Let’s preface this article with the statement that the Giants are not projected to be good in 2020 – quite the opposite, in fact. Yet, projections are often wrong, though usually not wrong enough for what I’m about to suggest. The Giants of 2020 feel very similar to the first San Francisco Giants championship team, the 2010 Giants. Let’s take a dive into the similarities between the two teams and why the Giants may just be able to pull off the same thing they did exactly one decade ago.
See related article: Tim Lincecum: The Rise and Fall
The Giants’ Young Catcher
The first comparison between the teams comes in the form of an impressive young catching prospect waiting to burst onto the scene. Of course, 2020’s version is in reference to Joey Bart. However, the hype surrounding him mirrors a case ten years ago with Buster Posey. In 2010, the Giants had incumbent Bengie Molina hitting to a .265/.285/.442 slash line the previous year. While the OBP lacked, the power was still there for him. In 2020, the incumbent is now an aging Posey, who slashed .257/.320/.368 last season. Eerie isn’t it? What Posey makes up in OBP, Molina vastly makes up in SLG. Posey’s 2019 OPS was .688, Molina’s 2009 OPS was .727. But it gets weirder. Rewind again to 2009 and Buster Posey hit to a slash line of .321/.391/.511 in Triple-A for the Giants and looked like he was big-league ready. Joey Bart in 2019 hit a slash line of .316/.368/.544 in Double-A. Are you getting Deja Vu yet? My head is certainly spinning.
If Joey Bart can turn into 2010 Buster Posey for the Giants, then we are looking at a future filled with a massive power bat in the middle of their lineup.
The Surprise Late Bloomer
The 2010 Giants were full of surprises that no one, including Giants fans, saw coming. One of those was the massive jump in production by Andres Torres. Torres had worked his way to a 2.3 WAR in 2009 but he was 29 years old and was likely to go downhill from there. Instead, Torres had the year of his life in 2010, his age-30 season. Torres slashed .268/.343/.479 and was a Gold Glove-caliber defender in center field while also compiling a 6.3 WAR. Torres returned to a 2 WAR player the following season. Why is this relevant? Well, the Giants have a 2020 version of Andres Torres.
Mike Yastrzemski came out of nowhere for the Giants last season to be a productive player finishing with a 2.2 WAR in 2019. “Yaz” turned 29 years old that September and will turn 30 years old in September of 2020. The even weirder part is that “Yaz” is expected to see time in CF during the 2020 season where Andres Torres patrolled exactly ten years earlier. If Yaz can pull off an Andres Torres-like explosion in 2020 then the Giants’ chances of making an impact would increase greatly.
The Giants Rotation
The Giants entered 2010 with one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. Tim Lincecum was coming off a 7.6 WAR season in 2009on top of his second consecutive Cy Young award. The rest of the rotation wasn’t too shabby either. Matt Cain was a 200+ innings eater and pitched to a 3.4 WAR in ’09. Jonathan Sanchez had electric but wild stuff and he pitched his way to a 1.9 WAR. The rest of the rotation was mix and matched. However, in 2010 something happened the Giants didn’t forsee. Lincecum began a steep decline and pitched his way to just a 4.3 WAR – still good, but very unexpected. Also, Cain (4 WAR) and Sanchez (2.2 WAR) both had minor improvements. There are some parallels from this rotation to the 2020 rotation.
While the Giants of 2020 do not have a perennial Cy Young award winner entering the season, they do have two veterans atop their rotation in Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. Cueto hasn’t been completely healthy since 2016 and was sidelined most of the last season recovering from Tommy John Surgery. Cueto stated that he believed the injury occurred during the 2017 season, then carried it into 2018 before opting for surgery. However, if we return to Cueto’s last healthy season in 2016, he was a 4.9 WAR pitcher. Meanwhile, Samardzija pitched to a 1.5 WAR in 2019 and could be considered the Jonathan Sanchez of this scenario. Kevin Gausman figures to be the number three pitcher in this rotation. Gausman pitched to a 1.6 WAR last season but was between 2.4-3.1 WAR from’16-’18. It would be fair to expect him to return to that. The similarities aren’t perfect, but they are there.
The Youthful Pitcher
In 2009, the back of the rotation for the Giants was a disaster. However, that changed in 2010 with the emergence of a new young arm: Madison Bumgarner. In 2010, MadBum started 18 games at the big league level and pitched to a 3.00 ERA, 3.81 FIP, and a 1.7 WAR. This began a long career with the Giants riddled with World Series Championships and beer showers. The year prior Bumgarner spent most of his time in Double-A starting 19 games and pitching to a 1.93 ERA/3.51 FIP/3.81 xFIP.
Believe it or not, the 2020 Giants have their own lefty in the minors on the Bumgarner track. Seth Corry spent his entire 2019 season in A ball pitching to a slash line of 1.76/2.87/3.15: even better than Bumgarner’s 2009 numbers in Double-A. Obviously, Single-A and Double-A are different but Seth Corry is currently projected to start the 2020 season in AA and could easily make the jump from Double-A to the big leagues similar to Joe Panik and Matt Duffy. Especially if he were to continue his dominance from last season. Look for Seth Corry to be the name who shores up the back end of the rotation for the stretch run in 2020.
As mentioned before, the Giants aren’t likely to win the World Series in 2020. However, they weren’t supposed to win the World Series in 2010 either and if this article didn’t give you just a glimmer of hope, then shut your TV off. We’ll call you when they are the favorites again. But if you wait until then, you might miss something truly special.
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