If it seems as though the San Francisco Giants have come up short in the pitching department during the offseason, considering Jon Lester signed with the Chicago Cubs and Max Scherzer with the Washington Nationals, you may want to revisit that inaccurate assessment after reading about a plausible proposal.
What the Giants have failed to accomplish in terms of a cannonball-like splash, is balanced by the buoyancy provided by the comforting thought that all six projected starters have All-Star credentials and the swingman, Yusmeiro Petit, is no slouch either.
Playing in July’s annual classic does not mean that each of the starters retains the same level of skill, that he had at the time he represented the Giants in the All-Star Game. It means he has the knowledge, experience and confidence to hold his own against any competitor he is likely to encounter, as long as he is playing for the Giants.
This team has a potent one-two punch in Madison Bumgarner and a returning Matt Cain, so that sets the tone right there for numbers three, four and five. There are six starters to make five, as they say in the vernacular, and each has a specific set of tools that he carts out to the mound every game.
Matt Cain pitched five perfect innings against the Cubs on March 9, 2014. Photo by Denise Walos
Stats are not a factor, especially not projected numbers, because paper plays only so much of a role in the big picture, and none when talking about starting and competing in a particular game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. No, paper does not do a good enough job of crediting the little things that contribute to a championship-caliber team.
Instead of the hoped-for double down the line, a slow grounder to the first-base side of the infield can be disconcerting, until one realizes that there are now runners on second and third as a result of the productive out, and the next guy up is more than capable of getting the job done. Utilizing the fundamentals can do a lot to enhance a team’s chances, and along with it, the pitcher’s chances as well.
Madison Bumgarner is not a modern Norse god; he just acts like one. His “aw shucks” demeanor makes him all the more so, as if it is ridiculous that he is supposed to be in awe of himself for doing what he gets paid to do. Heck, bucking a truckload of hay is infinitely more impressive, but it gets no press. Weird.
Matt Cain will once again be woven into the fabric of all that is orange and black, after an uncustomary sojourn to the rehabilitative pastures of recovery. This was an unfamiliar venue for a player heretofore known as the Horse, because of his endurance in past seasons.
With Matt Cain and MadBum at the front of the team, the rest will slip into their traces.
There have been ten past seasons dating back to 2005, yet Cain is only thirty. Expect Big Daddy to resume his rightful spot in this rotation.
Jake Peavy is back after having been re-signed to a two-year stint with the Giants for $24 million. His infusion of energy when he arrived from an anemic four months with Boston last season, was contagious, and led to great success in the postseason. The Giants are counting on the Jakester to maintain that enthusiasm.
Tim Hudson is the oldest at forty but he has established himself as an icon in both leagues, and need not apologize for having had the nerve to age. He just won his first world series ring and he would like to have another. He must be salivating at the thought of being able to get another crack at the big prize, with the same cast of characters who just got it done.
Jul 13, 2013; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Tim Lincecum (55) pitches his first career no-hitter against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Lincecum is tantalizing as the unknown commodity. Because of his impeccable record in the postseason, in both the role of starter and that of reliever, Timmy is like a leopard only with orange and black spots. He doesn’t mind being orange with black spots or black with orange spots, so long as he can contribute. Bruce Bochy would be wise to make Timmy part of center stage.
The Freak is a two-time Cy Young Award winner and does not get uptight on the bench; it doesn’t matter whether he is starting or relieving. On top of that, his willingness to accept his designated place in the grand scheme of things, is indicative of the entire team’s willingness to defer to the greater good.
Lincecum has an outrageously supportive fan-base out there; it’s what makes San Francisco such an attractive place to play, once you are part of the community. Loyalty goes a long way; just ask Ryan Vogelsong.
Vogelsong, the former Giant-turned-Pirate-turned Giant again, with a stint in Japan in the middle, has long been synonymous with the scowl of determination tattooed across his face. He just re-signed for one season, taking a cut in pay to return to the City both he and his family love.
Don’t talk to Vogelsong before a game, make sure he gets his enchiladas, and for McCovey’s sake, don’t sell him short. The last team that did that failed to win the world series. For that matter, every team that faced Vogelsong has had the same lack of success, two of the last three years.
The Giants are most fortunate to have Yusmeiro Petit returning for a third season as the swingman, capable of either relieving or starting.
Many teams would be thrilled to have Yusmeiro Petit on staff in any capacity.
He established a record for consecutive batters retired (46) in major league history, over a ten-game stretch last July, and played a monumental role in the eighteen-inning, NLDS game in Washington, by pitching six innings of shutout relief work in a game the Giants won, 2-1.
With a bullpen anchored by four players having earned three rings each, while playing for San Francisco, the Giants have established sterling credentials as far as supporting the starting staff. Include the fact that two of these four have also made world series appearances elsewhere, and it strengthens the argument. One key to offsetting age and questionable durability, is to have a proper backup unit in place.
Javier Lopez came to the Giants at the trade deadline in 2010, after winning a ring with the Red Sox in 2007. Lopez, a southpaw, comes in primarily as a specialist to neutralize the opponent’s own left-handed hired gun. He has the distinction of being the only active player in the majors to possess four world series rings.
Another lefty Jeremy Affeldt is the counterpart to Lopez, having appeared in the 2007 World Series as a member of the Colorado Rockies. He might be best remembered for his role in the 2010 National League Championship Series against Philadelphia, in Game Six, when he came it to relieve Jonathan Sanchez after a bench-clearing brawl, with two runners on base and nobody out.
He was able to pitch the Giants out of the jam and finished with two innings completed, allowing no hits or runs in a game the Giants won 3-2, to advance to the World Series. There San Francisco eliminated the Texas Rangers in five games.
Sep 17, 2014; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Sergio Romo celebrates the third out of the eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. The Giants defeated the Diamondbacks 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Sergio Romo just re-upped for two more years, eschewing the opportunity to close on other teams, in order to remain with a club he enjoyed playing for. He made a point of telling media that he did not want to go to another organization, where he would have to start all over again.
Having had Romo both close and serve as a set-up man during his career, and his willingness to continue in that vein, is one key to Bruce Bochy’s success as a manager. Selflessness, like enthusiasm, is contagious. Who wants to be the self-centered prima donna in the midst of the chemistry beaker?
Finally, there is Santiago Casilla, a guy who also lost his job as closer, back in 2012, but regained it because of his lights-out job performance. He does not effect the facade of the conventional fierce-faced closer, preferring instead the methodical precision of the surgeon, if you will. He likes to sew things up in the ninth.
With Tim Hudson likely to miss the start of the season with his bone spur surgery, the Giants are already in good shape because they just re-signed Ryan Vogelsong as insurance. Regardless of what Hudson’s rehab schedule is, the Giants are deep enough to be able to give him as much time as he needs. The plus side is that Hudson, who just earned his first world series ring, will be fresher than the rest of the staff In September, due to his later start.
In addition to All-Star status, the rotation also boasts an impressive array of bling, in the form of world series rings. The importance isn’t the number (15 total for the starters and Petit), it’s the fact that these guys have worked together on championship teams, that had to first grind out the 162 games to get to the playoffs.
Experience counts more than any other component because being there and having done it, and knowing that you have done so, lends a lot of confidence to the notion that winning a ring can be done again. The more players who share this belief, the more it shows up in their attitude and their unwillingness to quit.
Too much can happen to get something started. Maybe it is a successful bunt against an extreme defense; possibly it is a thang, as Mike Krokow calls a ball that manages to fall safely, defying the odds; or it just could be the ever-popular duck-snort that plops down the right side, missing the foul line by four inches, fair.
Oct 31, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; The San Francisco Giants team poses for photos during the World Series celebration at City Hall. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals in game seven of the World Series. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
The Orange and Black have experienced too much success in the past five seasons, to come together this spring and not think they can get it done again. There’s that word experience again. How many world series rings all together on the team? Forty-seven? They will not lack for confidence because they are well-equipped for the long haul.
What does the pitching staff have to do to give the Orange and Black a chance to return to the playoffs? What’s plausible? What if each of the starting seven, regardless of his role, is able to win three more games than he loses over the course of the season? Whether he goes 17-14 or 12-9, it will amount to 21 victories. No matter whether MadBum goes 18-12 and Hudson manages a 10-10 mark, it will do the trick.
Additionally, each of the four in the back-end must attain one more win than loss. That would make 7 X 3 = 21 plus 4=25. Not high level math here, sorry.
That’s a 95 and 67 record and if not good enough for a division title, ought to suffice for a wild-card slot. So when you are arguing with a reasonable Dodger fan (hall of fame oxymoron), you can shoot him or her this formula. Then, while he or she prattles on about Clayton Kershaw this and Clayton Kershaw that, you can politely reaffirm that you are certain that the St. Louis Cardinals’ dominance over Kershaw in the playoffs, was nothing but a fluke. Just blind luck.
Luck on the other hand, has nothing to do with a plausible proposal. Plausible does not mean likely; it means something that could happen. There are plenty of folks around who will tell you why it won’t happen, just as there were in 2010, 2012, and 2014. It comes with the territory when you make the impossible appear routine, as San Francisco has done.
Giants fans are more than pleased to settle for plausible.