The SF Giants have a starting rotation problem

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks / Norm Hall/GettyImages

It is a bit odd to say this. SF Giants starters have posted a 3.55 ERA, which is the sixth-best mark in baseball. The rotation has some stellar components with Alex Cobb, Logan Webb, and Anthony DeSclafani. However, the back-end has been disastrous with Ross Stripling and Sean Manaea.

The SF Giants have a starting rotation problem

The good news is that Alex Wood is returning to the rotation on Monday against the Philadelphia Phillies. The veteran pitcher has been solid throughout his 11-year career. Though, the Giants have to be realistic in terms of how many starts Wood can offer. The lefty pitcher has made 26 starts in each of the last two seasons.

The Giants are hopeful that he can handle that workload again, but he is just at four appearances in 2023 and we are one-quarter of the way through the season. They have a solid front-end of the rotation, but it feels like some hopes are being pinned on Wood to pitch and stay healthy.

Wood is not the problem. Neither is DeSclafani, Cobb, or Webb. The Giants issued identical two-year, $25 million contracts to Stripling and Manaea this past winter. The early returns on those deals have been awful.

40 games into the season and the Giants must be wondering how they can navigate this. Both are taking up spots on the pitching staff, so they have to see playing time at some point. Ideally, they are used in non-leverage spots, but they may be thrust into key situations as well.

That was the case on Friday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Stripling came in as the piggyback arm with a 1-0 lead in the second inning. He allowed four earned runs across 3.1 frames and the Diamondbacks never really looked back at that point.

Stripling and Manaea have both been plagued by the long ball in 2023. Stripling has a 7.14 ERA with 10 home runs allowed in 29 innings, whereas Manaea has a 7.96 ERA with seven home runs allowed in 26 frames. The long ball has plagued Manaea for the past couple of years, but Stripling was pretty stingy in allowing home runs last year as he allowed just 12 home runs in 134.1 innings for the Toronto Blue Jays.

Whatever he did with the Blue Jays has not carried over into his tenure with the Giants. At this point, both pitchers are unplayable in leverage spots. Identifying the problem is much easier than the solution.

They are not going to release either player this early into their respective two-year deals. The Giants may just need to ride it out and hope that they can begin to figure it out in mop-up duty.

The current alternatives are limited. Wood is one of the obvious replacements. However, he pushes one of Manaea or Stripling into the bullpen, which continues a trend of poor bullpen composition.

The Giants could experiment with either Tristan Beck or Keaton Winn in the rotation. Beck is currently on the active roster, whereas Winn has pitched better of late with the Sacramento River Cats. Of course, Kyle Harrison should be an option at some point this season, but the Giants want to be cautious about calling him up prematurely.

The contrast between the front-end and back-end of the rotation is a bit odd. The front-end has been stellar. Cobb has pitched like an All-Star with Webb and DeSclafani not far behind.

The back-end has been some of the worst in baseball. Manaea and Stripling have the sixth-worst and 15th-worst ERA in baseball among pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched in 2023. How could any alternative be much worse at this point?

The issue is easy to identify. The solution is more complicated. The Giants entered the season with good rotation depth, but because of injuries and below-average performance, that depth has quickly eroded. It is at the point where the Giants need to try to fix it sooner rather than later.