It’s always a fun day when the new ZiPS projections come in. While the projections are admittedly fallible — unless the Giants really did make the postseason last year, and this was all some sort of fever dream — they’re the best we have. And they’re interesting to chew on. They taste like grape, which is my least favorite candy flavor, but at least it’s candy.
This year’s installment from FanGraphs suggests that the Giants can expect a whole lot of improvements because they were awful last year. I approve of this.
2018 ZiPS Projections – San Francisco Giants https://t.co/jF7rJvWSdD— FanGraphs Baseball (@fangraphs) January 12, 2018
If you’re still angry that the Giants are trying this year, please look at that danged infield. Between Posey and the rest, the Giants are projected to get 18 wins out of five of the eight players in their lineup. That’s really, really good. No, it’s not as good as the Dodgers’ projection, but that’s something of an unrealistic standard. Look how it compares to the Rockies or the Cardinals. The Giants, even though they lost 163 games last year, actually have a head start when it comes to their roster.
While the outfield looks horrible, consider that it would represent about a nine-win improvement over last year!
The Giants used 17 different players in the outfield last year. Their combined WAR was -3.1.— Grant Brisbee (@mccoveychron) December 13, 2017
If you take away Brandon Belt, which you should, their combined WAR was -6.1.
More importantly, though, you can be absolutely certain that the starting outfield won’t be Parker/Gorkys/Pence, at least not without a blimp accident involved. If the Giants were to get, say, Lorenzo Cain and J.D. Martinez, future be damned, suddenly their lineup would look absolutely formidable in these projections.
Or, more realistically, if the Giants get almost anybody with a pulse to fill two out of their three outfield spots, the entire lineup will look much better.
That doesn’t mean they’ll be set, though. ZiPS is lukewarm about the top of the Giants’ rotation, which needs to be great-not-good if they’re going to compete, and the bottom of the rotation fares much worse. While I’m expecting a low-cost signing like Scott Feldman or Trevor Cahill, it’s not like that move is going to shove the Giants into the World Series. The rotation might be an issue according to these projections, even with Bumgarner and Cueto back and mostly effective.
The bullpen is projected to be just a win worse than the Dodgers, but it’s silly to project bullpens with any sort of certainty. It doesn’t appear to be one of the worst bullpens in baseball, and it just might be slightly effective.
The projections let us know what we should have known already: The entire offseason comes down to the Giants finding an outfield. They might be able to threaten .500 as is, but if they really want to contend, they’re going to need a center fielder and a left fielder, at a minimum. Then they could figure out what to do with the back of their rotation and the bullpen.
Here’s yet another reminder that the lineup isn’t the apocalyptic hellscape it was last year. That’s why last year stunk so bad. It’s why it shouldn’t stink that bad again.