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San Francisco Giants 2019 Spring Training Preview: Starting Pitchers

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05: Madison Bumgarner #40 and Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants celebrate their 3-0 win over the New York Mets during their National League Wild Card game at Citi Field on October 5, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 05: Madison Bumgarner #40 and Buster Posey #28 of the San Francisco Giants celebrate their 3-0 win over the New York Mets during their National League Wild Card game at Citi Field on October 5, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA – AUGUST 28: Madison Bumgarner #40 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Arizona Diamondbacks at AT&T Park on August 28, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The Incumbents

Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner comes back as the obvious ace in what could be his final year with the San Francisco Giants. While you sometimes want players to ignore the things written about them during the offseasons, you also hope they end up reading them and using them as bulletin board material.

Bumgarner has been the target of many “Is he declining?!” articles this offseason, diminishing his value in trades. Hopefully, reading some of these things lights a fire (we know it doesn’t take much) and helps him return to top form. Granted, top form we’re talking about is the dominant, Cy-Young candidate type of form. His current “declining” form is still really good.

In 2018, Bumgarner posted his lowest K/9 since his rookie campaign, and his second straight year with an ERA over 3. I know, terrible right? Granted a little slip from Bumgarner on a relatively terrible team will show. There is also the “he’s been getting injured” knocks against him which neither have done any damage to things detrimental to pitching. So when we say we hope MadBum returns, we really mean it’ll be nice to see him back in Cy-Young form.

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Dereck Rodriguez

Rodriguez, or “D-Rod”, is likely the most important pitcher on all of this actually. When young players finally break into the scene, the number one thing you want to see is them build on their initial success, and not regress. The Giants may have found fools gold in Rodriguez, and they will certainly hope he builds on what was a very successful rookie campaign.

Rodriguez, statistically was almost as good, if not better than Bumgarner in 2018. In just about as many appearances he posted a better ERA, WHIP, and better peripherals than Bumgarner, including a better WAR. Now, WAR is an interesting stat for pitchers, and may not be good for comparison over a singular season. But there was no denying that Rodriguez was a very good second fiddle to Bumgarner in 2018. Hopefully, he builds on his success for 2019.

Jeff Samardzija

Samardzija was debatable to put into the “Incumbents” spot, just because we have no clue what we’re going to get with him anymore. And it was borderline debatable if he’d even be a starter. However, if he can get back to being an innings eater and perform like he did in 2017, the Giants will gladly throw that back into the rotation.

Samardzija’s 2018 was shortened significantly due to injury. He was arguably rushed back due to the injury issues the Giants had, and was clearly not 100%. He bounced back and forth between the DL, AAA and the MLB roster, before just calling it on the 2018 season all together. The jury is still out on what type of difference he can make. Could he be better suited to be on our list of bullpen guys? Hindsight will have to be 20/20 on this one.

Andrew Suarez

Andrew Suarez was a little inconsistent in 2018, but what can you expect from a guy who was thrown into his rookie campaign arguably six months to a year prior to his “ETA?” In his first full season he threw 160 innings and posted a respectable K/BB ratio. His biggest issue was always the long ball.

Also, his biggest issues came against right handed hitters. If he can work on his approach there, you’ll see him really take off. 22 of his 23 homers allowed came off righties. He allowed a slugging percentage over .500 to RHH, but only a .279 slugging percentage against lefties. That’s probably where his biggest work is needed.

After struggling for the first month though, Suarez found a good rhythm from June-July. But once the scouting report was out on him, he struggled in the second half of the year. If Suarez can make the necessary adjustments in spring this year, we could see a very solid second year from him. But that’s the key. Can he make the adjustments? That’s what we’re looking for from him in spring training.

Derek Holland

Holland was initially a head scratcher for some in the fanbase. And initially, people didn’t seem so pumped about him joining the rotation after the injury bug bit, but then he turned in the best year he’s had since 2013.

Holland will be intriguing here as he might be a good candidate for the Giants to try out the opener situation with, or make him an opener himself. He was usually good through the first six innings of the game, as shown by his splits the first and second time through the order. But the third time through is where he ran into trouble. They could just simply run a 6 inning limit, or two times through the order limit, or even make him the opener. Holland does have the ability to get stretched back out to a normal starter though and that is what makes his versatility welcome.

Chris Stratton

Stratton seems like he might be the odd man out in the rotation for 2019, if Samardzija, or one of the next three guys steps in and does well. It is fluid thanks to the whole “opener” thing looming, but Stratton is who he is. Stratton led the team in “wins” in 2018, but had the worst ERA of those who started at least 20 games. His peripherals don’t show a whole lot more in terms of hope. So what do they do with Stratton? Well he could certainly show up and earn a spot on the big league roster. But he could just as easily end up in AAA to start 2019. So we’ll see what happens.

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