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Series Preview: Giants-Padres in Mexico City!

Can the altitude give the Giants some loft as they head into May?

President Lopez Obrador Throws Out First Pitch At New $207 Million Stadium

The San Francisco Giants have had 17 winning seasons and one .500 season in their past 30 years. Here are the five worst March/Aprils of those winnings teams (sorted least-worst to most-worst):

  • 2011: 13-13, .500
  • 2009: 10-10, .500
  • 2016: 12-13, .480
  • 2004: 10-14, .417
  • 2015: 9-13, .409

So, only a sweep this weekend at the hands of the San Diego Padres would put them on a path that, historically, hasn’t really worked out for the team — if you’re just expecting them to have a winning record. Even last year, they ended the first full month of the season 14-7.

The season is off to a weird start, though. Although the Padres were projected to be right on the Dodgers’ heels, it was for the top spot in the division. For now, both teams are chasing the Diamondbacks. The Giants are treading water in fourth place while they try to sort out their inconsistences in all facets of the game.

Those inconsistencies don’t equal the Padres’ shortcomings after their first 27 games. The Giants have actually been better, according to the numbers. A lineup with positive run values hitting- and fielding-wise for a cumulative 4.1 fWAR to San Diego’s 1.8. Padres’ pitching has been over half a win better (2.2 fWAR to the Giants’ 1.5), though if you compare starting staffs, the Padres’ advantage shrinks to 0.2 fWAR (1.8-1.6).

San Diego has a -20 run differential at this point in the season. That’s more surprising than bad because it’s mostly the result of their 99 runs scored — that’s ranked 12th out of 15 in the National League! Juan Soto! Manny Machado! Xander Bogaerts! Fernando Tatis! 99 runs! The Giants are just 12 runs better (10th of 15), but you’d think those values would be swapped when you think of these two teams.

Of course, I’m burying the headline here. As part of the “MLB World Tour” program, this two-game series will be in Mexico City, Mexico, the first time in Major League Baseball history that a regular season game has been played there. Eleven regular season games and some Spring Training games have been played in Monterrey. The Mexico City games had been on the schedule for 2020 but canceled and rescheduled to this year due to COVID-19.

This is a scheduled home game for the Padres, but it’s also 1,700 miles away from Petco Park. Oh, and about Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu, I’m sure most of you already knew this, but Mexico City is at an elevation of 7,349 feet. It’s 41% higher than Coors Field, which means we should be seeing a lot of offense, even from the 10th and 12th-best lineups in the NL.

Still, given San Diego’s proximity to the US-Mexico border, I’m going to have a big smile on my face if I see any Mexico-based Giants fans around what’s hopefully a fun and festive weekend — With some great baseball...?


Series details

Who: San Francisco Giants at San Diego Padres
Where: Estadio Alfredo Harp Helu, Mexico City, Mexico
When: Saturday (3:05pm PT), Sunday (1:05pm PT)
National broadcasts: MLB Network (both games)

The Giants are also having a watch party:

Projected starters:

Saturday: Sean Manaea vs. Joe Musgrove
Sunday: Alex Cobb vs. Yu Darvish

Where they stand


Record: 13-14, 3rd in NL West
Run differential: -20, 13th in the NL
Postseason standing: 2.5 games out of Wild Card, 6.5 games out of the division
Momentum: 1-game losing streak; 5-5 in their last 10 games


Record: 11-14, 4th in NL West
Run differential: -11, 10th in the NL
Postseason standing: 3.5 games out of the Wild Card, 3.0 games out of the division
Momentum: 1-game losing streak; 6-4 in their last 10 games


Three Giants to watch

Sean Manaea: Friend of the site, Doug Bruzzone, spotlighted Manaea as a Giant he’s really concerned about, and when you look at his line, it’s easy to see why.

16.1 IP | 6.61 ERA | 6.96 FIP | 5.11 xFIP | 7.96 xERA | .237 BAbip | 22.7% HR/FB

But within that, we’re still looking at a guy averaging a career-best 94.3 mph with his fastball and a career-high 9.9 K/9. He’s walking dudes and giving up hard contact (48.8% Hard Hit rate on Statcast) so maybe he’ll ease up on the velo in hopes of being tougher to square up? Statcast indicates that batters are hitting his pitches on the sweet spot 39.5% of the time — pretty unsustainable.

And remember: Ross Stripling will probably piggyback the Saturday start. Even though he has looked better in his two last appearances, he’s still a flyball pitcher in a stadium that’s going to juice flyballs even more than this year’s juiced balls.

Alex Cobb: Is he the best starting pitcher on the Giants right now? He might have to be the stopper on Sunday and he’ll be up against the Padres’ ace, Yu Darvish. Cobb’s 0.7 fWAR is tied with ten other starters, but his 62.5% groundball percentage is the best in the National League (2nd in MLB overall behind Framber Valdez’s 65.5%) and of the starting pitchers who have allowed a home run this season (five starters have yet to surrender a HR), his 0.64 HR/9 is 16th-best in the sport (9th in NL). He’ll need to keep the groundball magic going against the Padres’ lineup in a probable home run incubator.

Joey Bart: Can he take a week of positive press into the next and be an offensive force at the bottom of the lineup? And he’ll need to be a force behind the plate to limit the Padres’ running game — such as it is, though. They have just 13 stolen bases in 17 attempts and FanGraphs’ scouting shows them at just +0.3 runs for baserunning (tied with the Giants).

Musgrove and Darvish present interesting challenges for him because of how different they are: the former a groundballer and the latter a swing-and-miss guy. Regardless of which of them he faces or even both, the Giants will need offense from the catching position.


Three Padres to watch

Juan Soto: The generational talent has just 21 extra base hits in 79 games (344 PA) since being traded to the Padres, and although he leads the league in walks (23), his .344 slugging percentage is the 17th-worst in baseball! But... wait a minute... just worse than him is Ha-seong Kim... and then there’s Manny Machado, the 11th-worst in slugging (.324).

Ah crap. Is this the weekend the Padres’ mashers get to mashing?

Trent Grisham: I really hate this man.

His 41 career hits against them is his most against any other team. His line of .272/.319/.477 (.796 OPS) in 43 games is just... he’s a different player against the Giants, or the team’s pitching plan of attack against him has been simply awful. I can’t wait to see how they fail to get him out.

Josh Hader: He’s come a long way since giving up a walk-off grand slam to the Giants last July. Just looking at Statcast, he’s in the top 5% or better when it comes to all the expected stats (xBA, xSLG, xwOBA, xwOBAcon, xERA), Hard Hit rate and strikeout rate, and in the top 10% of average exit velocity. He’s yet to allow a home run and batters can’t hit his slider (63.6% Whiff rate). He’s very much like the Giants’ idealized version of a reliever (power sinker, high spin slider) and he’ll be a really tough matchup at the end of the game if the Giants are trailing. Austin Slater, Darin Ruf, Joc Pederson, Wilmer Flores, and Michael Conforto all have hits off of him. He’s never faced Mitch Haniger before...


Prediction time!


Giants vs. Padres - How will it go?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    (63 votes)
  • 17%
    Padres sweep
    (16 votes)
  • 15%
    Giants sweep
    (14 votes)
93 votes total Vote Now