As the SF Giants pitching staff led the league with a 3.43 SO/W ratio in 2021, they have not-so-subtly telegraphed an important quality that they seek in pitching targets. A high SO/W ratio is a good indicator of command in that pitchers demonstrate that they can accumulate good strikeout totals while limiting free passes.
SF Giants starting pitching targets by SO/W ratio
So, why does this metric even matter. Well, the Giants led the way followed by the Tampa Bay Rays (3.39 SO/W ratio), Los Angeles Dodgers (3.29 SO/W ratio), and the Chicago White Sox (3.27 SO/W ratio). Generally speaking, being in the same conversation as the Dodgers and the Rays is a good place to be.
Even more important than that is that all four teams made it to the playoffs last year with three of the four teams finishing in first place in their respective division. The lone exception was the Dodgers.
The Giants have signed three starting pitchers this offseason including Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, and Alex Cobb. Not surprisingly, Wood (3.90 SO/W ratio), DeSclafani (3.62 SO/W ratio), and Cobb (2.90 SO/W ratio) all excelled in that area in 2021. Given that this is a key ingredient, what remaining free agents could appeal to the Giants based on a good SO/W ratio?
Carlos Rodón - 5.14 SO/W ratio in 2021
On paper, Rodón is exactly the type of front-end rotation arm that the Giants need after losing Kevin Gausman to the Toronto Blue Jays just before the lockout. The 29-year-old starter was electric in 2021 as he posted a 2.37 ERA, 2.65 FIP, 0.95 WHIP, and a 12.6 K/9 in 24 starts with the White Sox. This included his first American League (AL) All-Star nod and a fifth-place finish in the AL CY Young voting.
But, the big question is whether his sterling 2021 campaign was an outlier in a career where he has performed as a fourth or fifth starter more often than not. Of course, the left-handed hurler has an extensive injury history that includes Tommy John surgery in 2019 and a bout of shoulder soreness at the end of last season.
Michael Pineda - 4.19 SO/W ratio in 2021
I will be honest and admit that Michael Pineda was not originally a pitcher that I envisioned being a Giants target but he registers highly in this area. The 32-year-old starter registered a 3.62 ERA, 4.21 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9 in 22 appearances, including 21 starts. The question with Pineda is going to be durability as he has made over 25 starts just four times in his eight-year career.
Given his age and durability concerns, the right-handed hurler can likely be reeled in on a similar contract as Cobb's two-year, $20 million contract so he is very affordable for a team like the Giants. That being said, the front office would be running a huge risk by running out a rotation of pitchers who may not be able to make at least 25 starts like Pineda, Wood, and Cobb. They would need a solid sixth option on the depth chart as well.
Tyler Anderson - 3.69 SO/W ratio in 2021
Speaking of depth options, Anderson makes some sense based on this metric. Of course, the Giants already have experience with the left-handed hurler as he spent the 2020 season with the Orange and Black. The Giants decided to non-tender Anderson after that season, but they had interest in bringing him back and that interest was reignited at the trade deadline.
The veteran southpaw produced a 4.53 ERA, 4.37 FIP, 1.24 WHIP, and a 7.2 K/9 in 31 starts with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Seattle Mariners last year. As evidenced by his 7.2 K/9, Anderson does not accumulate high strikeout totals, but he limits walks (2.0 K/9) and that is part of the SO/W equation. The Giants need to add another durable arm and Anderson would give them that quality as well as good command at a rate that the Giants could easily afford. It would be concerning if he was brought in as the primary fifth starter, but he makes sense as a bulk innings arm who can move between the rotation and the bullpen.
Honorable mention: Danny Duffy (2.95 SO/W ratio), Drew Smyly (2.85 SO/W ratio), and Matthew Boyd (2.91 SO/W ratio)