The SF Giants are in the market for a frontline starting pitcher and have been said to already be active on that front. Who should they sign? Well, if there is one attribute that they really covet, it is the ability to pitch effectively in the strike zone. SO/W ratio is one of the best measures of that.
Ranking the top 3 SF Giants starting pitching targets by SO/W ratio
We have done this exercise over the past couple of offseasons, and well, the top option ended up signing with the Giants in both instances. After the 2021 season, the Giants added Carlos Rodón and he had an electric season with San Francisco in 2022.
Last year, the Giants added Ross Stripling and he had a pretty disastrous first season. The veteran pitcher opted to remain with San Francisco in 2024, recognizing that he would have struggled to match the one-year, $12.5 million left on his contract after posting a 5.36 ERA in 22 outings.
Nevertheless, SO/W ratio is a pretty reliable stat for trying to figure out who the front office is going to target. The league tallied a 2.65 SO/W ratio in 2023. The Giants pitching staff was well above that mark, recording a 3.37 SO/W ratio, which was the fourth-best mark in baseball.
For this exercise, we are only going to focus on free agents who threw more than 100 innings last year. We did look at potential trade targets, but none of those will be included in this analysis.
1. Yoshinobu Yamamoto - 6.29 SO/W ratio
The Giants have been heavily connected to star NPB pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto this winter. Farhan Zaidi even halted his managerial search to scout the 25-year-old pitcher in October. And, many of the front office's top personnel have also watched him throw recently. At least one MLB insider predicts that the Giants will land Yamamoto.
The first step is for the Orix Buffaloes to post Yamamoto, which is expected to happen soon. The team that ends up signing him will be on the hook for his contract as well as a substantial posting fee that will be due to Orix. The posting fee is expected to be well in excess of $20 million after Yamamoto could net a contract in the neighborhood of $200 million.
The right-handed pitcher had another fantastic year in the NPB, registering a 1.21 ERA, 0.88 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, and a 6.29 SO/W ratio in 24 starts for the Buffaloes. He has an impressive pitch mix that includes a mid 90's fastball, a splitter, curveball, slider, and cutter.
The fastball has late running movement, shifting in on right-handed hitters and away from left-handed bats. The splitter is another excellent pitch that has late downward movement while maintaining similar velocity as his fastball. The rest of his arsenal consists of above-average pitches as well.
Speaking of splitters, the Giants sure do like pitchers who throw a lot of splitters. Yamamoto commands his pitch mix well in the strike zone as he does a remarkable job at getting swinging strikes in the zone while limiting walks. The Giants will be in the mix for him once he is posted but it is going to require a substantial contract offer. Can they do it?