With all the buzz surrounding ace Madison Bumgarner and new additions Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, we sometimes lose sight of the 4th and 5th starters and how important they can be. That being said, it is important to take a step back and take a look at someone who could be a major x-factor for the Giants’ lineup, Chris Heston.
Most of us remember Christ Heston for the no-hitter he pitched in his rookie season against the eventual National League Champion New York Mets. Heston’s no-hitter was part of an 11-5 run the Giants went on through June and July of last season. Though the joyful ride was short-lived, as Heston went 1-6 over the rest of the season, as well as a return to the minor leagues. Heston eventually finished his rookie campaign at 12-11 with a 3.95 ERA with 31 total appearances and a WHIP of 1.311. Though he finished the season on a rough note, the rookie sinkerballer provided a promising glimpse of what he could be he in the big leagues.
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With the 1, 2, and 3 spots filled by Bumgarner, Cueto, and Smardzija, the 4 spot should be filled by Jake Peavy. This leaves Heston to duke it out with Matt Cain for the final spot in the rotation, with the “loser” more than likely being designated as a spot-starter and long-term reliever, or as a replacement for the role left open by the departure of Yusmeiro Petit. Not to mention the fact that we may possibly see 2014’s first round pick, Tyler Beede, make his big league debut this season. Though many believe Cain already has a firm grasp on the final spot, Heston should still make a push for the final starter spot.
Heston relies heavily on his Sinkerball, using it over 50% of the time. Along with the Sinkerball, Heston uses a Curve, Slider, Changeup, and a four-seam fastball, though these pitches are used only a fraction of the time compared to the Sinkerball. All of his pitches have average, if slightly below average speeds, with his slider and fastball maxing out at 90 mph, his changeup coming in at about 83 mph, and his curve and slider both coming in at about 75 mph, respectively. Heston relies on his pitches to generate swing and misses, though his changeup and fastball are used more for generating ground balls (Information courtesy of Brooks Baseball). Heston and his Sinkerball provide a unique presence that will be felt either in the rotation or the bullpen.
Regardless of whether he ends up as the 5 starter, or as a long-term reliever, Heston has the ability to make an impact in his new role. He and Bumgarner were the only pitchers on the roster from last year to start 30 or more games and also matched Bumgarner’s numbers through the first half of the season, so he has the experience and ability to post very solid numbers for the Giants in 2016. When Heston threw his no-hitter, it provided a spark to the Giants rotation that propelled the team to going 11-5 throughout June and July.
Heston, though still a new face to this pitching group, can provide quality innings whether from the bullpen or from the starting rotation and could prove to be the difference the Giants need.