Confession #1: I gave up on this team.
All throughout the month of September I was in favor of a mercy killing.
Just end it.
Put us out of our misery.
But they hung in there.
They were never “out of the playoffs.”
They kept it interesting, and then in the last week of the season they played some of their best ball of the year.
The naysayer would point out the Rockies and Dodgers had nothing to play for, but I would argue that the Giants have done extremely poorly against bad teams/out of the race teams all second half.
They should not have been swept twice by the Padres.
They should not have struggled against the Reds and Braves and Phillies and Rockies.
They were so good, and then they were so bad,
and it made me want to quit and go home.
And yet, here we are, another even year post-season appearance.
Confession #2: Even thought I quit and I just wanted it to end, I also desperately want this team to play the Cubs. “Just get into a series” is the thought I’ve been having for weeks now. Just get there and let’s see what happens.
Why? Why did I want this so badly?
There’s normal reasons:
- Even year magic #duh
- Posey and Bochy
- It’s fun
But here’s the real reason:
- The Giants have the best starting rotation of any team in the 2016 postseason
Their overall numbers may not bear this out, and I haven’t had the time to dive deeply into analysis, but just look at the teams, and look at the names, and is there any team that has 4 guys like the Giants have?
And here’s the thing: I don’t know that the Giants have had a 4 man group this good.
With all the hand wringing about the bullpen and the lineup (for good reason), we’ve lost sight of this rotation and that the great debate for Giants is who would you take:
- Peak Lincecum, Peak Cain, Rookie Bumgarner, Jonathan Sanchez…or…
- Peak Bumgarner, Cueto, Samardzija, and Moore
Right now, I’d take the 2010 4 because they got it done, but it’s close.
- Let’s not forget that 2010 Lincecum was the swing season, it was his last great season but some signs were showing (notably his All-Star Game start) that the shine was starting to fade. 2016 Bumgarner has already established himself as one of the best post-season performers of all time. Bum struggled a bit down the stretch this year, but if you were constructing a roster, who would you take? Edge: Bumgarner/2016.
- 2010 Matt Cain could have been a lot of teams #1 and all he did in the 2010 postseason was give up 0 runs. 2016 Johnny Cueto also comes in with a track record, fresh off a World Championship of his own, and inspires as much confidence as anyone in the orange and black right now. Plus the Giants score runs when he pitches =). Edge: Cain/2010.
- 2010 Jonathan Sanchez made the bold prediction that the Giants would overtake and defeat the Padres for the division title and his performance backed it up. Sanchez is actually a great comp with 2016 Matt Moore. In terms of pure stuff they may have the best, but the inconsistency and command issues are also eerily similar. Sanchez had a great start in the “Brooks Conrad” game, but then struggled the rest of the post-season and nearly had a series damaging breakdown against the Phillies. 2016 Matt Moore also comes in with postseason experience, and is older and more emotionally centered than Sanchez. Edge: Moore/2016.
- This final comp is where it gets really hard for me. It is hard to remember/rightly evaluate 2010 Bumgarner. He was so young and everything he did felt like gravy. We had no idea what would come, but now that we do know it’s hard to go back in time and not see it. 2016 Jeff Samardzija is much older, more experienced, has had an up, down, and up again season. However, this final up, his last 10 starts have been so good, it’s what really caused Confession 2 to grow: If Samardzija is really good, what could this team accomplish? Samardzija’s success actually gives me visions of the 2005 White Sox, a team that rode it’s starting pitching and one relief pitcher to a World Series. These starters are better than those starters. Edge: Toss.
Who would you take?
The real answer is: I would take these 4 guys over any of the other 9 team’s 4 guys.
Please, please, please beat the Mets so we have a chance to see it.
One final Confession: I was fully convinced that all Sergio Romo could do anymore was strike out an isolated right-handed hitter. I never thought he could take back the 9th inning. It’s hard to say if he really has, but I think he’s done well enough to win Bochy’s favor, and today’s 9th inning was as much about seeing him go back to back days as it was about anything.
If they’re going ride Serge, I don’t know that there’s a 2016 story line I like better than the redemption of Romo.
Are you ready for torture?
I agree about the starting rotation, and this is the reason why I loved the Giants signing Smardzija and Cueto, and then trading for Moore. As you note, it is arguably the best we have had going into the playoffs.
I think for #1, knowledge of the future, as well as SSS, are clouding some of your analysis. Lincecum was coming off two straight years of Cy Young-ness, and had another magnificent year. At that point, he had always had a month of meh-ness sprinkled in, and his in-season implementation and execution of the changeup in August 2010 suggested that he had years more of dominance. And who had a 3.79 ERA, pitching so bad that he had his start skipped in the middle of the playoffs? Bumgarner pre-2014. So was 2014 a fluke or his 6.00 ERA in 2012? Still, comparing each point in time, I agree you have to go with Bumgarner in 2016, solely because he has had success in the playoffs, and Lincecum up to then, had a history of tightness in his first time experiences, which could haunt him in the playoffs (didn’t, probably because September was like one long month of playoffs) and World Series (did).
I think for #2, in addition, you are also mixing in known performance vs. possible. Cueto has had a history of clear dominance in the regular season over the past few years. Cain in 2010 was considered a good but not great starter. I think you are counting his great playoff run into the equation. Based on regular season work, Cueto is head and shoulders above what Cain had done up to 2010, and Cain had no playoff experience at that point, whereas Cueto right now has a playoff history, though, frankly, it’s been spotty to poor, even last season. Though Cain was inexperienced entering 2010 and Cueto is experienced, it is because Cueto has been such a mixed bag that I would rate Cain above Cueto for #2, because he was so steady all those years leading up to 2010 playoffs.
For #3, first, I would have compared Bumgarner with Moore, not Sanchez, because he was arguably better already, but maybe you were going with Bochy’s rotation, which had it Lincecum, Cain, Sanchez, Bumgarner in the Braves and World Series, and Sanchez got the call for #2 in the Phillies series, and based on that, I can see the point. That’s a quibble on my part, I admit. I think it’s clearly Moore over Sanchez, mainly because Moore has had a much better pedigree and acknowledgement in the league than Sanchez ever had. He might have similar wildness, but 2010 was Sanchez’s one and only good year, and while Moore has a similar spotty record, he has had a much better projection profile than Sanchez ever had. And as you noted, Moore already has playoff experience (relatively good), and is a more mentally stable player than Sanchez ever was.
For #4, Bumgarner vs. Samardzija, I mostly agree with what you wrote. Mostly because of the Shark’s up and down season, along with his up and mostly down career as a starter. So I see why you had a toss-up. One thing that tips it to Samardzija’s side, for me at least, is that mid-season, while in his down, it was revealed that for some inexplicable reason, he dropped his curve when he converted from the bullpen to the starting rotation, which is the complete opposite of any other similar conversion, as generally you want more pitches as a starter than when a reliever, and that last incredible up you noted was the result of him adding his curve back into his repertoire (plus I think Fangraph analyzed his pitches, and found that he also dropped a pitch that wasn’t working for him). For that reason, I rate him above 2010 Bumgarner.
I would also add in the fact that Samardzija has a history of being a great closer, and Bumgarner’s great relief game vs. KC, plus the above rotation comparisons tips the rotation in 2016 as being better than the 2010 rotation, at least in my eyes, which is what you asked for.
This is great stuff…thanks for responding.
In all honesty, I wrote this post fairly hastily before another work week started, so it’s much more “gut” than hard analysis.
I think your points are great…I think 2010’s 4 were special because they were all so young and the future they represented was tantalizing.
But I think 2016 is better in terms of actual talent, backed up with experience.
Most of all I think it’s an interesting question.
As far as comparing this rotation against White Sox’s 2005, I think that the Giants are clearly better. The White Sox pitchers relied a lot on BABIP luck, as they were low walks, low strikeouts across the whole rotation (just look at their FIP vs. ERA). The Giants have a strongly strikeout oriented rotation, which has been correlated with playoff success by analysis by BP previously (walks are not a detriment to success as long as you strike out enough to have a high K/BB ratio). And their ERA’s, I believe, is better at the top, though similar overall. Here are the top fours:
Bumgarner 2.74 vs. Buehrle 3.12
Cueto 2.79 vs. Garland 3.50
Moore 4.08 vs. Contreras 3.61
Samardzija 3.81 vs. Garcia 3.87
Bascially a push #4, push comparing #1 and #3, then Cueto much better than Garland. They just don’t have an equivalent starter to match up with Cueto.
Once again: totally agree. The comparison in my mind was more in terms of style than in terms of direct comparison. I’d take these Giants’ 4 over those White Sox 4 every time.
But what was crazy about watching that 2005 team was how deep those guys pitched into games. Ozzie Guillen didn’t have to do much!
It’s an interesting comp because baseball has become so bullpen reliant, especially in the postseason.
But what if the Giants flip the script again this year and rather than follow the pattern (that they’ve helped set in many ways) of the 2014/2015 Royals, they actual dominant the run prevention game with starting pitching?
The Giants continue to zag when everyone else zigs.