This is a team preview that's meant, in part, for a national audience. That means they're coming, outsiders, to gawk at us like zoo animals. They want to see just how arrogant we are in an even year, see just how many times it's brought up. Here's a reference, then, right in the introduction. Even year, even year, even year.
That's annoying. I absolutely understand that. It's reasonable for Giants fans to be irritated at the constant even-year quasi-jokes. Do you know what's likely to happen this year? Extraordinarily likely? The Giants won't win the World Series. Even if they saw through the regular season to get to the postseason, they have about a 10-percent chance of winning the 11 or 12 games they'll need to. The odds are against them, just like they're against the 29 teams that won't win the World Series. And, lo, the even-year jokes will crumble into dust and ash, which will disappoint and secretly relieve us at the same time.
But, I have a request of you. I want you to close your eyes and picture the Giants winning this year, and just how insufferable we would be. Not just this year. But in 2017 and 2018.
First, the winning. Mmm, yeah, that'd be swell. It's so, so much fun. And my Giants-related endorphin count is frightfully low. Need to boost that sucker. Winning would help.
It's more important to focus on the after, though. Can you even fathom how obnoxious Giants fans would be in 2017 if they won the World Series in 2016?
Buster Posey scratched from start with pinkeye
ODD YEAR. IT'S AN ODD YEAR EVERYONE.
Giants lose typical game in completely reasonable way
UGH, TOTAL ODD YEAR. I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHY WE BOTHER.
It would be hilarious and painful for everyone involved, but it would be even worse for everyone who had to listen to a Giants fan complain. And you know we would complain.
Now think of what 2018 would be like. You think you're hearing a lot of even-year gibberish right now? It would be on magazine covers in 2018. And I'm talking, like, The Economist. It would be a topic on "The View." There would be jokes about it on Big Bang Theory. President Gore would reference it in a State of the Union address. It would be a horrific nightmare for everyone but us.
Which is why we need to keep this beautiful dream alive. Nothing would better combine my two passions of "watching the Giants win baseball games" and "trolling." These are probably your two passions, I'm guessing.
Who would keep these passions from us? Someone sick, I'll bet. But the Giants have our backs, spending hundreds and hundreds of millions to keep the dream alive. Here's how they'll do it:
- Johnny Cueto - RHP
- Jeff Samardzija - RHP
- Denard Span - CF
Before the 2010 season, the Giants' big acquisition was Mark DeRosa. Forget Aubrey Huff, who was projected to start, but came over on a show-me kind of one-year deal. "Will Mark DeRosa fix the Giants' offense?" is probably a headline that exists, somewhere.
This isn't that kind of offseason. The Giants made Serious, Important Moves and took Very Real Risks. If Johnny Cueto is really just a poor man's Yusmeiro Petit now, or if Jeff Samardzija is going to be his generation's Bobby Witt, a stuff-not-results example to reference for years, the Giants aren't just going to say "aw, shucks" and pick up another $90 million starter next year. This is it.
This is the free-agent spending spree for the next few years.
This free-agent spending spree better work, Nerdlinger.
- Tim Hudson - RHP
- Tim Lincecum - RHP
- Yusmeiro "Tim" Petit - RHP
- Jeremy Affeldt - LHP
- Norichika Aoki - OF
No one who will affect your preseason predictions, really, though it's still a little weird that they didn't bring back Petit, considering the general sketchiness of Jake Peavy and Matt Cain. But if they didn't want to send Chris Heston back to Sacramento, where he probably doesn't deserve to be, you can understand it.
This is the first Giants' offseason since Barry Bonds that the arrivals section absolutely crushes the departures section in terms of importance. Which has heightened expectations and MADE US ALL VERY, VERY JITTERY.
What to know about the lineup
This is supposed to be the team's strength. It's what's emboldened the Giants enough to spend $230 million on a pair of starting pitchers. Once we realized that Joe Panik and Matt Duffy were excellent, a new part of Narnia started to materialize in front of us. There were so many possibilities.
Take a spin over at FanGraphs and look at how the Giants stack up in their positional rankings:
- C - 1st
- 1B - 7th
- 2B - 9th
- SS - 7th
- 3B - 11th
- LF - 23rd
- CF - 14th
- RF - 13th
There isn't a team in baseball with that same kind of depth, with seven positions out of eight in the top half in baseball. They led the National League in wRC+ last year, which is a metric that accounts for AT&T Park, but they were also fifth in the NL in runs scored per game, which is absolutely gobsmacking considering where they play. The same lineup is back, more or less, with the All-Stars around the infield entering or enjoying their prime, and the outfielders leaving or attempting to reclaim it.
It's probably best to assume that Gregor Blanco will get 450 at-bats somehow, which might be a positive or a negative depending on your personal feelings of him as a player. But if you're optimistic about the Giants in 2016, here's why. They can hit. They can run. They can field.
Or, to dumb it down into a single sentence: If Angel Pagan in the lineup is still our biggest complaint by July, something will have gone very, very right.
What to know about the rotation
Alright, you see the rankings up there for the position players? FanGraphs has the Giants' rotation as the eighth-best in baseball. That would make them an asset on par with Brandon Crawford, the kind of thing that should set them apart.
The write-up of that rotation, though, contains the following sentence, which is as good of a summation as I've seen at the pessioptimism that the starting five seems to inspire.
The Giants wouldn’t be the first team these pitchers have frustrated.
Doesn't mean the Giants are doomed. Doesn't mean the offseason was a debacle that we'll pay for for years. It just means that the Giants spent a lot of money on two pitchers who frustrated their previous teams. We're talking a few months ago, really. That's how recently they were frustrating to fans and organizations with very high expectations.
Now, one of those teams frustrated themselves right into a November parade, so don't feel too hopeless. But it's hard to see the Giants doing much of anything if Cueto and Samardzija don't both work out.
The good news is that scouts and stats alike suggest that both pitchers should be fine. That, and knowing that the Giants are run by some smart folks who gave both of them a vote of confidence, should ease some jitters. After a rocky start to their Cactus League debuts, both Cueto and Samardzija looked sharp by the end.
Madison Bumgarner should be Madison Bumgarner, and the Giants have several pitchers outside of the starting rotation who can do roughly what the team is expecting from Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, at least until the trade deadline, that is, so it might look like a thin part of the rotation, but there's thickness underneath the thinness. Or something.
What to know about the bullpen
It's not a scary bullpen. They're not coming at you with 14 different closers, like the Yankees. They didn't trade for Craig Kimbrel or Ken Giles. It's mostly the same bunch that was moderately effective last year, with Josh Osich shoved in the Affeld-sized hole.
For the first time, though, the Giants have a next wave of hard-throwing relievers just waiting for a shot. George Kontos had a spring of disillusionment, but there should be plenty of relievers in Double-A and Triple-A to help the Giants not care so much. Hunter Strickland is throwing even harder this year, somehow, and he's the logical choice to replace Santiago Casilla next year (or this year, if something goes awry).
Why are we so worried about things going awry in the bullpen, though? Casilla isn't the most exciting closer, but he's been an effective one since Aaron Rowand was the starting center fielder. Sergio Romo looked like a disaster contract when his ERA crept up above 5.00 in July last year, and then he allowed four runs over his final 31 innings, striking out more than 10 batters for every walk he allowed. Javier Lopez was outstanding against left-handers again, and Osich looked like a keeper in his brief trial.
It's probably a perfectly capable bullpen, with more options for in-season panic moves than ever before.
Prospects to know
Christian Arroyo is the clear gem of the system, a hit monster who doesn't turn 21 until the season is more than a month-old, which gives him the skills that Panik and Duffy both showed off, but in a much shinier prospect package. Don't look for him in 2016, though.
No, look for Clayton Blackburn, who was one of the most effective pitchers in Triple-A last year, and Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker, both of whom will be options for a punchless bench once the Giants stop carrying 13 pitchers. Blackburn's ceiling always gets tossed in the fifth-starter pile, but I'll rescue it, dust it off, and slap a Doug Fister on it. That's a best-case scenario, but it's not impossible to envision the Giants getting something like three really good years from Blackburn. An even year would be a great place to start.
Oh, right, even year. It had been a few minutes since I mentioned that. That means the real prospect to know will be someone like Hunter Cole. Surprise! Here he is to start 100 games and annoy the rest of the league when the Giants are desperate. Hope you enjoy it.
The Giants should hit. The Giants should catch the ball. They'll just need to pitch. A very creative and expensive offseason should help substantially, and the rotation's production will be the difference between the even-year jokes dying and the even-year jokes growing stronger than we could possibly imagine.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go schedule 34 different "EVEN YEAR" tweets and pre-write a post outlining where the parade route will be this year.