The SF Giants had hoped that a veteran-heavy rotation would help anchor the starting rotation and be a strength. That has not come to fruition, but reinforcements are seemingly on the way as both Kyle Harrison and Tristan Beck are staking a case to stick in the rotation.
Pair of SF Giants rookie pitchers quickly helping to stabilize the starting rotation
The Giants began the year with Logan Webb, Alex Cobb, Sean Manaea, Ross Stripling, Anthony DeSclafani, and Alex Wood as the key starters. With six pitchers under contract, the Giants anticipated having at least one pitcher endure injuries or ineffectiveness.
Though, it would have been hard to predict that four of those starters would struggle or be on the shelf for much of this year. In fairness, Manaea has been much better since moving to the bullpen but has still battled bouts of inconsistency.
DeSclafani, Wood, and Stripling have all struggled to produce. As a result, the Giants have relied heavily on openers, bullpen games, and bulk innings pitchers. It is not the most aesthetically-pleasing thing to watch, but it has worked.
Nevertheless, the use of an opener is still an admission that the bulk innings pitcher has extreme platoon splits, so the opener is needed to minimize unfavorable matchups. Manaea is an example of this as he has struggled against right-handed hitters (.846 opponent OPS), so the opener is used to lessen the number of right-handed hitters he has to face in an appearance.
On the surface, that makes plenty of sense. If the goal is to put players in a position to succeed, then the opener is a strategy that supports that end.
With all that being said, it would still be nice to see the Giants find a way to stabilize the rotation. Webb and Cobb have been solid in 2023, but the Giants have relied on the opener strategy for the remaining three spots in the rotation for the better part of this season. Is that sustainable? It feels like the strategy has leaked oil lately.
That could soon change with Tristan Beck and Kyle Harrison. Beck has quietly had a very effective rookie campaign as he has posted a 3.52 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 1.14 WHIP, 7.8 K/9, and a 3.26 SO/W ratio in 29 outings.
He had worked exclusively out of the bullpen in the majors until Sunday night. The right-handed hurler faced off against the Atlanta Braves, which was the team that originally drafted him in the fourth round of the 2018 draft.
The rookie pitcher completed four perfect innings before running out of gas in the fifth inning. Beck allowed three earned runs on three hits with five strikeouts against one walk in 4.1 innings of work. He had not been stretched out to handle a starter's workload, so it looked like fatigue caught up to him in his last inning against the best lineup in the NL. Beck pitched better than what his overall stat line showed.
On the other hand, Harrison dominated a Cincinnati Reds lineup on Monday night. The 22-year-old pitching prospect completed 6.1 scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts against two walks. His starts in the minors generally resulted in high strikeout totals but with high walk numbers as well. Two walks in 6.1 innings is a promising sign for Harrison in only his second major league start.
Both pitchers are not-so-quietly making a case to stay in the rotation for the remainder of the season and beyond. The rotation has struggled to find stability in 2023, but they are getting some new life thanks to recent performances from a pair of rookies.