As soon as the Giants left Toronto last month, they turned around and called up Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the #1 prospect in all of baseball, swept the A’s and improved to .500. Since that sweep, the Blue Jays have played 12 games and won...
Just two games.
That’s as many games as Toronto will play against the Giants today and tomorrow.
This is the classic definition of a trap series for a struggling team. The Giants are looking to rebound from a rough week, a rough run of publicity, and a rough few turns of the rotation.
We’re going to see a new outfielder (Aaron Altherr), an opener (Nick Vincent), and a future superstar (Vladimir Guerrero Jr.).
Ah yes, Vladito. Remember when we thought he’d make his debut against the Giants? That was a fun hour. Turns out, the Blue Jays held back his debut because of playoff hockey and instead we had to settle for watching the Giants pick up a two-game sweep in Toronto.
Vlad had a hit in each game of that A’s series. He’s gone 6-for-35 since (10 games, 40 PA). The Blue Jays scored just six runs in their 18 innings against the Giants, 16 in their 29 against the A’s and just 24 in the 111 innings since then (2 runs/game).
Not only have the Blue Jays averaged just 2 runs per game over their last 12 games, they’ve allowed 5.75 runs per game, too. They’ve been bad (2-10). Even worse than the Giants (6-6, 5.58 runs/game vs. 6.92 runs allowed/game) in most respects.
On paper, this would seem to be an even matchup. The Giants have a chance to pick up a couple of games before heading off to Arizona for another tough series. We know it’s really easy to be wrong when assuming the ease of difficulty.
The Blue Jays will be hungry, they’ll be facing the Giants in San Francisco where the Giants seem to play worse (they have a -25 run differential at Oracle versus a -11 on the road) and in the grip of some clubhouse and front office tumult, a state the lowly Blue Jays have been no stranger to ever since the Mark Shapiro era began.
This, uh, should be a fun one.
Pitcher to watch
I want to say just to watch Nick Vincent be the Giants’ first opener of the Opener Era. That seems historic and different enough to warrant a spotlight. But maybe you don’t know enough about the Jays.
Like the Giants, their starting rotation is a shambles. Forty percent of it is on the IL and Tuesday’s starter, Trent Thornton, has been wildly inconsistent. The Giants will miss the Jays’ two best starters, Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, once again.
So, instead, let’s look at what really stands out. The Blue Jays’ bullpen looks really good on paper. 3rd in all of MLB for FanGraphs’ FIP-, which:
FIP is not league or park adjusted meaning that pitchers in good pitcher’s parks will have consistently lower FIPs and pitchers who pitch during eras of lower run scoring will have consistently lower FIPs. To control for both of those factors, FanGraphs offers FIP-, which is a park and league adjusted version of the statistic.
places Ken Giles (1.72 FIP), Sam Gaviglio (3.43), Daniel Hudson (5.38), Joe Biagini (4.33), and even Derek Law (2.36) just behind the bullpens of Cleveland and Houston.
I’d say let’s watch the entire group because getting to bullpens has been the best way for the Giants to win games of late, but this is such a solid group that that seems like a tough ask and for the purposes of a series preview, asking you, the fan, to consider an entire group of arms (when you’re likely to just focus on Derek Law, should he come into a game) seems unreasonable.
Instead, watch out for Gaviglio. The Giants didn’t face him in the last series, but he’s faced the most batters and pitched the most innings out of the Jays’ ‘pen. He’s basically their Nick Vincent, too, with a five-pitch arsenal of sub-90 mph pitches — a sinker, slider, changeup, curve, and cutter, all with decent spin rates. More importantly, he has a 29 K:3 BB ratio. Absolutely absurd, though slightly tempered by the 4 home runs allowed in just 27.2 IP.
Also, please note that, somehow, Derek Law has eight strikeouts in 5.1 IP.
Hitter to watch
Let’s keep our eye on this Vladimir Guerrero Jr. He’s down to a .517 OPS, a far cry from the all-timer who was promised, but again, we’re dealing with just 40 plate appearances. And he turned 20 just two months ago.
Does his rough start suggest that the Giants are just what he needs to turn things around? Oh yes. Absolutely. Nick Senzel had the easiest major league debut you’ll ever see, and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. will get to face the same toothless starting rotation Tuesday and Wednesday... after the Giants deploy their opener, of course.
A lot of Giants fans will be visibly angry about the Giants using an opener in this series. The Giants will get a split.