The SF Giants pitching staff was one of the best at avoiding the sweet spot of the bat as they led baseball with a 45.6 percent ground ball rate. This has clearly become one of the qualities that the front office targets in prospective free agents.
3 SF Giants starting pitching targets by groundball rate
The other quality is a good SO/W ratio. So, the Giants front office wants pitchers who can accumulate good strikeout totals, limit walks, and induce plenty of ground balls. Generating ground balls is an important quality for pitchers because these types of batted ball events tend to translate into outs at a very high rate.
This is just my humble opinion, but getting ground balls into a defense that includes Brandon Crawford is just a good strategy. The Giants have added several starters to the rotation including Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, and Alex Cobb. Both Wood (50.8 percent GB rate) and Cobb (53.3 percent GB rate) excelled at inducing ground balls in 2021. Given that this is a key ingredient, what remaining free agents could appeal to the Giants based on a good groundball rate?
Brett Anderson - 57.5 percent ground ball rate in 2021
Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi has prior ties to Brett Anderson both with the Oakland A's and the Los Angeles Dodgers. It is a mild surprise that the Giants have not attempted to reel in the 13-year veteran, so this might be one of those situations where they would have signed him previously if they were ever interested.
That said, the left-handed hurler registered a 4.22 ERA, 4.39 FIP, 1.35 WHIP, 5.4 K9, and a 2.07 SO/W ratio in 96 innings with the Milwaukee Brewers last season. As evidenced by his 5.4 K/9, Anderson does not miss many bats and relying too much on pitching to contact can make you a victim to the BABIP gods. Nevertheless, the southpaw gets ground balls at a very strong rate, so the fit makes some sense but the Giants would not be able to tab him as the primary fifth starter given his durability concerns.
Carlos Martínez - 50.2 percent ground ball rate in 2021
From 2015 - 2019, Carlos Martínez was one of the better pitchers in the National League as he registered a 3.22 ERA with two All-Star selections during that span. However, injuries and ineffectiveness have plagued the 30-year-old pitcher, so this might be one of those scenarios where the front office would need a lot of depth behind Martínez.
The right-handed hurler struggled to the tune of a 6.23 ERA, 4.76 FIP, 1.37 WHIP, 6.2 K/9, and 1.58 SO/W ratio in 16 starts with the Cardinals last season. Given that this was his second consecutive subpar season, Martínez might be looking for a one-year deal to re-establish value as he is not far removed from being an effective pitcher. Despite his struggles, he continues to generate ground balls at a high rate, which is why he might appeal to the Giants.
Yusei Kikuchi - 48.4 percent groundball rate in 2021
Yusei Kikuchi is betting on himself this offseason after declining his $13 million player option, thereby becoming a free agent. His is coming off of a nice season in which he produced a 4.41 ERA, 4.61 FIP, 1.31 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, and a 2.63 SO/W ratio in 157 innings with the Seattle Mariners. This included an American League All-Star bid.
The lefty has posted a 4.97 ERA in three seasons since coming over from Japan and while the bottom line stats are not too promising, his peripherals give reasons to be optimistic. His 2.63 SO/W ratio and 48.4 percent ground ball rate align well with what the Giants like in a pitcher. Plus, the rotation needs another workhouse, and Kikuchi has made at least 25 starts in two of the last three seasons. The 30-year-old will be in the market for a multi-year deal with a sizable investment and San Francisco is one of the remaining teams who are positioned to spend.