Every year, I think about starting my community projections in February. Every year, I think, nah, because I need those story ideas for March. Every year, I run out of time and neglect to predict the seasons for several important Giants.
This year, I’m acknowledging my failures. While the community projections are just an individual season preview for each player under a different name — and perhaps it’s time to rebrand them as such for the future — they’re still important snapshots of how I felt about certain players at the time. I didn’t do a Matt Cain projection last year, and that just kills me, because I would have loved to laugh-cry at the optimism today.
So this is a lightning round. I apologize because this goes against the spirit of the typical post, which is to be a de facto preview, not a dumb way for me to share projections. But this is for science. And my own self-satisfaction.
The 2016 season wasn’t an unusual one for Denard Span. He’s hit like that before. He might hit like that again. In 2013, his first with the Nationals, he hit .279/.327/.380, with a 94 OPS+ in 610 at-bats. Last season, Span hit .266/.331/.381, with 91 OPS+ in 572 at-bats. Those seasons are effectively identical. The first example didn’t define his career. The second one doesn’t have to.
After getting called out by anonymous evaluators in the national media, Span lit the Cactus League on fire. Coincidence? Probably. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t a good feeling for him, though.
The problem with this thinking is that Span is 33 now. That’s a larger mountain to hike up. And even if he comes back to get down-ballot MVP votes like he did after that 2013 season, his defense probably has a ceiling of “slightly below average” now.
Last year wasn’t that bad, really. He was still worth a win above replacement, and he got better as the season went on, hitting .287/.336/.429 in the second half, with seven (!) homers. Those seven second-half homers ranked second on the team.
First was Angel Pagan, with eight..
Gonna have a cocktail now.
Denard Span, 2016 projection
Denard Span, 2016 actual
Denard Span, 2017 projection
His Cactus League numbers stunk, but his World Baseball Classic numbers were great. Starting to think that we shouldn’t read too much into either one.
Crawford’s 21-homer season was an outlier, which was to be expected, but he’s still improving. He had his highest career batting average and on-base percentage, and he led the league in triples. He won his second straight Gold Glove, and he finished 12th in the MVP voting while he was at it.
He’s pretty swell, everyone. And if you’re predicting a good season from the Giants, you kind of have to predict the same for Crawford.
Brandon Crawford, 2017 projection
Finally ready to admit that he was a better fit for the Giants than Beau Mills.
This is probably as productive as Bumgarner can get. The good news is that, ha ha, it sure is productive. He’s thrown 200 innings or more for six straight seasons, with sub-3.00 ERAs in the last four. He set career marks for ERA+, ERA, and strikeouts last year.
Also, he’s 27.
If there are concerns, they have to do with his workload. He led the league in batters faced last year, and he led the National League in pitches thrown. Just because he isn’t 30, that doesn’t mean he isn’t immune from pitcher gremlins.
Still, he’s been tremendous for seven years now. What’s the harm in predicting eight?
Madison Bumgarner, 2017 projected
It is increasingly hilarious to me just how worried I was about Cueto’s prospects for 2016.
Johnny Cueto made his long awaited debut in a Giants uniform on Wednesday. It ... didn't go well. There were shimmies and twists and quick pitches, but none of it worked. He gave up five runs and a dinger in 1⅓ innings, and now we have four days to look around nervously. It's spring training for looking around nervously, and we'll try some new things out. By April, we'll look around nervously as well as we ever have. That's how it works.
I’m sure I wrote “Spring training stats are meaningless hurrrr” about a different player later that week, but only if it fit my preconceived notions. With Cueto, everything was sketchy.
And look at us now! The Giants have co-aces. Excellent, menacing co-aces. I’m going to be so sad if the Giants lose Cueto after the season. It’s hard to believe that I was living in fear of that same contract just a year ago.
Cueto should be fantastic again. And watch out for that Cueto shimmy-bobble. It might be the coolest ballpark giveaway I’ve ever seen.
Johnny Cueto, 2016 projected
Johnny Cueto, 2016 actual
Johnny Cueto, 2017 projected
Doing these projections is cathartic because they allow me to think things like, “Oh, right! The Giants have Buster Posey” and “Say, this Johnny Cueto fellow had a fine season last year,” and it makes me optimistic for the season. Which starts in a couple days.
THE SEASON STARTS IN A COUPLE DAYS. It doesn’t feel so bad that the even/odd year mythology was left on the side of the road now. Clean slate, everyone.