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An exercise in thankfulness: looking at the Giants’ starting rotation

I’m going to find one silver lining to be thankful for for every Giants starter and you can’t stop me

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

As a baseball fan, complaining, moaning, and belittling happens from about, say... March to October, give or take. November is a time for thankfulness (I take Thanksgiving VERY seriously).

That’s why I’m determined to find something nice to say about every guy who toed the slab as a starting pitcher for the Giants this season. Yes, even Jeff Samardzija.

The Giants starting pitching... well, it could have been better in 2018. In the end, the staff posted a 4.08 ERA (LOL at the Giants scoring more than four runs a game), pitched 890.2 innings, and mustered together 73 wins (sorry for all the times you were Cain’d, guys). That being said, things could have been WAY worse. Overall, the Giants’ starters ranked 10th in ERA and 7th in innings pitched in the National League. They also ranked 12th in wins and and 14th in strikeouts... hey I said it could have been worse, I didn’t say HOW MUCH worse.

So instead of looking at the bad, I’m going to go through each ten starters the Giants use this season and find something I’m thankful for.

Here we go:

MADISON BUMGARNER

I’m going to start with an easy one - the big dog, MadBum. I’m not even going to crack open the stats because what I’m thankful for doesn’t have to do with anything numeric.

This is the second season in a row that Bumgarner has been on the DL for a pretty significant amount of time: “The Great Dirt Bike Tragedy of 2017” and the most terrible timing to break your hand as a pitcher: the last day of spring training.

Here’s where I get to what I’m most thankful for: I never once doubted Bumgarner’s desire to get back on the mound as soon as possible and compete to be the best he can be. Bumgarner’s drive to be the best pitcher possible has never been a question in my mind.

When you’re watching 162 games of somewhat lackluster baseball, it’s nice to see Bum go out there every day and pitch like everything’s on the line and his hair is on fire. I’m thankful for his competitive spirit and his appetite to be the best.

DERECK RODRIGUEZ

A million things come to mind but the thing I’m most thankful for in Dereck Rodriguez is that the Giants called him up and gave him a shot this season. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, he was one of the only real bright spots in an otherwise forgettable season.

Besides being a great story (converted outfielder, no one was talking about him, dad is Pudge Rodriguez, you know the drill), he was just plain GOOD. He gave the Giants 19 starts and 14 of those were quality starts. If he had enough innings, he may have gotten real consideration for the rookie of the year.

So bravo to D-Rod for making the season have ups, not just downs. I appreciate that.

DEREK HOLLAND

Derek Holland was by far one of the more reliable players on the Giants roster. And yeah, I’m thankful for that. But I guess I’ll go a different direction with Holland but saying I’m most thankful for a bit of comic relief here and there. From his postgame press conference shirts:

To the Ballot Brothers:

To the water jug after walk-off wins:

And yup, I’m aware that Holland had some not so good times, but I’m compartmentalizing for the sake of this exercise. Humor, yup. That’s my final answer.

ANDREW SUAREZ

Andy Suarez came in as a rookie and filled some pretty big shoes in the first half of the season - and that’s what I’m thankful for ... the FIRST half of the season (let’s not talk about the second half).

The Giants were down and out - Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Madison Bumgarner were all having issues/on the DL. It was a lot to ask for someone like Suarez to come in and be a suitable replacement.

In the first half he had a 3.94 ERA, 89.0 IP, and held down the fort for 16 games when there were no veterans available. Not bad for a rookie thrown in the mix.

His second half and his bunting though... yeah, we can talk about that some other time...

CHRIS STRATTON

Here is where I start getting a little dicey with this “thankfulness” exercise. We kind of went over the “good” and now we kinda get into the “meh”. I was fully in love with Stratton’s curveball early on in his minor league career. His kill pitch was beautiful and watching it, I could understand how he was a first round draft pick for the Giants.

Unfortunately this season, he was pretty forgettable and his secret weapon, the curveball, just didn’t look as impressive as it had in the past. According to Fangraphs, he was throwing it less and it was yielding a higher batting average than it did in the past from .116 to to .269. Ruh-oh.

So I guess what I’ll say I’m thankful for is an extended look at what Stratton would really look like as a big league pitcher. Getting a long look like help the front office evaluate what they have and more importantly, what they need. That in itself is a gift. Right?

TY BLACH

Ty Blach didn’t have a particularly great season - he finished the year with a 4.25 ERA. The once promising pitcher has now kinda been pushed to the wayside by the rookies who outperformed him this season.

But what you absolutely cannot pry from his cold dead hands is his ability to pitch against the Dodgers. This season he was 2-0 in five starts against the rivals with a 1.29 ERA and holding batters to a .205 batting average.

Anyone who can dismantle the Dodgers makes me thankful.

JOHNNY CUETO

Okay, this is a no brainer. I am most thankful for this - no commentary needed:

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selfie

A post shared by Johnny Cueto (@johnnycueto47) on

CASEY KELLY

It was just announced today that Casey Kelly is going to be playing baseball in South Korea. Good for him, man.

I don’t have much to say about the guy who pitched just three game for the Giants. But I liked when he got to make his first start with the Giants in a game against the Cincinnati Reds, where his dad, Pat Kelly, is the bench coach. Prior to that game, Casey had been through a lot of injury including Tommy John surgery. So yeah, it must have been a nice moment for the Kelly family.

Thankful for moments like this that break up the trivial moments of baseball. That was a nice story. I’m going with that.

JEFF SAMARDZIJA

I stared a this one a lot and have found news ways of procrastinating to avoid thinking about this one too hard. I almost went the “his injury let us see what the rookies could do” route but I diverted.

Samardzija was injured almost entirely this season. He pitched just 44.2 innings. The year prior he was one of the best. He had one of the top innings pitched in the league, he had really great strikeout-to-walk-ratio, and he had consistent velocity. He was a horse for the team.

Since the only thing to happen between the incredible season to the really-bad-no-good-very-bad-season he had this year was hella injuries. And while I’m not thankful for injury, I am thankful there may be an actual reason why Samardzija turned into almost an entirely different pitcher in his starts this year.

So yeah, to sum it up - hoping for the best and I’m thankful I can rationally explain to my brain why he might have sucked this season. Does this even make sense?

Well, there you have it folks. I went down a positive rabbit hole, just for you guys. I am thankful for everyone who reads our stuff. I hope you guys have a great day celebrating with your loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving!