3 Top SF Giants starting pitching targets by SO/W ratio

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The SF Giants have had a not-so-subtle approach to prospective pitching targets in recent seasons. Giants starters posted a 3.94 SO/W ratio in 2022, which ranked as the fourth-best mark in baseball. If you follow this metric, then you will see that any starting pitching target is hiding in plain sight.

3 Top SF Giants starting pitching targets by SO/W ratio

The Giants added four key arms to the rotation last winter and they all excelled in SO/W ratio in 2021:

Carlos Rodón: 5.14 SO/W ratio

Alex Wood: 3.90 SO/W ratio

Anthony DeSclafani: 3.62 SO/W ratio

Alex Cobb: 2.97 SO/W ratio

It is no surprise that San Francisco was one of the best teams in this metric in 2022 as this is seemingly a quality that they covet. To put it differently, SO/W ratio is a measure of how effectively pitchers pitch in the strike zone.

A higher rate means that pitches tend to tally a lot of strikeouts while limiting walks. The Giants like pitchers who attack the strike zone and this is one good way of measuring it.

But does it actually correlate with winning? Oddly enough, the Giants were the only starting pitching unit to rank in the top 10 of SO/W ratio and not make the playoffs. In the case of the New York Yankees (4.15 SO/W), Los Angeles Dodgers (3.65 SO/W), Houston Astros (3.51 SO/W), and Cleveland Guardians (3.28 SO/W ratio), they not only made the playoffs but finished in first place in their respective division.

If you are buying real estate, then it is good to do so where those teams are having success. At the very least, the Giants had success in that area in 2022 and will likely continue to target that in free agency. They will have at least one hole to fill with Rodón opting out of his contract.

Speaking of Rodón, he would be a very nice fit for the 2023 team. There are some targets like Justin Verlander, who has a player option for next season, and Clayton Kershaw who make sense from a SO/W standpoint but who I do not see as targets until their situation is clarified, so they are excluded.

The Giants will likely add multiple known starters next season, so I would not be surprised to see them add a notable name like the ones listed in this article as well as someone like Sean Manaea on a pillow contract to give them depth.

1. Ross Stripling - 5.55 SO/W ratio

At this point, I have talked myself into Ross Stripling being a legitimate target if the Giants miss out on Rodón. Stripling is coming off of a nice season but he does not have the track record or age in his favor like Rodón, meaning that he could be a more affordable option.

The right-handed hurler will be entering his age-33 season in 2023, but he is coming off of a strong campaign this season in which he recorded a 3.01 ERA, 3.11 FIP, 1.02 WHIP, 7.4 K/9, and a 5.55 SO/W ratio in 32 appearances including 24 starts.

Plus, he tallied a 0.8 HR/9 rate, so he excels at keeping the ball in the ballpark. It does not hurt that he works at a quick tempo as well, which is an important trait for Giants pitchers as it helps keep the defense involved in the game.

Stripling has generally performed well throughout his career as he has posted a 3.78 ERA against a 3.93 FIP across seven seasons with the Blue Jays and the Dodgers. However, he does not have a predictable track record in terms of workload.

He has never exceeded 150 innings in any season nor has he made more than 24 starts. The 32-year-old works primarily out of the rotation but he pitches out of the bullpen a few times each year as well. Perhaps, Alex Wood is an apt comparison in terms of what he can do.

However, I would not be surprised to see Stripling get a deal similar to Steven Matz's four-year, $44 million deal from last winter. The average annual value (AAV) of $11 million is in the same neighborhood of several Giants starters including Wood ($12.5 million AAV), Alex Cobb ($10 million AAV), and Anthony DeSclafani ($12 million AAV).

Stripling would be in demand this offseason and that will likely turn out to be a very nice value addition in the same mold as when the Giants signed Cobb last offseason.