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What the Giants are trying to accomplish with the Andrew McCutchen trade, in one chart

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Well, actually, it’s a table. But the internet loves charts, so that’s what’s in the headline.

Pittsburgh Pirates v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

One of the benefits of being a C-grade, third-tier internet sports personality is that people love to share their opinions with you. To provide a topical example, after the Giants traded Andrew McCutchen, I received several tweets and emails that suggested that the Giants are acquiring nothing but over-the-hill, over-35 players.

Looks like this is the best team in baseball .......... if it was 2013.

The Giants sure love their veteran washups.

Why are the Giants even trying? -

Sincerely,
Bryan Murphy

Understandable complaints, all! But when you strip the names away from the Giants’ projected starting lineup and focus on what sort of production they might provide? It starts to make sense.

While my biggest quibble is the suggestion that Andrew McCutchen is a 35-year-old player who needs a motorized scooter, it’s probably better to shut up and leave it to the stats to explain. The stats are impartial. The stats are cold and unfeeling. The stats don’t know about even-year nonsense, and they don’t care that the Giants lost 98 games last year. The stats will grind you up and sell your powder on the black market if the return is profitable.

Now that we’ve pledged fealty to the cold, unfeeling stats, here’s a comparison of what the Giants received from the top player at each position last year and the stats that ZiPS is expecting from the top player at that position in 2018:

Giants projected lineup, 2017 to 2018

Position 2017 WAR 2018 WAR (projected) Improvement
Position 2017 WAR 2018 WAR (projected) Improvement
C 4.3 4.9 0.6
1B 2.3 3.3 1
2B 2 3 1
3B 1.1 3.1 2
SS 2 3.5 1.5
LF 0.4 1 0.6
CF 1.2 3.4 2.2
RF 0.7 0.7 0
Total 14 22.9 8.9

Nine wins, then. If you figure that the Giants’ Pythagorean record of 67-95 last year was indicative of their true record, that would give the Giants a 76-86 record without expecting anything more from their pitching staff. Except they’ll be expecting more from their pitching staff. And you would hope — demand? — that the peripheral players on the bench wouldn’t actively work to destroy every hope the Giants had, which is what they did last year.

I’m still hoping that the Giants get a center fielder to make the outfield defense better, pushing McCutchen to a corner spot. But even if they don’t do that, they should improve at almost every position by either standing pat or making trades.

I’ve followed a lot of Giants teams trying to get better. I don’t remember ever seeing a team that projected better at every position. It helps when a team is at the bottom of the well with broken thumbs, wondering how they’re going to climb out. Still, you can understand why the Giants felt at least a little comfortable trying again with the pieces they had in place. Everything should get better. Everything shouldn’t have been as bad as it was last year.

Everything is fine.

Everything is fine.

Everything is fine.

Everything is finb.

Evrrything is finb.

Borbything i forb

Bimpporfm o frlm

Brrbbrrrbb or mrr

BBBBBbbbBBBbbB

But, no, seriously, everything is mostly fine. The Giants might not win the World Series next year, but they should be better. Substantially better, even. While it would be a lot cooler if they could win the World Series, I’ll settle for substantially better. It would be tempting to go full tank, losing 100 games for four years, and building up the same way the Astros did, but those are four, long, long, long years. The Giants can still do that! Just give them one last gasp, first.

And if they’re gasping, they’re at least grabbing players who should be better than last year. That’s a start. It might be an end, but at least it’s a start.