In March, 2014, every Giants starting pitcher was awful except for Madison Bumgarner. "That's all well and good that Bumgarner is throwing well," you probably said. "But it's not like the Giants can win the World Series with just one great starting pitcher." And then the Giants won the World Series with just one great starting pitcher.
So it's possible to make too big of a deal about this.
On the other hand, we're caught between two powerful forces. There's a part of the brain that knows to ignore spring training stats. If a pitcher has 57 strikeouts in 20 innings, sure, pay attention. But, for the most part, spring stats are junk. Technically, it's better to note that they might mean something, but your pea brain has trouble discerning what's signal and what's noise, and the odds are much better that it's noise.
At the same time, spring training stats are the only tangible scraps of new data we've had for months. Months! Of course we're going to pay attention to them. So here's how the spring has gone for the Giants' projected starting rotation:
Madison Bumgarner: 5 IP, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 SO, 2 OW
Johnny Cueto: 4⅓ IP, 8 ER, 2 BB, 4 SO, 1 OW
Jeff Samardzija: 13 IP, 12 ER, 4 BB, 9 SP (and 21 hits allowed!)
Jake Peavy: 8⅔ IP, 10 ER, 2 BB, 5 SO (and 19 hits allowed!)
Matt Cain: 0 IP, 1 OW
Chris Heston has been fine, of course, but the Giants didn't buy a rotation on a high-interest credit card just so they could rely on Chris Heston. And that all means it might be time to make a comical GLUNK sound as we swallow, signifying just how worried we are about the starting rotation.
I'll start the worry power rankings from the ground up. From "most worried" to "least worried," let's take a quick spin through the Giants' rotation:
1. Matt Cain
Considering that he a) hasn't been himself since 2012, and b) hasn't been healthy since 2013, YES, I'M A TOUCH WORRIED. It's not even cynical to be worried about Cain. All of that spring optimism I mustered here is moldy now, and it's probably more productive to keep track of Heston and Clayton Blackburn right now than it is to expect a miracle with Cain.
If a miracle comes, I will let it wash over me, like so much sugary blue electrolyte water after a walk-off hit. But Cain will probably miss Opening Day, which shouldn't make you feel fuzzy.
2. Jake Peavy
He doesn't have to give the Giants a 30-day notice to be awful, you know. He started slow last year, but finished strong, even if he wasn't exactly a rocksteady innings eater who pitched deep into every game. The hope is that the second-half Peavy from the last two years would be the both-half Peavy for this roster, but he'll need his command. We still haven't seen that command this spring.
Look at us, talking about spring training stats again. And Peavy's the grizzled vet, the guy who is supposed to work on things in every outing. We shouldn't be worried about him! Except for all of the red flags and potentially calamitous warning signs, give me one reason why we should be worried about Jake Peavy.
3. Jeff Samardzija
He's actually tied with Johnny Cueto below, and he looked fantastic for two innings against the Mariners. He made hitters look uncomfortable, and some of them took swings that made it look like they had never seen a major league pitcher before.
Then he allowed eleventy hits and twelveteen homers in the third inning. Which he should try to avoid in the regular season. Again, this is the only new data we have for him since he signed. What does it mean?
Nothing! Probably nothing. It's spring. Clayton Kershaw has an 0.90 ERA this year, even though we all know this is the year he forgets how to pitch. Spring stats don't mean a lot, and I'm just gonna remember how good Samardzija looked in those first two innings.
2. Johnny Cueto
It hasn't been pretty.
No, I mean, the pitching hasn't been pretty. And, yes, I'm going to use this gag all year. The Giants wanted to back off his workload, for good reason, and he's been hit hard in his limited time. Literally! Man, it feels good to literally use a literally right. So satisfying.
Of all the pitchers in baseball who probably get the most out of spring training, though, Cueto has to be at the top of the list. He's a performance artist with a half-dozen deliveries, when it's hard enough for most pitchers to refine just one delivery. While I'd assume that Cueto has freaky muscle memory -- just by virtue of succeeding with this repertoire in the first place -- that doesn't mean he can't be rusty. Eyeballing his career spring stats, it looks like his ERA is around 5.00.
He's a tinkerer, then. Let the man tinker. And stop hitting him with line drives.
1. Madison Bumgarner
It's always scary when a pitcher skips a start with an injury, even a spring start. But I'll keep Bumgarner on the Matt Cain Confidence Plan, in which I won't expect anything different from him until the first time something different happens. Hey, it worked for years and years with Cain, even if it stings now.
It's also possible that Bumgarner hurt himself in a jousting match with Cueto, with both pitchers using fungo bats and their own horses. Think about it. And he's prideful enough to not rest until he gets a rematch. This could be the story that doesn't end.
Now it's your turn. How worried are you about the Giants' pitching right now? There's a poll.