms of the Tigers’ starting pitchers could make for some high strikeout totals, while the blend of power and finesse in the Giants rotation could lead to some very low scoring games.


Power in the throwing arms is evident but the greatest asset that the Tigers possess are the two bats in the middle of their order, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera. Those two are capable of changing the game with one swing, and while the Giants have power in the bats of Pablo Sandoval, Hunter Pence, and Buster Posey, they aren’t nearly as productive, historically and recently, as the portly sluggers on the Tigers.

Courtesy: USAtoday.com

While Comerica Park and AT&T Park can sap the power in both lineups, both teams have enough on-base and speed guys (see Austin Jackson and Marco Scutaro) to manufacture runs. However, one swing of the bat can change everything, just ask Cincinnati fans, who saw the grand slam by Posey in Game 5 of the NLDS destroy their lives. While the advantage lies with Fielder and Cabrera, the Giants, so long thought to be ineffective offensively, have enough to win this series.


There is nothing better than postseason baseball. Watching the fans in San Francisco the last two nights is what makes baseball special. While they were there for all of the 81 home games in the 2012 regular season, the fire and excitement over the last two nights fueled the Giants to an amazing comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the NLCS.

The Tigers are showing the passion of a city in the middle of a rebirth. While there were times of weakness, the strengths of Detroit came out to conquer those moments, establishing the franchise as a legitimate juggernaut, just as Detroit has done with the rebound of the American car manufacturing companies.

The pitching is going to make the “normal baseball fan” bored, but this series is exactly what the die-hard fans enjoy. The team that makes the first mistake in each game will lose, and the scores will look lower than a Tiger Woods scorecard before his man-whorishness was made public.

What to Expect:

The Giants will enjoy their home-field advantage in Game 1, continuing the momentum that drove them to a tremendous comeback over the Tigers, but due to the opening game loss, Jim Leyland will run Justin Verlander out for Game 4 and again in Game 7, which the Tigers will win with another Verlander shutout.  Max Scherzer becomes the Tigers’ version of Trevor Rosenthal, making several appearances but totally shutting down the opposition.

Tigers in 7. Justin Verlander will be the World Series MVP. Brian Wilson‘s beard is still better than Sergio Romo‘s, however, it’s still a distant second to Peter Griffin’s.  

Courtesy: familyguy.wikia.com

Giants AT Reds, Game 5

Game 5 of the NLDS series between the San Francisco Giants and Cincinnati Reds will take place on Thursday afternoon at 1:07 (if the Oakland A’s beat the Detroit Tigers Wednesday night) or 2:07 (if the Detroit Tigers beat the Oakland A’s on Wednesday night). Kind of confusing for those who hold tickets, but this is what to expect…

Mat Latos is officially starting on Thursday for Cincinnati. Latos came in for Johnny Cueto in Game 1 due to Cueto’s oblique strain, which he suffered after tossing eight pitches. Latos tossed four innings on Saturday night, allowing one earned run (2.25 ERA), but he was not considered for the Game 4 start because: 1) Latos had never pitched on three-days rest, and 2) Latos has been battling the flu.

Matt Cain, the loser of Game 1, will take the ball for the Giants in Game 5. Cain allowed three earned runs over five innings (5.40 ERA) at AT&T Park on Saturday. The Giants were 22-10 in Cain’s 32 starts in 2012, and while Cain managed to go 16-5, he lost back-to-back decisions twice this season.

Dusty Baker will probably go back to Ryan Hanigan behind home plate and Scott Rolen at third, especially after Todd Frazier failed to impress the veteran-loving manager with his 0-for-3, one RBI performance on Wednesday.

Bruce Bochy would be wise to stick with Joaquin Arias at short and Hector Sanchez behind the plate, as their eight-run outburst in Game 4 was a far cry from the team’s performance in the first three games. Arias is 3-for-6 with two doubles and three runs, while Sanchez was 1-for-2 with two walks in Game 4, his first opportunity of the postseason.

After going 12-for-95 (.126) with four runs in the first three games, the Giants were 11-for-33 (.333) on Wednesday.

Cincinnati scored 14 runs in the first two games of the series, but have scored four runs in the last two games, while going 13-for-68 (.191) as a team.

With the potential 10:07 AM PT starting time, you have to consider how San Francisco will function. The Giants were just 32-32 in day games in 2012, while Cincinnati was 39-17.

Cincinnati fans are weary of the potential collapse after waiting nearly 17 years between postseason wins. Their dreams of watching the Reds clinch the series at home will come down to a single game, now.

San Francisco is riding high and has the momentum. Their big night could leave their fans wondering if they saved any offense for Thursday’s deciding game.

Game 5. Thursday afternoon from Great American Ballpark. The MLB postseason at its finest.

What is the Deal With Pitching?

Six no-hitters, including three perfect games. Of 23 perfect games in the history of baseball, three have taken place during the 2012 season, that is 13 percent of all perfect games, folks.

What can you blame the change on? Is it steroid testing? You still had to hit the ball with all of those muscles. Is it expansion? There hasn’t been a team added to Major League Baseball since 1998, when the Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays made 30 teams.

From 1900-1919, baseball went through what was called “The Dead-ball Era”. Christy Mathewson, Cy Young, and Walter Johnson dominated during this time period where home runs were scarce, and balls to play with were even more scarce. Are we starting a second “Dead-ball Era” right now?

Pitchers seem to be throwing harder than ever. Aroldis Chapman’s 105.1 mph at PETCO Park in September of 2010 is the fastest fastball ever recorded. Of the fastest fastballs ever observed, listed at www.baseball-almanac.com here, 7 of 48 (15 percent) have occurred since the start of the 2010 season and 29 of 48 (60 percent) have occurred since the start of the 2005 season.

Pitchers are throwing harder. While we’ll never see another pitcher toss 300-innings in a season, as Nolan Ryan did twice and Walter Johnson did for nine consecutive years (1910-1918), will pitchers fail to reach 200-innings to maximize speed in coming seasons, possibly increasing rotations from five to seven to make it happen?

Gone are the days where relief pitchers are the only hurlers who can throw the ball 100 miles per hour. Justin Verlander and Stephen Strasburg hit 100 miles per hour consistently as starting pitchers, with Verlander hitting 100 miles per hour on his 130-pitch of the game on August 6, 2012. In fact, of the top 30 average fastballs since 2002, 13 of those pitchers are starting pitchers (43 percent).

With more torque on the body like Tim Lincecum, crazy training and warm-ups like Trevor Bauer, or totally babying prospects like the Orioles have done to Dylan Bundy in 2012, the human body and sports science continue to do impressive things.

With Phillip Humber, Matt Cain, and Felix Hernandez now throwing perfect games in 2012, it makes you wonder what was going on from May 8, 1968 until May 15, 1981. That would make 4,752 days between Catfish Hunter’s and Len Barker’s perfect games. What about April 30, 1922 until October 8, 1956. That was over 12,570 days between Charlie Robertson’s and Don Larsen’s perfect games.

Pitchers are dominating in 2012 and while players lose the supplemental bulk and giant heads that came with performance-enhancing drugs, it could only get more lop-sided, especially with talent young arms continuing to develop within systems around baseball.

GM for the Day: San Francisco Giants

After winning the World Series in 2010, the Giants finished 86-76, good for 2nd in the NL West.  The team was still made up of veterans, but they did see a couple of new faces, like SS Brandon Crawford and 1B/LF Brandon Belt.  The Giants are in an interesting period in the coming seasons.  They are working on locking up Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, while still trying to develop some offensive talent.  They have drafted well in recent seasons and they’ll be getting Buster Posey back in 2012, they still have some incredible pitching, but do they have what it takes to get back to the top?  The current 25-man roster:

2 Catchers: Buster Posey and Eli Whiteside

1B: Aubrey Huff

2B: Freddy Sanchez

3B: Pablo Sandoval

SS: Brandon Crawford

LF: Melky Cabrera

CF: Angel Pagan

RF: Nate Schierholtz

Bench: Mike Fontenot (INF), Emmanuel Burriss (INF), Justin Christian (OF) and Brett Pill (1B)

Starting Pitching: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito

Relief Pitching: Brian Wilson, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Dan Runzler and Steve Edlefsen

The Giants have an interesting roster.  They could do better at short than Crawford and still may.  If they’re looking to upgrade there, good luck.  They’re better off hoping that Crawford’s glove makes up for his lack of hitting skills until Joe Panik, a college bat who could move quickly, is ready.  What would have been better?  Putting Nate Schierholtz and Angel Pagan on the pine, moving Aubrey Huff to RF, Brandon Belt to LF, and signing Prince Fielder to make some splashes in the bay.  This team has been in desperate need of a bat since Barry Bonds took his gigantic head home, not by choice, of course.  Honestly, I know they had good pitching, but how in THE HELL did the Giants beat the Rangers 4-1 in the 2010 World Series?  Pablo Sandoval could become the bat that the Giants need.  He’ll be 25 in 2012 and he hit 23 homers, even after breaking his wrist in 2011, in just 117 games.  He should approach 30 and become one of the few solid 3B in baseball in 2012.  The Giants would be the favorites in the NL if they got Prince Fielder, though.  I know I had Fielder going to the Cubs and I know that he is talking to the Nationals, but they could probably afford him and one of their aces, Cain or Lincecum.

I know that having a great 1-2 punch in Lincecum and Cain is fantastic, but Bumgarner is going to be capable of becoming that 2nd ace in the next couple of years and Eric Surkamp is ready to slide into the rotation.  The Giants have had great pitching for years.  The home ballpark has helped, even Ryan Vogelsong rejuvenated his career last year.  The rotation is loaded still.  They should be unbeatable in the playoffs with Lincecum, Cain and Bumgarner in 2012, so why not go for it…if that’s what it’s all about.

If the Giants made a huge splash and signed Fielder and moved their lot of first baseman to the outfield, they’d become a little less effective defensively, but they’d still have their pitching and now they have an offense.  Buster Posey is a star, Sandoval is a star, Belt could be a star, Melky Cabrera is not a star but he’ll do in center, and Aubrey Huff is only good in years ending in an even number.  Look it up.  I wouldn’t lie to you.  What do you think of a 25-man roster with a little more depth?

2 Catchers: Buster Posey and Eli Whiteside

1B: Prince Fielder

2B: Freddy Sanchez

3B: Pablo Sandoval

SS: Brandon Crawford

LF: Brandon Belt

CF: Melky Cabrera

RF: Aubrey Huff

Bench: Nate Schierholtz (OF), Angel Pagan (OF), Emmanuel Burriss (INF), Mike Fontenot (INF)

Starting Pitching: Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito

Relief Pitching: Brian Wilson, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, Dan Runzler and Steve Edlefsen

Upgrade, right?