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San Francisco Giants Spring Training Previews: Starting Pitchers

Nick San Miguel
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Chris Stratton #34 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at AT&T Park on September 29, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 29: Chris Stratton #34 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at AT&T Park on September 29, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 16: Madison Bumgarner #40 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the top of the first inning at AT&T Park on September 16, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – SEPTEMBER 16: Madison Bumgarner #40 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the top of the first inning at AT&T Park on September 16, 2017 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Madison Bumgarner:

(Insert obligatory dirtbike joke). Other than that, Madison Bumgarner’s 2017 season wasn’t all that unusual other than his 4-9 record. This was due largely in part to Bumgarner receiving very little run support last year. Let us hope that with Cain’s retirement Bumgarner doesn’t assume the mantle of getting no run support despite pitching well. His 3.32 ERA was also slighly inflated due to his smaller sample size.

In 2018, expect Bumgarner’s numbers to be more similar to what they were in 2013-2016 in which he had a winning record in each year as well as a sub-3 ERA. One can reasonably expect a lineup that now includes Evan Longoria, Andrew McCutchen, and Austin Jackson to get more run support for the 2014 World Series MVP which in turn will lead to more wins. Also, getting 30-something starts compared to 17 will (one can only hope) result in a lower ERA.

Of course, none of this is guaranteed. While one would expect a bounceback year from an elite pitcher who’s in his prime, nothing is for certain in this league. Perhaps the shoulder injury from last year still lingers. Or maybe he gets in a bear wrestle or something which sidelines him for a couple of months.

Other than pure statistics and numbers, there are several things Bumgarner will probably do this year:

  1. He’ll probably hit a dinger or two (Opening Day against Kershaw?)
  2. Him and Joe West will have a staring contest that lasts long enough to warrant a suspension on the grounds that Bumgarner violated the new pace-of-play policies.
  3. He’ll yell at Yasiel Puig.
  4. He’ll yell at Wil Myers.
  5. He’ll grunt when he pitches.
  6. He’ll blow snot-rockets (Over/under for Snot-Rocket Season Total is set at 330(roughly 10 per start)).

Johnny Cueto:

2017 was a pretty rough year for Cueto as well. Injuries and poor performance have led to question marks surrounding him in 2018. Also, his Spring got off to a rough start as the flu has set him back a couple of days.

However, I’ll be an optimist for once. I don’t think you’ll see Johnny quite at the level he was in 2016, but expect a much better year that last year. If he stays healthy, he should easily throw 200 innings which at the very least will help the bullpen. I don’t think any of us would be surprised if Johnny Cueto returns to form in 2018.

Jeff Samardzija:

I’ll keep it brief for Jeff, expect three things:

  1. Lots of innings.
  2. Lots of dingers.
  3. An ERA around 4.

Samardzija probably has the fewest number of question marks surrounding him, but maybe he’ll surprise us (in a good way).

Chris Stratton:

Stratton was one of the few bright spots for the Giants last season. He showed that when he’s on he can be a very respectable big league pitcher. Of course, there was a Giant named Chris from a few years back who we said the same thing about.

We’ll talk more about him later, but how can we be sure that Stratton doesn’t meet the same fate as Heston? Well, the short answer is that we can’t. The long answer involves staying healthy and continuing to provide the strong performances that he delivered last year.

It would be wise to be cautious and err on the safe side with Stratton predictions. If he ends the year with a record around .500 and an ERA around 4 I think that would be more than acceptable out of a probable 4-starter. However, if he struggles, don’t be surprised if the Giants try someone different.

Ty Blach:

Blach got to pitch a lot last year due to injuries in the rotation. He showed us that he’s definitely a control pitcher who gets a lot of ground balls and relies on a solid defense coupled with not getting unlucky.

Even if Blach doesn’t get the 5th spot in the rotation, he proved last year that he is effective coming out of the bullpen and could serve as a left-handed complement to Tony Watson as Will Smith recovers from injury.

Now onto some Dark Horse candidates for the rotation headed into Spring Training

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