The 5 Most Important Players on the 2018 Giants

It’s still a little early for this type of post: we’ll need to see if there are any more moves and who comes out of nowhere during Spring Training. But for now, I am pretty cool with this 25 man roster:

  1. Posey C
  2. Hundley C
  3. Belt 1B
  4. Panik 2B
  5. Crawford SS
  6. Longoria 3B
  7. Sandoval INF
  8. Tomlinson INF
  9. Pence LF
  10. Duggar CF
  11. Jackson OF
  12. McCutchen RF
  13. Parker OF
  14. Bumgarner SP
  15. Cueto SP
  16. Samardzija SP
  17. Stratton SP
  18. Suarez SP
  19. Melancon CL
  20. Smith LRP
  21. Dyson RRP
  22. Strickland RRP
  23. Gearin RRP
  24. Blach LRP
  25. Law/Okert/Fernandez

I know the Giants have a stable of utility infielders coming in this spring, but I don’t know that they can do much better than Kelby Tomlinson. I like Tomlinson’s speed and familiarity (and glasses), and couple him with some left-handed power from Pablo and Jarrett Parker and that could be a nice bench. Let Austin Slater, Chris Shaw, and others lend depth from the farm system.

In terms of pitchers, I would love for Andrew Suarez to get the 5th starter nod, and I also would love to see Derek Law return to form. But, the most interesting pitching situation might be Julian Fernandez. The Giants rule 5 draft pick, he has to pitch for the big league team or he goes back to Colorado. The dude throws over 100 mph and seems pretty nasty, but has control issues and hasn’t pitched in the higher minors yet. He is a total gamble, but maybe an interesting one!

Ok, so assuming that is the team, let’s name the five most important Giants in 2018.


The most important Giant in 2018 is Johnny Cueto. I am assuming that Madison Bumgarner is going to have a huge year. He will be highly motivated to put the dirt bike incident of 2017 behind him, and prove he is healthy, strong, and ready to GET PAID. I am also assuming that Jeff Samardzija does exactly what he did last year but now with a better defense behind him. All Chris Stratton has to do is be better than Matt Moore (not a high bar at all). If Stratton is league average, the Giants are in good shape.

If those three things happen, then the two big question marks for 2018 in the Giants rotation are Cueto and the 5th starter. Every team (except, I guess, the Astros) has a question at 5th starter, so this does not make the Giants unique at all. One of the quiet story lines of this offseason is that for the first time since 2008 (2007?) the Giants have more concerns about their starting pitching than they do about their lineup. The formula, for the better part of a decade, has been excellent starting pitching, a solid and versatile bullpen, and then hope the offense can score at least 4 runs. But this 2018 team, all of a sudden, has flipped that formula, and the Giants have a lot of questions about the pitching.

Which is why Johnny Cueto is the most important player for the upcoming season. In 2016 Johnny Cueto had 144 ERA+, started the All-Star Game, garnered Cy Young and MVP votes, and I would sacrifice a baby goat to spend a day in the alternative universe where the Giants close out game 4 in the NLDS and Cueto gets a shot at the Cubs in game 5.

2017, Cueto came to camp late because he was caring for his ailing dad. He was out of shape, dealt with blisters and injuries, and saw his ERA+ plus drop 50 points down to 92, all of which “froced” him to pick up his option and now serve the next 4 years with the Giants.

I don’t believe Cueto needs to be as good as he was in 2016, but he needs to be way closer to that than what he produced last year. A very good Johnny Cueto makes everything about the 2018 Giants more stable and competitive. He takes pressure off the bullpen, off the back end of the rotation, and once again gives the Giants a 1-2 punch in their rotation to go up against anyone else’s best.


The second most important player on the 2018 Giants is Buster Posey. It’s unfair to single Posey out for anything that went wrong in 2017. He was easily the Giants’ best player.

But much like Cueto, great Posey (vs. good Posey) is what will move this Giants’ lineup from good to really good.

The magic number, for me, for Buster is 20 home runs and an OPS+ of 140. I have him (finally) hitting third in this lineup, and if Posey is hitting the ball with authority all over the field, everything opens up for everyone else.

Plus, there’s the symbolic nature of: this is Posey’s team. He needs to play that way.


The third most important player for the Giants this year is Mark Melancon. It’s generally not a good sign for a closer to appear to so high on a list like this, but so it goes for the Giants.

Melancon is critical because as we all know far too well, the primary issue with the Giants’ bullpen the last two seasons has been rampant instability. When Melancon has been healthy he has been the physical embodiment of a stability. From 2011 to 2016 he pitched in over 70 games 5 of 6 seasons. His ERAs from 2013 through 2016: 1.39, 1.90, 2.23, 1.64.

Giants fans have no idea how good this guy really is. Melancon’s strength has never been that he was the nastiest guy in the 9th inning. There’s always been someone who threw harder or had a better slider or whatever. But, for calm, clean 9th innings, Mark Melancon is your guy.

If he comes anywhere close to his 2013-2016 form the Giants bullpen gets better by leaps and bounds.


Which leads us to MIP #4: Will Smith. Melancon is one notch higher because his stabilizing impact has farther reaching impact, but the Giants will need one more guy in their bullpen to really step up. Smith’s injury early in the spring last year was the first bad omen of 2017.

(I also believe that if Bochy had of taken the training wheels off him in 2016 we’d have made it to that mythical game 5. But then, maybe the reason Bochy wasn’t feeling so good about Smith is that his elbow was barking.)

Smith will be ready for Spring Training, and will likely to be ready to go full-bore by May 1st. If Smith can establish himself as a versatile bullpen weapon (ala Jeremy Affeldt) by June 1, the Giants will really be on to something. A steady Melancon and a weaponized Smith takes so much pressure off Bochy and the rest of the bullpen amrs in ways that are difficult to quantify.

Let’s put it this way, if the Giants are going to have to lean on Hunter Strickland and Sam Dyson in the late innings in 2018, things are not looking good.


I’ve struggled with this 5th spot. At this point you can almost throw a dart at the rest of the roster and make a pretty good argument for whoever you hit.

I’d like to say Brandon Belt because if he has a good year, suddenly the Giants lineup gets longer and deeper and much more dangerous. Plus there are some long-term benefits to a big Belt season (see my post on Bryce Harper).

I’d also like to say Steven Duggar, because his emergence at the big league level as a solid contributor will go a long way towards allowing several guys (namely Austin Jackson) to settle into their ideal roles.

Don’t forget about Brandon Crawford who needs to be healthy for the Giants defense to be at its peak.

Finally, a good argument can be made for Andrew McCutchen because he probably has the highest ceiling of any player in the lineup. If he recaptures his MVP level performance the Giants will have pulled another one over on the Pirates.

But, I think, at the end of the day, Evan Longoria gets this final spot.

For one, Longoria is here for a while. There’s a very good chance that McCutchen is a one and done player. If McCutchen flames out, oh-well-moving-on. If Longoria flames out, gulp!

Two, Longoria will most likely serve as the “protection” in this lineup. He’ll hit behind Posey and Belt and those guys have never had someone like Evan Longoria hit behind them. At least not vintage Evan Longoria. His presence should make life so much easier on them.

Finally, one of the selling points of Longoria was his glove (gold glove last year) and his durability. If all the Giants get from Longoria is that (glove and an everyday presence) they will make up significant ground from last year.

But, if he can approximate even 2016 production levels the Giants will have their best third basemen since Matt Williams.


So there you have it. The 5 most important players for 2018. What would your top five look like?

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Signs of Blah #sfgiants

We’ve officially hit the doldrums. Maybe they hit you on opening day, maybe you are still, pathetically, excited about the 2017 SF Giants (I don’t know, there might be one of you). Chances are you are not even reading this because you moved on long ago.

One of the questions driving the season, since at least mid-May, has been: “who are you excited to get to see play?”

Many were excited about Christian Arroyo.
Austin Slater was a nice story.
Mac Williamson made an appearance for a minute.
A few of us got excited about Pablo Sandoval’s return.
I was looking forward to a couple of Tyler Beede starts.

But here we are, with 36 games yet to play, and what is there to look forward to?

Anyone remotely interesting is already here or not coming up (I would have loved to see Andrew Suarez, but it seems like the Giants don’t want to expose him at this point and I get that). Ryder Jones is here. Jarrett Parker is getting his shot (again). Kyle Crick is trying to make a case for future bullpener. Chris Stratton is in the conversation for future rotations.

But, there will be no Christian Arroyo show, part II.
No Tyler Beede debut.
No Austin Slater return.

What is there to look forward to?


This is not to say there is nothing worth watching or paying attention to. Madison Bumgarner is worth watching, period, but even more so because his ability to be great still is so important to the future of the franchise. So far so good.

Matt Moore has had two quality starts in a row and if he can keep it up it we will have the whole offseason to debate what it means. In the meantime, keep rooting for a Matt Moore resurgence. It’s only thing that makes sense.

Ty Blach and Matt Moore may have switched bodies, which would explain their last two starts, but what if Blach has turned into a pumpkin. He’s been one of the best stories of the season (the best?!), and a strong finish would secure him a spot in the 2018 rotation and make all of us feel just a little bit better about how this year has gone. A Ty Blach debacle to end the year would be a poetic ending to a terrible, terrible season.

We’re very likely to see a couple of Johnny Cueto starts before the end of the season and there might not be anything more important to the future of the Giants. At this point, I think we have to root for him to be really good when he comes back, good enough to tempt him to opt out. If he doesn’t I know I can make the case for why that is not the end of the world, but the fastest way to the Giants remaking their roster is through a Cueto opt out.

Beyond that I’d like to see Joe Panik and Brandon Belt come back clear of concussions and be good for a couple weeks before shutting it down. I’d like to see Brandon Crawford have one hot streak before this miserable campaign ends. I’d like to see Buster end the year with a .900 OPS.

There’s also Mark Melancon proving he’s healthy, a couple of guys in the bullpen making a case to be important to the 2018 team, and fringe players like Kelby Tomlinson establishing themselves as good role players.


We have a long dark winter to stare down, but may as well get started. I’m rooting for Cueto to go, and Justin Upton to arrive.

Trade Deadline Quick Thoughts

The Dodgers are a demon-monster of a 25 man roster. They are coming for your soul and your children and they will show no mercy.


The Giants didn’t do a whole lot at the deadline, which is basically what everyone had come to accept about a week ago, and in its own way is a terrible indictment on the state of this franchise.

They are too good to be this bad. Not good enough to offload anyone. Stuck in neutral. Which, compared to the Dodgers, means moving backwards.


When the Giants blew game 4 to the Cubs last year I was not crushed. It was not 2002 or 1993 or 2003 or 1997 or 2000 or 1998 or 1987 or 2004.

Part of the reason I was not crushed was because of the entirely predictable nature of the choke. This was not the Warriors going scoreless during the final 4+ minutes of a Game 7. This was a good team with a bad bullpen letting its season slip away thanks to a bad bullpen.

At the time I wrote: Mark Melancon and we’re good. Or something like that.

And then that’s exactly what the Giants did.

Which is to say, part of the reason I wasn’t crushed is I expected the Giants to be right back there again, but with a weakness addressed and solidified.

But the further the wheels fall of this wagon, the more I wish for the chance to see a game 5.

Partly because I do wonder about a hangover from that type of defeat. It feels like all the wind that got sucked out of the sails has just continued to be sucked. (I really enjoy that sentence).

But also partly because it may be a long while before we see the postseason again.

There is a magnificent gap between the Giants and the Dodgers right now. It’s evident on the 25 man roster, the 40 man roster,in  the minor league systems, and in the ways these teams are going about constructing rosters.

You don’t erase that kind of gap with a few tweaks here and there. And that is a major concern.


That having been said, I get the impression from some parts of the internet that this season is validation for why the 2010, 2012, 2014 were “lucky”. Or some version of that. In essence: those teams weren’t very good, they got by with a great manager and a couple awesome performances.

This really bothers me. Without doing a deep dive, it is important to remember that the 2010 team had one of the best pitching staffs top to bottom of any team in the last 20+ years.

The 2012 team was balanced and took the “put the ball in play” philosophy to maximum heights (by the way, the 2014-2015 Royals did the same thing).

The 2014 team is the one championship that fits the general argument being made, but folks forget that that team was the best team in baseball through the first 80 or so games (not unlike the 2016 Giants).

Dynasties fade. The Phillies were incredible from 2008-2012 and now they are deep in a rebuild. The 2017 Cardinals are a slightly better version of the Giants, but are still struggling through a transition period. The Patriots and Warriors will one day go through this as well.

The crash doesn’t make what came before illegitimate, it just means an era is over.

The question for the Giants is how closed is this era, and who will be around for the next one?

What to Look For Over the Next 3 Weeks #sfgiants

June is not trending in the right direction (at all). My hope was that the Giants could get to .500 by July 1, and as of right now, they will need to go 15-2 to get there. Probably not happening.

Here’s the rundown of the next 3 weeks and what it would take to turn this around:

  • Sweep the Royals (28-39)
  • Take 3 of 4 in Colorado (31-40)
  • Sweep the Braves (35-40)
  • Take 2 of 3 from the Mets (37-41)
  • Sweep the Rockies (40-41)
  • Beat the Pirates (41-41)

No problem, right? =)


The Giants exploded for 13 runs yesterday (finally) behind an unusual lineup, but here is what I would like to see for the next 3 weeks (at least):

  • Nunez 3B (let the man lead off!)
  • Panik 2B (Joe is someone to watch closely the rest of the season…who is the real Joe Panik and what can the Giants expect from him moving forward?)
  • Posey C (should be hitting in the 3 hole from now until the skills really fade, years down the road)
  • Belt 1B (his all or nothing approach plays best in the cleanup spot)
  • Pence RF (looks like he might be getting it going which means this is right where you’d want him)
  • Crawford SS (I know he’s been one of the most reliable bats of the last 2+years, but any lineup where he’s hitting above the 6 spot is going to struggle over the long haul)
  • Slater LF (let the dude play…if not Mac, let it be Austin, and let it be for a while)
  • Span CF (my hope is that he gets shipped out in July)

MLBTradeRumors put out some interesting info on the Giants yesterday. Here are some thoughts:

There are essentially two kinds of trades the Giants can/should make. One is trading veteran guys away to open up spots for younger players to get time. A classic example of this would be trading Eduardo Nunez so that Christian Arroyo and/or Jae-gyun Hwang can play the last two months at the major league level to show what they got.

The other trade is cashing in whatever valuable assets the Giants may have to restock the shelves. There’s not a lot of options here, outside of a blockbuster involving players named Buster or Brandon (not going to happen).

The two that are most interesting to me: Mark Melancon and Jeff Samardzija. Now, both have 3 years to go on hefty contracts, and both have trade clauses (Melancon has a full no-trade clause), but these are the two options that could fetch something interesting in return.

Melancon, in particular, would have to give thought to waiving that clause to go back to Washington, right? That team is a closer away from being the most dominant team in the game (yes, even more than the Cubs and Astros), so you know they are going to be willing to pay.

Wouldn’t the Cubs prefer Samardzija to John Lackey? The Indians would take him over a few their own guys I’m sure.

We’re starting to get to the point where these things need to be considered.


A small silver lining: MadBum might return sooner than later!

So Far, So Meh #sfgiants #2017

Hello friends!

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, and I expect to be blogging less this year, so our weekly recaps will probably look a bit different. But here we are, and away we go!

The Giants are, as of today, 3-5, and they have given us glimpses of hope and more than a few things to worry about.

Let’s start with the worry:

  • The bullpen. Hmmm, I seem to remember there was some sort of issue with the bullpen last year, let me check, um…OH SWEET JESUS…yeah, it was pretty bad. So far, it hasn’t been horrible, but it also hasn’t been great. The good news is that Mark Melancon is settling down into his new digs here and, my expert opinion is that with the 9th inning locked down, the other pieces should fall into place and this will prove to be a servicable ‘pen.
  • That being said, it was an odd thing to go with one lefty, and that lefty being Ty Blach. Why isn’t Ty Blach in AAA, starting every day, keeping himself sharp to take over for Matt Cain? Why no Josh Osich, no Stephen Okert? These are two guys who need to pitch in the big leagues and get the experience and build trust with Bochy. I know the Will Smith injury is all part of this, but still. This is odd!
  • Sometimes Matt Moore/Jeff Samardzija can suck and sometimes they can be great. Sometimes in the same game (looking at you Jeff). I’m still very bullish on both of them (more in a few)
  • Matt Cain sucks. I need to go vomit. I actually typed that. But it’s true. I’ve been as hyped about a Matt Cain resurgence as anyone in Giantsland, but I’m over it now. I just don’t see it happening. I would love to be wrong, but 2012 is now 5 years ago, and that was the last time we really saw good Matt Cain.
  • LF. Left field has produced 2 hits in the last 2 games, which is 2 more than the first 6. I still have to believe that Mac Williamson is the every day left fielder before this over, but what do I know. The Giants are taking a “throw the pasta against the wall and see what sticks” with Parker and Marrero, and now signing Melvin Upton and Drew Stubbs. LF will be weird for a while.
  • The lineup, overall, is nice, but there are not a lot of dingers. This worries me. Also, Posey took one in the head today.

Reasons to not worry/Reasons for Hope:

  • The bullpen (see the good news I shared above).
  • The starting pitching. Bumgarner and Cueto look as good as ever, and I am convinced Matt Moore is going to have a huge year. Samardzija is still a bit of a wild card in my mind, but I tend to be mostly positive that year 2 could be even better than year 1.
  • Brandon Belt is off to a great start.
  • Brandon Crawford is a stud.
  • Joe Panik is back.
  • Eduardo Nunez is off to a great start.
  • Seems like Posey should be fine.

Overall, a 3-5 is not how anyone wanted the year to start. I’m convinced, though, that this is a good team that will ride 4 above average starting pitchers to the postseason.

Let’s enjoy the ride together. See you next week!

Welcome Mark Melancon!

The Giants got their guy today!

You can read about why he’s a great fit for the Giants here.

You can read about the ridiculous contracts the other big time closers will get here (and take a deep breath of relief).

Let’s talk about why this was a shrewd move for the Giants:

  1. He’s good. Melancon doesn’t fit into the otherworldly echelon of Kenley Jansen and Aroldis Chapman. And that’s just fine, because he’s still very good. For example, his WHIPs the last four seasons: 0.96, 0.87, 0.96, 0.9…that’s less than 1 runner an inning (just to be clear), and those are elite numbers. Brian Wilson, in 2010, had a WHIP of 1.18 which is not bad but it was also EASILY the best # he posted in his career, and it’s well above Melancon’s four-year average. Santiago Casilla’s average WHIP with the Giants was higher than Wilson’s best year, so you get the idea. Much, much fewer baserunners. Melancon’s “low” strikeout rates (for a closer) get some people worried, but it hasn’t been an issue for him to date, and he’s playing in a good ballpark with a good defense for a guy who “struggles” to strikeout guys. (The use of quotes here is to emphasize the fact that he is actually pretty good at striking players out, just not as “good” as Aroldis Chapman, and very few humans in history have been as good as he is).
  2. They did it relatively quickly. A few days ago MLB and the Players Association agreed to a new CBA, and shortly thereafter the Giants made their move. This is classic Giants: strike quick and get on with it. In a market with three elite closers and more than three teams in need of closer the Giants can now patiently work on improving other parts of the team, negotiating contracts with their current players, and designing Mark Melancon bobble-head dolls.
  3. They potentially screwed their competition. There are now 2 elite closers left and 3 NL competitors in need of a 9th inning man: the Dodgers, the Nationals, and the Cubs. The Cubs are working from a position of strength. They probably don’t NEED either Jansen or Chapman, certainly not the way the Giants did, but they might like one of them, especially if that means the Dodgers and/or the Nationals whiff on one of those guys. There is a beautiful scenario where the Yankees and (we’ll go with the Blue Jays) get crazy and go for Chapman and Jansen, and suddenly 3 major NL teams will be looking internally, or on the scrap heap, for a closer. The Giants are now officially out of that mess.
  4. Monetarily, the Giants probably don’t have much flexibility to improve left field, but they do have moves. They can stand pat, go really cheap, or make a trade. They could potentially even dip into the bullpen to make this trade. Remember, the Giants issue in the bullpen is not that they lack options. Their issue last year was that there were too many options, Bochy could never settle on a pecking order, and right when someone started to emerge (i.e. Gearrin/Law) they got hurt. Trading from the bullpen depth could make things simpler for the coaching staff and improve the team over all. The question is who is expendable? My hope is that someone covets Hunter Strickland and is willing to give up a left fielder to see what they can do with him.

I’m all for this move. The money is funny, but that was always going to be the case this offseason and all things being equal, it’s not that bad of a deal in my opinion. Melancon brings order and stability and while he might not be an Andrew Miller super-reliever, he doesn’t need to be. He just needs to get three outs in the ninth inning (IT CAN’T BE THAT HARD RIGHT?!).