San Francisco Giants: Way-too-early All-Star Talk—Pitchers

The past couple days we have taken a look at which San Francisco Giants position players have a shot at making this year’s MLB All-Star Game in San Diego. Probably four of them—Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence—will be considered, with varying degrees of strength in their arguments. The pitching staff has a few candidates, too, so let’s finish up our Way-Too-Early All-Star Talk series with a look at which pitchers have all-star credentials. 

Heading into Wednesday’s game, the Giants had played 35 games, with all five original starting pitchers still in the rotation and having not missed any starts. So each of the five has started exactly seven games, with results that place them in either one of two categories: all-star worthy or worthy of being replaced.

SP1: Madison Bumgarner got off to a rocky start this season, but a fifth of the way through the season, his numbers look typical: 4 wins, 2.93 ERA, 55 strikeouts in 43 innings His K-rate is actually higher than his career numbers, while his 1.33 WHIP is a bit higher than his career 1.12 number. A few more batters have gotten on base, but a few less have put the ball in play. So it evens out, with the results being an ERA equal to what he posted in 2015.

Bumgarner’s numbers are good: his ERA ranks 16th in the National League, while he’s fourth in strikeouts and one of 17 NL pitchers with at least 17 wins. This is an example of why it’s too early to determine who will be all-stars: considering that there are two months to go before the picks are made, many of the pitchers who rank ahead of Bumgarner in ERA will likely regress,

What’s working for Bumgarner is a tremendous track record (i.e. reputation) and more of the same this year. What’s working against him is the recent trend by All-Star Game managers to load up on relief pitchers. Also, the MadBum currently has very similar numbers to his newest rotation mates…

SP2: The Giants made a big free-agent splash in the offseason to improve their rotation, and it has worked out nicely so far. Johnny Cueto is half of the reason why. His ERA is a mere 0.09 points higher than Bumgarner’s; he has won the same number of games while allowing fewer opponents to reach base.

Jeff Samardzija better at the plate than the average pitcher. He's also better on the mound than the average pitcher—but is he all-star worthy? Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Samardzija better at the plate than the average pitcher. He’s also better on the mound than the average pitcher—but is he all-star worthy?
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Much like Bumgarner’s, Cueto’s all-star candidacy will improve by maintaining—or slightly improving—his numbers, combined with leaderboard attrition.

SP3: The signing of Jeff Samardzija scared many Giants fans, as the former college wide receiver had had a largely underachieving career heading into 2016. But San Francisco’s third starter is proving his doubters wrong (including this writer) and justifying his employer’s financial commitment.

While Cueto’s numbers are a tick below Bumagarner’s, Samardzija’s numbers are tick below Cueto’s. But the differences, really, are negligible, as the results are the same: four wins in seven starts. The rest of the numbers: 3.17 ERA, 44 K’s in 48⅓ innings, 1.14 ERA.

If Samardzija continues pitching at this level, he will probably be on the outside of the all-star conversation. But over the next couple months, he could easily strengthen his case.

SP4,SP5: Matt Cain and Jake Peavy are both former all-stars. And it will stay that way, as neither is pitching anywhere near an all-star level.

Closer: Santiago Casilla’s seven saves is far down the NL leader list, ranking 10th. However, Casilla’s 1.46 ERA is the fourth best among NL closers. And he is third in both batting average allowed (.143) and WHIP (0.65). So he’s really good at keeping hitters off base. If he continues on this path, that will be quite enticing for Terry Collins, the New York Mets manager who will be heading the NL All-Star team and thus choosing the pitching staff.

Because All-Star rosters tend to be reliever-heavy, closer Santiago Casilla might have the best shot of any Giants pitcher of making this year's All-Star game. John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

Because All-Star rosters tend to be reliever-heavy, closer Santiago Casilla might have the best shot of any Giants pitcher of making this year’s All-Star game.
John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports

As stated above, relievers dominate the all-star pitching staffs these days, so it is quite possible that Casilla is the Giants’ most likely pitcher to play in the Midsummer Classic. That could actually hurt the chances of Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija.

The Giants are not likely to send three starting pitchers to this summer’s All-Star Game, anyway. They probably won’t even send two. The problem is that the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Washington Nationals also have deep rotations—of the 15 pitchers with an ERA lower than Bumgarner’s, 10 come from these three teams. And two others are Dodgers.

But there is plenty of ball to played between now and mid-July, so much can happen in the interim—such as the Cubs cooling off, Major League hitters figuring out Kenta Maeda, and Oakland A’s castoff Drew Pomeranz returning to normalcy after his impressive start to the season in San Diego.