The San Francisco Giants have been criticized over the past couple years for being an old team on the decline. It all came to a head last season when they totally collapsed and finished with 98 losses.
Most people figured they’d take those results and use it as an excuse to finally start a rebuild in earnest. Instead, they went out and traded for Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria. While Longoria has been out injured since the middle of June, things have largely worked out and the Giants have been surprisingly competitive this year, currently sitting a game above .500.
Once again, though, the Giants could probably be characterized as a team that struggles offensively and is carried by solid pitching. They rank 12th out of 15 in the NL in runs scored, 13th in home runs, and 11th in OPS. Their pitching ranks a bit better, although it’s been roughly middle of the pack while Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto have missed much of the year due to injury. San Francisco is 9th in the NL in ERA, 5th in quality starts, and 9th in batting average against despite being second-worst in strikeouts.
Buster Posey is still a quality hitter, although he’s starting to slow down now that he’s on the wrong side of 30 and isn’t catching as much as he used to. He’s hitting .279/.356/.392 this year with just 5 home runs, but does still have 19 doubles to his name. Brandon Belt is the biggest threat in the lineup, hitting .278/.372/.470 with 31 total extra-base hits so far (14 home runs, 16 doubles, 1 triple). All-Star shortstop Brandon Crawford also comes into the series with an OPS over .800, hitting .284/.354/.447 with 10 home runs, 23 doubles, and 2 triples.
Thursday - 9:15 p.m. CDT
Wade Miley vs. Dereck Rodriguez
Friday - 9:15 p.m. CDT
Chase Anderson vs. Madison Bumgarner
Saturday - 8:05 p.m. CDT
Jhoulys Chacin vs. Johnny Cueto
Sunday - 3:05 p.m. CDT
Junior Guerra vs. Andrew Suarez
Rodriguez is the son of Hall of Famer Pudge Rodriguez, and has been a pretty solid find for the Giants so far this year. After signing as a minor league free agent this past winter after starting his career in the Twins organization, he made his MLB debut at the age of 25 and has appeared in 10 games -- 8 of them starts. He’s been worth 1 WAR already, putting up a 2.72 ERA and 70 ERA-. Sort of like Freddy Peralta, he’s done it throwing mostly low-90s fastballs, averaging 92.1 mph on the pitches he’s thrown 52.5% of the time, using both four-seamers (32.4%) and sinkers (20.1%).
Bumgarner has only made 9 starts so far this year after breaking his pitching hand on a line drive in spring training. He’s been okay so far, but has still looked rusty at times with a 10.1% BB% -- almost double his career rates. The strikeouts are down, but he’s also inducing more weak contact (22.3%, after 16.9% last year and 18.6% for his career). Even with his reputation as a workhorse that pitches deep into games, the Giants have eased him back in action, allowing him to work 7 or more innings just twice so far this year, and keeping him pretty close to a 100-pitch limit.
Cueto also recently returned to the Giants rotation after missing much of the first part of the year. The veteran right-hander experienced elbow pain at the end of April, but it turned out to just be an elbow sprain instead of a UCL injury, and he was able to come back earlier this month. Results haven’t been great since that return, though, as he’s allowed 12 runs in 17 innings covering 3 starts, allowing a whopping 7 home runs. Opponents are hitting .319/.397/.667 (1.064 OPS) against him in that time, but he was able to work into the 7th inning with 4 ER allowed in his last start. His velocity is down between 2 and 3 mph since his DL stint.
Suarez is another 25-year-old rookie who’s been solid at the back end of the Giants’ rotation this year. In 17 starts, he’s put up a 3.99 ERA with a 3.68 FIP, striking out close to 8 batters per 9. Like Rodriguez, fastballs make up more than half of his repertoire, but he relies more on his four-seamer and uses his sinker as more of a secondary pitch while also throwing a slider about a quarter of the time. Unlike a lot of Giants pitchers, his solid ERA isn’t just the result of getting lucky with flyballs in a spacious park and the heavy San Francisco air -- he’s a groundball pitcher, inducing a grounder 51.4% of the time so far this year.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs