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SF Giants: Giving the Players their Final Letter Grades

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Manager Gabe Kapler #19 signals the bullpen to make a pitching change against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the seventh inning at RingCentral Coliseum on September 19, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Manager Gabe Kapler #19 signals the bullpen to make a pitching change against the Oakland Athletics in the bottom of the seventh inning at RingCentral Coliseum on September 19, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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SF Giants
OAKLAND, CA – SEPTEMBER 19: Kevin Gausman #34 of the San Francisco Giants pitches during the game against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum on September 19, 2020, in Oakland, California. The Athletics defeated the Giants 6-0. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/Oakland Athletics/Getty Images)

The Starting Rotation

Kevin Gausman: B+

Kevin Gausman became the de facto ace and workhorse for the Giants rotation this season. He was awesome.

The right-handed hurler found another gear after coming to San Francisco on a one-year, $9 million pact. For years, he demonstrated the swing-and-miss stuff but just could not put it all together.

In a short, 60-game season, the 29-year-old finally put it all together. In 12 appearances, including ten starts, Gausman posted a 3.62 ERA (3.09 FIP) with 79 strikeouts while being worth 1.3 WAR in 59.2 innings. On top of this, he generated a 4.94 K/BB ratio, so he was in complete control of the strike zone.

His 15.2 percent swinging-strike rate was the seventh-best in baseball while his 32.2 percent strikeout rate was also one of the best and higher than the likes of Max Scherzer, Luis Castillo, and Yu Darvish.

The SF Giants have a decision to make on Gausman who is set to become a free agent after the World Series. He will earn a nice payday in free agency, but does San Francisco feel pressured to get into a bidding war? That remains to be seen, but he became a very popular Giant in a short time.

Johnny Cueto: D

This may seem like a harsh grade for Johnny Cueto, but I expected better production. After all, he is over two years removed from Tommy John surgery.

At times, he looked like his old self, but he struggled to find the consistency that we have seen from the veteran hurler for years.

On the year, the 34-year-old posted a 5.40 ERA (4.64 FIP) with 56 strikes while being worth 0.1 WAR in 63.1 innings. His 1.3 HR/9 ratio was one of the highest of his career and not a good sign for a pitcher who will be turning 35-years-old before the 2021 season.

On top of this, his fastball velocity averaged 91.3 MPH, which not surprisingly, is lower than what we saw during his peak years. Similarly, his 8.3 swinging strike rate is also one of his lowest in a non-injury season.

Does this mean we should expect more of the same in 2021? Not necessarily. His 4.64 FIP does point to some poor luck. Regardless, this was a disappointing season for Cueto.

Logan Webb: D

After showing some promise down the stretch in 2019, Logan Webb strung together a rather disappointing campaign in 2020.

The 23-year-old struggled to the tune of a 5.47 ERA (4.17 FIP) with 46 strikeouts and 24 walks while being worth -0.5 WAR in 54.1 innings. Similar to Cueto, the large variance between his ERA and FIP could be a case of some poor luck.

Nevertheless, Webb consistently struggled to soak up innings as his pitch count usually ballooned due to not being able to put opposing hitters away efficiently.

Still, Webb’s arm is low on mileage as he has needed Tommy John surgery in 2016. There is plenty of development left for the right-handed hurler to realize, and hopefully, this tough 2020 season can become a learning experience.

Tyler Anderson: C+

I was not sure what to expect from Tyler Anderson this season. After all, he came over to the SF Giants via a waiver claim from the Colorado Rockies.

I guessed that if the pitching-needy Rockies felt that he was not worth a roster spot, then I may need to look away during his starts. That said, the Rockies decision had more to do with paying him a raise through arbitration than just the roster spot he occupied.

However, Anderson looked good this season. In 59.2 frames, the left-handed hurler produced a 4.37 ERA (4.36 FIP) with 41 strikeouts and 25 walks while being worth 0.4 WAR.

Anderson relies on good command and a deceptive delivery to keep hitters off balance and generate outs. However, he did struggle when having to face the Arizona Diamondbacks in three consecutive starts. By the second and third starts, Anderson was not fooling any hitters as he yielded 11 combined earned runs. However, the proximity in which the Giants and Diamondbacks faced each other was a product of the 60-game season, so we should not see that again next season.

The 30-year-old is arbitration-eligible in 2021 meaning the Giants have a decision as to whether to retain the lefty. With how thin their projected 2021 rotation currently looks, they should tender him a contract.

Trevor Cahill: B-

The SF Giants signed Trevor Cahill to a minor league contract, which turned out to be a nice depth move for San Francisco.

The veteran hurler worked out of both the rotation and the bullpen and proved to be a capable arm in either role. In 25 innings, Cahill pitched to a 3.24 ERA ( 4.19 FIP) with 31 strikeouts and 14 walks. His 29.2 strikeout rate was an encouraging sign, but he did battle command issues as well as he produced a 5.0 BB/9.

In a very small sample, the 32-year-old did not yield a run in five innings out of the bullpen. Working out of the bullpen may be the next move in the latter stages of Cahill’s career, but teams will always need a pitcher who can eat up innings in a start as well.

As a minor league signing, he gave the Giants exactly what they needed. Perhaps, it would be smart to bring him back next season as well.

Drew Smyly: B

I feel like this grade a little unfair for Drew Smyly as he was fantastic when he was healthy. However, durability concerns held him back from stringing together a really impactful season.

In the limited sample we saw, Smyly was a strikeout machine. In  26.1 frames, he posted a 3.42 ERA (2.01 FIP) with 42 strikeouts and only nine walks. He struck out 37.8 percent of the opposing hitters he faced.

It is a shame that we only got a chance to see him pitch in seven appearances because when he was on the mound, he was really fun to watch. If he was healthy for the entire season, the Giants might be in the playoffs this week. That is how good he threw.

After being on the shelf for the 2017-2018 seasons, the left-handed hurler demonstrated the ability that made him a good rotation arm earlier in his career with the Detroit Tigers and Tampa Bay Rays.

The Giants have a decision to make on Smyly, who is a free agent after this season. Do they bring him back knowing that there are durability concerns and that the market will likely increase his cost? That’s a decision they will have to ponder.

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