The first thing that comes to mind when you look at the San Francisco Giants is their phenomenal pitching staff. As quite a motley crew, the rotation is entering their prime as a collective unit. Most of the buzz surrounds perennial Cy Young candidates Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, but what truly makes the Giants’ staff so remarkable is their consistent dominance in the face of virtually no run support. Oh yeah, and this man-child named Madison Bumgarner.
The Giants were 2nd in Major League Baseball last year in ERA (3.20) and quality starts (103), trailing only the big, bad Philadelphia Phillies. They were 1st in BAA (.232), which basically means they’re flat-out filthy. In many respects, the 2011 Giants were an even more outstanding pitching staff than the 2010 World Champion squad. The problem: the Giants scored only 570 runs in 2011, the lowest total in the National League over the last 20 years. That’s plain unacceptable. The good news: the Giants can’t get much worse offensively! But enough about the offense…
#55 Tim Lincecum
What can you really say about this kid? He’s exactly what his nicknames say he is: The Freak & The Franchise. Want to hear something amazing? Before Game 5 of the 2010 World Series, Lincecum weighed in at 157 pounds. By the end of last season, #55 weighed 197 pounds. Thanks to a new swimming regimen and a little In-N-Out self-control, Timmy has dropped to 175, a weight he should be at even if he wants pack on some pounds to avoid petering out like he did in August of 2010.
Even by his standards, Big Time Timmy Jim had great numbers last year, sporting a 2.74 ERA, 220 K’s, 1.21 WHIP and his fourth consecutive 200+ inning season. It’s a crime that his record was 13-14. In 16 of Timmy’s 33 starts, the Giants offense scored 0 or 1 run for his cause. He led the league with the lowest run support at 3.82 (in comparison, Rangers’ starter Derek Holland enjoyed a 9.23 run support average). Thank you, Miguel Tejada.
Prediction: 16-12, 2.90 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 235 K’s
#40 Madison Bumgarner
Still one of the best kept secrets in the National League, MadBum might have the most trade value of anyone on the Giants’ roster. Bumgarner is younger than Clayton Kershaw and his ceiling is just as high. Last year was his first full season and he accompanied a 13-13 record with a 3.21 ERA, 191 K’s, 1.21 WHIP and a 200+ inning year.
I can’t even lie. Out of all the Giants players, pitchers or position players, I am most excited about the pride of Hickory, North Carolina: Madison Bumgarner. He was the best pitcher on the Giants staff during the 2nd half of last season. The kid just deals. And 2012 will be the season he establishes himself as the 3rd bona-fide ace in a Giants uniform. After rediscovering his fastball velocity, Bumgarner is ready to take the next step in his career.
Prediction: 16-10, 3.05 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 205 K’s
#18 Matt Cain
If you were to look up “solid” in the dictionary, you’d probably find a picture of a rock Matt Cain. Underneath that, I’m guessing there’s a reference: “See: Depression.” Why? Cain has the lowest career run support of any active pitcher with 150+ starts, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And yet, Mr. Reliable has never made a peep about how truly inept his teammates are at scoring runs. The agony!
Let’s get back to the lecture at hand. Cain also had a tremendous year in 2011, rocking a 2.88 ERA, 179 K’s, 1.08 WHIP and his fifth consecutive 200+ inning season. Just like his counterpart Lincecum, Cain only had a 12-11 record. The key ingredient to Cain’s upcoming season is that he’s playing for a new contract, whether it’s with the Giants or another club. Never underestimate the power of the contract year. With that said, hopefully they can sign him up before the season starts.
Prediction: 17-11, 2.80 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 168 K’s
#32 Ryan Vogelsong
At 34 years young, Vogey Bear is the Giants’ fourth starter but more importantly, their X-Factor. After being drafted by the Giants and jumping to the Pirates, the Hanshin Tigers and then the Orix Buffaloes, journeyman Vogelsong put together one of the most unlikely season’s in Major League Baseball history in 2011. And his All-Star nod was very well-deserved. Don’t let Keith Olberman tell you any different.
Against all odds, Vogelsong went 13-7 with a scorching 2.71 ERA, 139 K’s, 1.25 WHIP and nearly 180 inning pitches in 28 starts. If he can get anywhere near that this year then the Giants will be sitting pretty. A strained back has been bothering him at the outset of Spring Training, but that injury seems to be fine with additional rest. The Giants need a solid year out of Vogelsong if they want to compete for a divisional crown especially with Jonathan Sanchez gone.
Prediction: 12-10, 3.30 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 145 K’s
And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for…
#75 Barry Zito
Barry Zito is a bad pitcher. When you largely rely on a 85ish MPH fastball and a looping curveball with less and less bite every start, you know you’re in trouble. Sigh. But hey! He can only go up from here. Zito tried to go back to the mental drawing board last offseason by partaking in lots of yoga. That didn’t help. His injury in Arizona really put a damper on his season so hopefully he can at least stay healthy this year and eat up innings.
I’d rather not review Zito’s stats from last year (or any year with the Giants for that matter) so let’s revisit his numbers from 2002, when he won the AL Cy Young with the Oakland Athletics. 23-5, 2.75 ERA, 182 K’s, 1.13 WHIP. Yum, sounds good to me. C’mon Zeets! Can’t you give us just a little taste of your once proud career?
Prediction: I will throw the remote at the TV. Frequently.
So there you have it. The Giants’ rotation features the ‘cream of the crop’, the ‘up and comer’, the ‘been around the block’, and the ‘over the hill’. What the Giants absolutely must avoid are injuries. They don’t have much depth with starting pitching in their farm system and they cannot afford one of their horses to go down. If they do, it’s going to be an uphill battle all season. I’d like to see them go pick up somebody in free agency to compete with Mr. Zito or at worst provide depth.
If there’s one thing I’d like to see this year its for the Giants to hit the ball out of the infield against Clayton Kershaw. Lincecum had three hard-luck losses to the Dodgers’ Cy Young winner last season. Every time Timmy pitches well against him and is credited for the loss, its going to make leaving San Francisco in 2013 that much easier.