The 2021 San Francisco Giants exceeded all expectations on their way to 107 wins and a division title. With 2022 on the horizon, there are many unanswered questions. If you are a Giants fan, chances are you are cautiously optimistic going into the upcoming season. The baseball world still has not quite figured out how to think of the club. Was 2021 a fluke? How can you win 107 games and be a fluke? Will the 2021 magic carry over?
Being a Pessimist Is Not a Bad Thing
There are reasons to believe the 2021 season was an outlier and will not come close to being repeated. Let us start with the big change. Buster Posey Retired. Losing the face of the franchise to retirement always stings but when that guy is Buster Posey, it stings a bit more. Buster Posey is a lock to make the Baseball Hall of Fame. He won a Rookie of the Year, Most Valuable Player, three World Series, five Silver Sluggers, and made seven All-Star teams. He was the heartbeat of the franchise for a decade. Fans are hard-pressed to find a reason to dislike Posey. Losing him will hurt.
The other players that will not be returning are former ace Kevin Gausman and trade deadline acquisition Kris Bryant. Less notable players out the door are starting pitcher Johnny Cueto and outfielder Alex Dickerson. Even more bad news is that Evan Longoria is expected to miss six weeks due to surgery to repair a ligament in his finger. Lamonte Wade Jr. will miss Opening Day due to left knee inflammation. Tommy La Stella will also be starting on the injured list after undergoing Achilles surgery in October. He is “day to day”.
The projections do not favor the Giants. Their FanGraphs projected record is 84-78 compared to the Dodgers 94-68 projected record and the Padres 88-74. Then again, the projections did not favor them last season either.
Believing Is Just More Fun
Looking up and down the 2021 Giants roster, you see names that were considered “washed,” players that most people didn’t know of at all, or guys that the Giants took on as reclamation projects. Nobody saw Brandon Crawford finishing fourth in MVP voting or Kevin Gausman finishing sixth in Cy Young voting. Nobody saw Lamonte Wade Jr. and Darin Ruf being key pieces in a 107 win team. Buster Posey came back at the age of 34 and made his seventh All-star team and hit with an OPS of .889. Who could have predicted that? These are just a few names that came up big last season. The whole roster was full of pleasant surprises. The coaching staff headed by manager Gabe Kapler played a key role in the team’s success and that staff remains the same. The Giants have created a culture that brings the best out of their players. That is not something to ignore.
Italics indicates new addition
- RF-(L) Mike Yastrzemski
- 1B-(L) Brandon Belt
- SS-(L) Brandon Crawford
- DH-(R) Darin Ruf
- LF-(L) Joc Pederson
- 3B-(R) Wilmer Flores
- 2B-(R) Thairo Estrada
- CF-(L) Steven Duggar
- C-(R) Joey Bart
At a glance, the lineup doesn’t look as deep as the season prior. The good news is that the lineup shown above does not include the players on the IL, Evan Longoria, Lamonte Wade Jr., and Tommy La Stella, who will return later in the season from their injuries. The young catcher, Joey Bart will get a chance at consistent playing time now that Buster Posey has retired. Let’s see if the former top prospect can break out. Mike Yastrzemski was a top player for the Giants in the 2019 and 2020 seasons. He struggled in 2021, can he return to 2020 form? Joc Pederson is a fun, new addition. He’s won the World Series 2 years in a row, first with the Dodgers in 2020 and then with the Braves last season. Let’s see what the power-hitting lefty has in store.
This lineup is a high floor, high ceiling type offense that could be awesome under the right circumstances. They also have a balanced lineup and opportunities to platoon.
The Starting Rotation
Italics indicates new addition
Depth (L) Matthew Boyd (Injured) (R) Jakob Junis (Minors) (R) Carlos Martinez (Non-roster Invite) (L) Sammy Long (Minors)
Going into the 2021 season, the Giants’ strength looks to be starting pitching. The rotation consists of Logan Webb, Carlos Rodon, Anthony DeSclafani, Alex Wood, and new addition Alex Cobb. Logan Webb was crucial at the end of the 2021 season. From May 11 to the end of the season, Webb went 10-0 pitching 116.1 innings to a 2.40 ERA. He followed that up with 2 incredible postseason starts, giving up only 1 run in a combined 14.2 innings. At the age of 25, Webb has been announced the Opening Day starter for the 2022 season.
Bringing in the Lefty
The Giants filled the gap of Kevin Gausman by signing 2021 breakout star, Carlos Rodon. Rodon made 24 starts pitching to a 2.37 ERA with the Chicago White Sox. Before 2021 Rodon had been inconsistent. His biggest issues were always injuries and walks. Although he was not healthy at the end of last season due to a shoulder injury, he finished the season with 185 strikeouts (99th percentile in K%) and only 36 walks (73rd percentile in BB%) in 132.2 innings pitched. Rodon’s average fastball velocity also jumped almost 3 MPH. Injuries are still a concern with Rodon but his 2021 results were no fluke.
Anthony DeScafani and Alex Wood will be returning for their second season in San Francisco. Both were steady forces in the 2021 season. DesClafani signed his second one-year contract with the Giants after starting 31 games with a 3.17 ERA in 167.2 Innings. Wood also signed his second one-year contract with the Giants. He started 25 games and had an ERA of 3.83.
For their 5th starter, the Giants signed Alex Cobb. Cobb has had an interesting career. In his rookie year, 2011, Cobb was diagnosed with Thoracic outlet syndrome which is known for being one of the toughest injuries for pitchers to recover from. It has altered many top-end pitchers’ careers, such as Josh Beckett, Matt Harvey, Phil Hughes, and now, Stephen Strasburg. Cobb has been one of the success stories after this surgery. After the recovery, Cobb was a promising, young starter for the Tampa Bay Rays up until 2014 when he needed Tommy John Surgery. After this, Cobb struggled to find consistency between time with the Rays and the Baltimore Orioles while undergoing hip surgery in 2019. Cobb finally got his feet back under him in 2021 while with the Los Angeles Angels. Cobb started 18 games and pitched 93.1 innings to a 3.76 ERA.
San Francisco added more depth by signing former Detroit Tigers left-handed pitcher, Matthew Boyd, to a one-year, $5.2 million contract. Boyd has had high expectations throughout his career but has always struggled with the long ball. In 2019, he struck out 11.6 batters per 9 innings but led the league in home runs allowed with 39. Maybe the Giants can unlock the potential as they have done with so many others. Boyd will be coming off of flexor tendon surgery that he sustained last September so he is not expected to return until late June. To go along with Boyd, the Giants signed 2 right-handed pitchers, former Cardinal, Carlos Martinez, and former Royals pitcher Jakob Junis. Boyd, Martinez, and Junis will be depth starters.
With this much pitching depth, the Giants are in a good position going into the 2022 season. Along with the potential for high-end production, the Giants’ bullpen will also benefit from this. There shouldn’t be too many situations where the bullpen is expected to eat innings because the starters failed to. There shouldn’t be any ‘bullpen games’ either. This will give the bullpen the rest that is needed throughout the season.
(L)Jake McGee (R)Camilo Doval (R)Tyler Rogers (R)Dominic Leone (L)Jarlin Garcia (R)Zack Littell (L)Jose Alvarez (R)John Brebbia (R)Tyler Beede In 2021, the San Francisco Giants bullpen was stellar, ranking first in all of baseball in bullpen ERA. Going into 2022, the bullpen looks the same. The guy that everyone should have their eyes on, is Camilo Doval. After joining the team in mid-August, the rookie threw 27 innings, striking out 37 and pitching to a 3.00 ERA. He is a flamethrowing righty whose cutter averages 99 MPH. Going into his first full big league season, Doval will be crucial to the bullpen's success. Locking down the end of games will be Doval, Jake McGee, and Tyler Rogers. In 2021, McGee led the Giants in saves with 33 and had an ERA of 2.72. Tyler Rogers is awesome. He throws submarine and has a slider with rising-type action. He led all Giants relievers in innings with 81 and had a 2.22 ERA while doing so. Due to his funky delivery, Rogers has the ability to pitch almost everyday if needed. The best part about Rogers is that the color of his shoes is all white so the ball may be tougher to pick up out of his hand.
My Preseason Predictions
Team Record: 91-71 Second Place in NL West Team MVP: Mike Yastrzemski Team Cy Young: Logan Webb Breakout Player of the Year: Thairo Estrada
Keep the Magic Flowing
Even after winning 107 games, people are still doubting the Giants and I do believe their clubhouse has taken note of this, as they did in 2021 as well. The Giants showed grit last season. There may be signs of regression to come but I do not believe the regression will be major. The Giants are still a top team in the league. They can still make the playoffs and yes, they can still win the division. Once you make it to October baseball, anything can happen.
The Giants will be opening on Friday at 1:35 PM PT at home against the Miami Marlins. Sandy Alcantara will be sqauring off against Logan Webb. This will be a 3 game weekend series followed by another home series against the San Diego Padres.
Main image credit Embed from Getty Images