Disclaimer: I know this is jinxy, but the last section of this recap still applies. If I can jinx the Giants, then I'm also solely responsible for all three championships because of my specific actions. You're welcome.
The Giants didn't make the postseason last year, mostly because of lousy starting pitching. This is not a controversial opinion. The Giants believed in this analysis so strongly, they committed $220 million in response.
The Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija deals were more than a desperate attempt to improve the starting rotation, though. The contracts had as much to do with timing as need, and the strength and relative youth of the lineup is just as important as the obvious need. The Giants spent because they're in a spot they've never been in since moving to San Francisco. This isn't an ordinary collection of position players.
Wins Above Replacement isn't a perfect tool, blah blah bluh, but it's a useful tool. It would be pretty hard for a position player to be worth three WAR without being a good player. The math would have to be seriously screwed up. Last year the Giants had five players with three wins or more: Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, and Matt Duffy. Since 1958, here are the Giants lineups to do the same:
The difference between all those teams -- other than, you know, Willie Mays being pretty okay -- is that all of the 2015 Giants with three wins or more were under 30.
Now, you can't just project the young Giants to get better in a linear fashion. Duffy and Panik exceeded expectations. Posey is a catcher, and those things are always wearing down. Belt sure seems to get hit with baseballs a lot. Crawford took a big leap forward offensively, and those don't always have to hold.
On the other hand, both Panik and Belt dealt with injuries last year, and they still made the cut. Also, Hunter Pence has been a three-win player or better for most of his career, so he's at least insurance against regression or the unexpected if the GIants want to repeat this bit of, uh, non-trivial trivia.
Mostly, the potential beauty of the 2016 Giants is that they have a chance to spread the risk around their lineup. And the best way they could keep that up for the next few years would be to add an outfielder under 30, whether by trade or free agency. If you're going the first route, expect to overpay in terms of prospects. If going the latter route, expect to spend nine figures on Justin Upton. But I'll take an over-30 dude just for next year, too. I'm not picky.
This is all why I'm for the Giants taking a risk on that last outfield spot. While Gregor Blanco is swell, just swell, there's something about getting greedy and stacking up seven obvious, unambiguous starters in the lineup. Even if two of them pooter out or get hurt, more than half the lineup would still be competent. Blanco would get to play in the comfortable role of super-fourth outfielder, and we could all complain about the few underperforming players like the spoiled brats we are.
And if the Giants got one of the premium left fielders, and everything worked out, without major surprises or nasty injuries, the Giants would have their best lineup in San Francisco history, no big deal.
Just hearing "if everything works out ... without major surprises" makes baseball demons excited, if not aroused, so this isn't something to expect. Ha ha, oh, baseball has plans for all of us. But the Giants had a special lineup last year. Everyone who was a part of that statistical quirk is under 30. They have a player coming back who has traditionally been just as good. And they have the opportunity to add another player to join the group, with a fortuitously timed crop of free agents sitting right in front of them.
The old me would have ended with something cynical. The new me likes to jam as many even-year references into a post, so as to annoy the undesirable baseball people who might be reading. The real answer is probably somewhere between cynical and EVEN YEAR, but I'm really, really curious to see what it will be. The Giants have a special chance, here.
/baseball stands on the table and disrobes
Oh, this could be good. Or horrible. But the setup sure is intriguing.