San Francisco Giants 2018 Season Preview

The San Francisco Giants have retooled after a horrendous 2017. Although many think they’re “stars” are aging, they have a window to be successful. Longoria and McCutchen bring some much needed pop and depth to a lineup that hit a homeruns ever 43.4 at bats. They look to be a threat in the NL West and if Cueto and Samardzija can produce good innings that will go a long way. The biggest thing for this team is that their two mainstays, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey, remain studs and continue to lead this team to a good year in 2018. With a new core, they will look to make a big push against the Dodgers and DBacks for a playoff spot, whether that be Divisional or a WildCard spot

Key Additions:

Evan Longoria, 3B

Andrew McCutchen, OF

Austin Jackson, OF

Key Losses:

Matt Cain, RHP

Denard Span, OF

Why they can win: The Giants can win because they finally have the names and experience to do it. Last year, nobody hit and this year they have a scary middle of the lineup in Posey, Longoria and Cutch. Imagine if Belt and Pence remember how to play baseball in 2018! They’ve added power and should have at least three 20 HR bats and maybe a few guys hit over .290. They have one of the scariest human beings (who is hurt for a bit) as their ace, a guy who is a comeback of the year candidate in Cueto and a pitcher who has pitched 200+ the last five seasons in Samardzija. They have the immediate offense and defense to do it this season, even if they don’t hit a billion homeruns.

Why they can lose: Notice how I just said “immediate offense and defense.” That’s why they can be good but it can also hurt them. They don’t really have secondary bats and pitching that people think can get it done. Brandon Crawford, Jarrett Parker, Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, Gorkys Hernandez? Blah. Blach, Holland, Stratton as depth starters? Yuck. They don’t hit a ton of homeruns and their pitching was below average in 2017, who knows if it will change this year?

Bottom Line: On the surface there is a good amount to like about the Giants. They have star power names, likable, energetic, fan favorite type guys. But are they a playoff team? Ehhh. MadBum is done for a bit and their pitching would be abysmal without him. I like Panik, Belt and Pence but they all seem like they are not the studs everyone thinks they are. I like the additions of Cutch and Longo obviously and I really hope they can bring this franchise back to a winning culture but I have a very iffy feeling about them for 2018. They seem like the type of team that if everything goes according to plan, they’ll win like 80-85 games and fly under the radar.

Major4 Numbers Game:

Stud: Buster Posey, C

One of two faces of the franchise, along with MadBum, Posey went along ho-hum posting a 4.3 WAR. In his last 6 seasons, he has never posted below a 4.0 WAR, he is the best catcher in the game. He is above average as a framer and he has a solid arm in the running game. Oh yeah and among catchers with 300+ PA he ranks as follows offensively: 3rd in wRC+ (128), 2nd in K% (11.6), 6th in BB% (10.7), 1st in AVG and OBP (.320 & .400). There just isn’t anything more to say about Posey that hasn’t already been said. He is one of the best players in the major leagues and the success he has experienced at this level is completely merited and respected by all of his peers.

Sinkhole: Bullpen

It seems that the bullpen has been an ongoing issue for the Giants since Sergio Romo’s fall from grace. The Giants tried to rectify this last offseason with the signing of Mark Melancon, who battled injuries and only converted 11/16 save opportunities. His underlying numbers suggest a movement towards his career norms, but his swinging-strike rate was down and soft-contact rate dropped 5 points. Behind Melancon is a number of mediocre options: Watson (4.5 FIP the last two years), Strickland (throws heat, can’t find the zone: 10.8 BB%), Gearrin (1.99 ERA was nice, xFIP says it was a fluke 4.65), and the rest of the options aren’t a whole lot more encouraging.

Progression Candidate: Johnny Cueto, SP

Cueto had a terrible season by his lofty standards, and it came at the expense of his opt-out season. I mean don’t get mean wrong, he’ll be making a cool $21M this season, so it’s not like he’s struggling. He experienced his worst season in terms of ERA and FIP since 2009 (4.52, 4.49), his walk rate rose 3 points, and his GB rate decreased by over 10 points. He had a bad year and just flat out pitched poorly. He still managed to post a 1.2 in spite of this dumpster of a season. Why we think he will rebound, first he’s Johnny Freakin’ Cueto, the king of disrupting hitters’ timing and creating decption. In terms of objective metrics, Cueto’s K% was near 2016 levels (21%), his velocity was almost identical, and his swinging-strike rate was actually higher. He still has the stuff to make hitters look silly, and that combined with more run support and better defense behind him allow us to feel confident in pegging him to regression to his career means. Hot Take: Cueto’s ground ball tendencies return and he posts a WAR of over 3.0, making his contract a value surplus.

Impact Acquisition: Andrew McCutchen, OF

This section could easily be joint with Evan Longoria, as him and Cutch were added to the Giants in an effort to extend their competitive window. Both are very strong consistent players, but McCutchen is coming off a stronger year and the change from PNC Park to San Fran isn’t a huge change in home run suppression. Cutch had a resurgent year, posting 28 HRs and K-BB% that was nearly identical to his career marks (6.6%). He is patient and does damage when he connects, as his 122 wRC+ suggests. His $14.5M 2018 salary should be easy for him to provide surplus value (Fangraphs $9M per WAR metric), as he has posted a WAR of >3 in eight of his nine seasons. He is no longer an elite baserunner, but his bat more than makes up for it.

Major4 Prospects, (Top 100):

Helios Ramos, OF (63)

Chris Shaw, 1B/OF

Tyler Beede, RHP

Steven Duggar, OF

Why We Love Them: Great stadium out there, I just wish they had someone fully injected with steroids to bomb a few into the water still. I’m looking at you JT Snow. They exude class with the way they run their organization, win, and their uniforms. Something about them is easy to like. They never seem to be a team you’d think to HATE. I love Posey, he’s a Hall of Famer and I think McCutchen and Longo will thrive in the Bay under a biggerish spotlight. They also have Pablo Sandoval which kind of just makes you smile and say “wow, he’s still playing?”

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