Let’s Take a Look at Potential 2018 SF Giants Lineups

MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 16: Andrew McCutchen
MILWAUKEE, WI - AUGUST 16: Andrew McCutchen /

Well, there you have it folks, the 2018 SF Giants are hopefully going to be much more exciting than the 2017 version!

GM Bobby Evans and co. orchestrated a trade for 5x All Star, former NL MVP, and a career 40 WAR outfielder in Andrew McCutchen.

Just after trading Gerritt Cole to the Houston Astros, the Pittsburgh Pirates furthered their rebuild by jettisoning McCutchen to the Giants for potential bullpen stud Kyle Crick and 22-year old outfield prospect Bryan Reynolds.

Filling two positions that produced next to nothing in 2017 with former All Stars McCutchen and Evan Longoria next season will be quite the boon for next season’s lineup.

Both have right-handed power, with an ability to draw walks and can fit throughout the lineup, largely balancing a positional player group that was predominantly left-handed.

There are some question as to whether McCutchen and his admittedly declining glove will play in right field – where he played a lot of in 2017, center field – where he has played for the majority of his career, or left field – where the Giants have no obvious incumbent.

It’s safe to say Bruce Bochy will have some flexibility with where in the lineup he places each of his regulars, so I decided to make an interesting exercise out of the potential options.

For the purposes of this article, I primarily penciled McCutchen in at right field, and put Pence in left, though that doesn’t really effect where they’re slotted in the lineup.

No matter how they are ordered, the lineup is going to be fun if healthy, with Longoria and McCutchen on board.

That said, here are a few starting lineup options I came up with for the Giants, given the pieces they already have on hand (i.e. not considering any outside additions).

The Obvious:

  1. RF Andrew McCutchen (.279/.363/.486)
  2. 2B Joe Panik (.288/.347/.421)
  3. 3B Evan Longoria (.261/.313/.424)
  4. C Buster Posey (.320/.400/.462)
  5. 1B Brandon Belt (.241/.355/.469)
  6. SS Brandon Crawford (.253/.305/.403)
  7. LF Hunter Pence (.260/.315/.385)
  8. CF Steven Duggar (.261/.370/.413 in AAA)

This lineup shuffles the lefties and righties throughout in a way that makes the most sense, while providing Bochy the comfort in having Posey bat cleanup, Panik batting second, and putting Belt/Crawford/Pence in the latter half of the lineup.

While McCutchen hit 28 bombs last season, he would also be second on the team in OBP, making him a clear leadoff candidate.

I could see why swapping Belt and Longoria would make sense too (particularly against righties), based off their numbers last year, so we’ll discuss that later.

Pence and Crawford are largely interchangeable in my opinion, based on whether the lineup is facing a righty or lefty starting pitcher. However, if pressed, I do think Crawford has a better chance of bouncing back in 2018.

And wow, imagine if Crawford, Longoria, and/or Pence improve on their lines even a little bit. This lineup would be a force to be reckoned with.

All-in-all, I believe this is the most likely lineup for the team to begin the season with right now.

The Sabermetric

  1. RF Andrew McCutchen
  2. C Buster Posey
  3. 1B Brandon Belt
  4. 3B Evan Longoria
  5. 2B Joe Panik
  6. SS Brandon Crawford
  7. LF Hunter Pence
  8. CF Steven Duggar

They say to place your best batter in the two slot in the order, and some teams do (Angels with Mike Trout, Yankees with Aaron Judge, etc.) in part to maximize their best hitter’s potential at-bats throughout the season.

However, Bruce Bochy is fairly old-fashioned and would probably never go for this, and maybe for good reason.

Us SF Giants fans have been used to Barry Bonds once being the cleanup stalwart and Posey has occupied the position essentially since his rookie debut, but it’s certainly interesting to think about.

That 1-4 could compete with most teams in my opinion, but the second half of the lineup could be lacking if neither Crawford nor Pence rebounds.

With Posey batting second, Belt makes sense as a candidate to bat third, barring injury. He is definitely the best lefty hitter on the team and is capable of carrying a lineup when he goes on one of his vintage hot streaks.

This version also puts three high-OBP batters in front of Longoria, who has only averaged a .320 OBP over the past four seasons, but is plenty capable of clearing the bases.

Moving further down the lineup, Panik batting fifth seems odd at first glance, but last year he was good for a 104 OPS+, which made him a much better all around hitter than Pence or Crawford.

The more I think about it, the more I begin to like this lineup, though we likely won’t actually get to see it play out.

The “Buster Posey Can’t Play Catcher Forever”

  1. CF Andrew McCutchen
  2. 2B Joe Panik
  3. LF Brandon Belt
  4. 1B Buster Posey
  5. 3B Evan Longoria
  6. SS Brandon Crawford
  7. RF Hunter Pence
  8. C Nick Hundley (.244/.272/.418)

There’s an argument to be made that this is actually the best offensive lineup out of all these options.

Not saying it’s a winning argument, but Hundley could certainly be a better hitter than Duggar (or whoever is behind outfield door number three), especially against lefties. I mean, he had a .305/.347/.558 slash line against southpaws last year!

This could be a lineup we see more often then we expect next season, as Posey is on the wrong side of 30, and he saw less than 100 games at catcher last year for the first time since 2011 when collision-that-must-not-be-named happened.

Still definitely a productive lineup, though just the thought of that outfield defense does make me cringe inside.

I also swapped Longoria and Belt because based off of last season’s limited sample, Belt could well be the better hitter and more worthy of batting third.

Crawford still bats sixth to prevent three righties hitting in a row, and because he could genuinely be better than Pence next season as they each age one more year.

The Righty-Lefty-Righty

  1. RF Andrew McCutchen
  2. 2B Joe Panik
  3. C Buster Posey
  4. 1B Brandon Belt
  5. 3B Evan Longoria
  6. SS Brandon Crawford
  7. LF Hunter Pence
  8. CF Steven Duggar

This is the perfect lineup to combat bullpen managers that like to switch pitchers based off the handedness of the batter.

Posey batting third makes perfect sense to me because he’ll get to bat in the first inning, and it may get him a few more at-bats over the course of the long season.

Theoretically, he would also provide a lot of hittable pitches for Panik, because pitchers would not want to give the batter ahead of Posey a free pass.

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On the other hand, I don’t think we’ll see Belt batting fourth much this season because he seems like a pretty good bet to hit fifth. But this could make sense given how Longoria and his low OBP could fit behind four players who get on base at a good clip

Crawford, Pence, and Duggar still occupy the last three spots in the order, successfully shuffling the handedness end of the lineup.

Any of these lineups make some degree of sense, and ultimately none of them may be the correct result when the season opener comes around.

Again, it’s just an interesting exercise to think about. Feel free to comment your best lineup ideas too because these are certainly not the only options!