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Return of the King

The Giants get to face off against the dude who guided them to something most of us thought we’d never see.

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MLB: Texas Rangers at Oakland Athletics Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants won three World Series in the 2010s thanks to strong pitching, Buster Posey, and Bruce Bochy. Not in a million years did any of us see that coming.

The glory days are far in the past now, but for those of us who lived through it a lot of memories are still available in a moment’s notice. We have Bruce Bochy memories. So weird to type.

Baseball’s beauty is tempered by its entropy. Maybe for some of us those Bochy memories curdled for a time as the franchise entered a post-success era. Those 2017-2019 seasons were painful not just because of the play on the field but by how Bruce Bochy, their famous manager, felt suddenly incongruous.

The game had worked long and hard to nuke guys like him and, finally, he was the last man standing. He said he’d come back, but given how much the game had changed and how he’d (seemingly) failed to change along with it, another manager’s job seemed unlikely.

Then Chris Young (the really tall pitcher) became the GM for the Texas Rangers and convinced Bruce Bochy that he’d handle the Smart Guy stuff and leave the Baseball managing to him. Of course, Bruce Bochy wasn’t afraid of analytics or even AI determining lineup configurations and late-game matchups — these were things the Giants had incorporated during his tenure — but he was a manager who needed to feel in control.

The main way to do that, I think — and as evidenced by the Rangers’ roster construction — is simply by having a roster that doesn’t require platoons or More With Less pitching plans. Buy, draft, or develop nine every day guys and get you a rotation of real starters. That’s a far simpler task for the Rangers than it is the Giants — because of the park, because of the lack of income tax in Texas.

And so here we are watching our rebuilding team face off against Bruce Bochy’s new rebuilt team. He waited for the right opportunity to jump back into the fray, and now he has the chance to retire with a winning managerial record... and maybe win another World Series.

Bochy’s already a Hall of Famer, but the “going out in a blaze of glory” this Texas Rangers team offers him will be a great capper to a career of a man who has made the most out of a lot of tough situations. Oh sure, he had Barry Bonds for a time, but the franchise was mainly concerned with Bonds being the show and everyone else supporting that. In San Diego, he managed a franchise that’d largely been a punchline or merely an “also ran.”

These Rangers are a team of All-Stars streaking across the night’s sky. They had six All-Stars in this year’s game, the most of any AL team, with four players — second baseman Marcus Semien, shortstop Corey Seager, third baseman Josh Jung, and catcher Jonah Heim — voted in by the fans to be All-Star Game starters.

Their lineup leads all of Baseball not just in runs scored (659 - 5.7/game) but wins above replacement (26.8 fWAR). The second-best team (Dodgers) trails them by 3 wins. They have the second-best defense in Baseball, too (though best in the AL). Their entire lineup features above league average hitters. They have no position where a hitter isn’t at least 10% better than the league average, in fact.

In just 115 games, Bruce Bochy has had a better lineup than he ever had with the Giants.

A fun thing to do is be real super fair to the Giants and Bruce Bochy’s tenure and just look at the 2010s. From 2010-2019, the Giants won three championships and reached the postseason one more time. They also scored 6,610 runs, the fourth-fewest number of runs in Major League Baseball during that span.

The Rangers, meanwhile, were fourth-best. They’ve always been able to score runs, but can they pitch? For starters, it helps to have former catcher and pitcher’s manager Bruce Bochy leading the team, because if you give him a halfway decent staff he’s probably going to be the extra 2% that unlocks the best version of that group.

From 2010-2019, the Rangers were surprisingly decent as a pitching staff (maybe not so surprising when you consider they’re the team the Giants faced in the 2010 World Series), generating 151.1 wins above replacement and sporting a 4.32 ERA in 1,621 regular season games. They ranked 13th in MLB for the decade.

This season, Rangers pitchers have generated 12.2 FanGraph wins above replacement and sport a 4.06 ERA, making them the 12th-best pitching staff in Baseball through 115 games. So, not much of an improvement from a history standpoint, but they would seem to have the right guy to manage them.

It hasn’t been a perfect season, though. After a 40-20 start, they’re 28-27 — although, within that, there’s actually a 20-26 run through the end of July that transformed into an 8-game winning streak to kickoff August, which ended on Wednesday night when the A’s shut them out — and they’ve lost two All-Stars to injury: 3B Josh Jung and C Jonah Heim.

Jung was probably the AL Rookie of the Year frontrunner before his hand injury and Heim rated as the best catcher in Baseball before hitting the IL.

Still, the Rangers don’t just have headlining free agent and trade talent like Semien, Seager, Max Scherzer, and Adolis Garcia — they have some depth they obtained through trade that’s really performing:

  • 1B Nathaniel Lowe (acquired from the Rays in 2021) - .280/.347/.449
  • IF/OF Ezequiel Duran (acquired from Yankees in Joey Gallo deal) - .277/.325/.479
  • SP Dane Dunning (acquired in 2020 trade of Lance Lynn) - 7-4, 3.50 ERA in 17 starts, 100 IP

This team doesn’t have Buster Posey, Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner (good version), Matt Cain, Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt, and Marco Scutaro, but it’s definitely the most talented roster Bruce Bochy has ever been handed.

Good for him.

Oh, and they’re probably going to stomp the Giants this weekend.


Series details

Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Texas Rangers
Where: Oracle Park, San Francisco, California
When: Friday (7:15pm PT), Saturday (6:05pm PT), Sunday (1:05pm PT)
National broadcasts: Friday — Apple TV+

Projected starters

Friday: Scott Alexander (opener) vs. Jon Gray
Saturday: Alex Cobb vs. Andrew Heaney
Sunday: Logan Webb vs. Dane Dunning


Where they stand

Rangers

Record: 68-47, 1st in AL West
Run differential: +175, 1st in MLB
Postseason standing: 0.0 games back of Wild Card, 0.0 games back in division
Momentum: 1-game losing streak; 8-2 in their last 10 games

Giants

Record: 62-53, 2nd in NL West
Run differential: +24, 6th in the NL
Postseason standing: +2.5 up in Wild Card, 6.5 games out of the division
Momentum: 2-game losing streak; 5-5 in their last 10 games


Rangers to watch

Marcus Semien: In the first year of his 7-year/$175 million deal with the Rangers, the Bay Area kid and former A had, basically, a league average season (107 wRC+) — effectively a flop. In year two of this deal, he’s rebounded back to being an All-Star (124 wRC+) and has been a really nice player out of the leadoff spot. NOT the best, though — surprisingly, far from it. LaMonte Wade Jr.’s 141 wRC+ from the leadoff spot is 10 spots better on this list. This will be a nice homecoming weekend for him; but, in 15 career games at Oracle Park, he has just a .689 OPS. Within that? 1 walk against 17 strikeouts.

Corey Seager: The other big acquisition by the Rangers before last season did not flop in his debut year with Texas. This season, he’s missed some time with a hamstring strain and thumb sprain. They haven’t slowed him much because his season line of .353/.412/.657 is eye popping. Since returning from the thumb sprain on August 2nd (6 games), he’s hitting .385/.407/.923 with 10 hits in 27 PA (4 home runs, 2 doubles). He has homered in Oracle Park at least once every season since 2017.

Travis Jankowski: Former Padre whom you might remember as being pesky. His career .352 OBP against the Giants is his best against any NL West team. His career line at Oracle Park of .319/.373/.532 (.904 OPS in 51 PA) is 79% better than his career averages. He’s just 2 for his last 25...


Giants to watch

Heliot Ramos: Here’s hoping he’s not relegated to Saturday’s game against the lefty Heaney. I wrote yesterday that Ramos represents a player profile the Giants’ lineup has sorely lacked since Mitch Haniger went down. If his recent hot streak in the minors is to be believed, the 23-year old might’ve figured out how drive the ball consistently.

Logan Webb: I wrote yesterday that he needs to avoid anymore blow ups if he’s going to 1) help the Giants make the postseason and 2) have a better than 50/50 shot at winning the NL Cy Young Award. Again, his home/road split for reference:

Home - 11 starts | 76.2 IP | 2.23 ERA | 76-12 K-BB | 7 HRA
Roads - 13 starts | 77.2 IP | 4.52 ERA | 75-13 K-BB | 10 HRA

The Rangers’ lineup is the toughest test a starting pitcher can have in 2023.

Alex Cobb: He seems to be running out of gas at this point in the season. After a bit of a rest from the All-Star Break (yes, he pitched in the All-Star Game), he came out strong with a 6 inning-1 run affair, but since then, he’s really only handled a terrible A’s lineup (6 IP 9 K 0 runs) and otherwise been mediocre-to-bad. A 5.40 ERA (6.49 FIP) in his last four starts.

The Rangers’ lineup is the toughest test a starting pitcher can have in 2023.


Prediction time

Poll

Giants vs. Rangers - how will it go?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    [Bochy noises]
    (40 votes)
  • 5%
    Somehow, a double switch
    (3 votes)
  • 18%
    Pitcher gets left in a batter too long
    (11 votes)
  • 8%
    Second baseman hits 2nd
    (5 votes)
59 votes total Vote Now