Posted on March 15, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
For a team that has won three World Series titles this decade, it hasn’t been easy for the San Francisco Giants to miss the postseason in back-to-back years. It must have been particularly difficult to finish 73-89 last season, even if it was a 7-win improvement from the previous season. Can the Giants continue to take forward steps and get back to competing for a playoff spot in 2019 or will they see their postseason drought continue?
Without a full season from Madison Bumgarner, things did not go well for the San Francisco rotation in 2018. More importantly, questions linger about the rotation behind Bumgarner heading into the 2019 season. The good news is that youngsters Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez pitched well when pressed into duty last season. Rodriguez, in particular, dazzled to the tune of a 2.81 ERA. If he can replicate that kind of success, the Giants will start to feel better about their rotation in both the present and future. The club hopes he and Bumgarner will be able to form a strong tandem at the top of the rotation.
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Of course, how good San Francisco’s rotation is in 2019 will largely be determined by the health and effectiveness of several veterans. Jeff Samardzija may be capable of being a solid mid-rotation starter, but injuries limited him to just 10 starts last year. Also, even when he was healthy last season, he posted a 6.25 ERA. Needless to say, he’s a major question mark heading into 2019.
Issues with Samardzija are a big reason why the club re-signed lefty Derek Holland, who bounced back from a dreadful 2017 campaign to post a 3.57 ERA in 2018. The Giants can only hope for similar results this year. San Francisco is also taking a shot on Drew Pomeranz, who won 17 games in 2017 but fell apart last year and has a long history of elbow problems. If those guys don’t work out, the Giants will have to turn to youngsters like Shaun Anderson and Tyler Beede, who have yet to establish themselves in the majors.
San Francisco’s bullpen was surprisingly effective for long stretches in 2018. Mark Melancon hasn’t worked out as the team’s big-money closer. But he turned into a competent setup man last year for Will Smith, who figures to be the team’s full-time closer this season. The lefty saved 14 games and registered a 2.55 ERA a year ago, so he seems fit for the job.
Joining Melancon in a setup role will be Tony Watson, Sam Dyson, and Reyes Moronta. All three kept their ERA under 3.00 ERA last year, giving the Giants a fair amount of depth in the bullpen. Obviously, bullpens can be fickle from year to year, but with five pitchers capable of pitching in late-game situations, the Giants should feel good about where their bullpen stands. Lefties Ty Blach and Steven Okert were also effective pitching out of the bullpen in 2018, adding to San Francisco’s depth.
Only the Marlins scored fewer runs than the Giants in 2018, so the San Francisco lineup has a lot of room for improvement in 2019. Unfortunately, not much has changed in terms of personnel. Brandon Belt and Joe Panik both saw their numbers drop considerably from 2017 to 2018. The same can be said of Evan Longoria in his first season in San Francisco. The Giants also have to be a little wary of what they’ll get out of Buster Posey after his 2018 season ended early due to hip surgery. If players like Belt, Panik, and Longoria don’t have bounce-back seasons, the Giants could be in trouble.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco outfield is filled with young, unproven players. The club is high on Chris Shaw, but he has just 54 big league at-bats under his belt. Meanwhile, both Steven Duggar and Austin Slater showed flashes last season but didn’t produce on a consistent basis. The Giants will need those young outfielders to step up and become consistent contributors to help make up for the aging players on their infield.
The Giants may be about to find out just how far a solid bullpen can carry a team. To be fair, there is a fair amount of upside for the starting rotation if they can stay healthy. But it’s hard to envision the Giants being significantly improved offensively from a year ago. A lack of run support will ultimately be too much to overcome to keep the Giants in contention for a playoff spot. Look for the Giants to finish 75-87 in yet another disappointing season.