As the pitchers and catchers report to Scottsdale to start a new season, the San Francisco Giants are looking to bounce back after a disappointing title defense. A season that was riddled by injuries, bad pitching and inconsistent hitting.
The Giants return with much of the same pitching staff as last year; with Madison Bumgarner coming in as the Ace after a fantastic season. Matt Cain is looking to bounce back from a sub par season by his standards, Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong return to the Giants staff with questions surrounding both of them.
The newest member of the Giants rotation, Tim Hudson, brings veteran leadership to the clubhouse. He should be a positive influence on the Giants’ young pitchers and in particular Lincecum, as they are at this point similar pitchers. Hudson’s impact won’t be more than a number 3 starter at best, but if Bumgarner, Cain and either Lincecum or Vogelsong bounce back then that will allow Hudson to add depth to the Giants staff.
This is a transition year for the Giants current staff. Meaning, that there’s a possibility that the Giants will have only 3 starters from their current staff next season. Granted, Hudson and Lincecum are signed for two years and Vogelsong might be brought back with another good season. However, the Giants have two pitchers in particular who will be knocking on the door next season or even late this season. Those two are Kyle Crick and Edwin Escobar. Both Crick and Escobar are thought highly of within the organization and will both report to Spring Training for the first time this season to get that big league exposure.
Crick has been compared to Cain, simply because of his build and the big fastball that he has which can reach 97. However he’ll sit about 93-95 and has other good secondary pitches that make him a strikeout machine. The only weakness he has is command. His walk rate is way too high for someone with his kind of stuff. To put his walk rate into perspective, in 187 career minor league innings he’s walked 114 hitters which is equal to a 5.5 BB/9 ratio which isn’t good and needs to be brought down to around 4BB/9. However, the Giants will live with his walk rate much like Lincecum early in his career if he’s not giving up hits and striking out guys, which he does well.
Escobar is the more major league ready out of the two and could possibly earn a roster spot out of camp. More than likely he will start the season in either the Giants Double A affiliate the Richmond Spiders or Triple A team the Fresno Grizzlies. He’s also more valuable than Crick because he’s a lefty who can get his fastball up to about 94 mph which is a necessity from lefties nowadays ( see Clayton Kershaw and David Price) just to name two. He also has two other quality off speed offerings that he knows how to control and mix up to keep hitters off balance.
Escobar’s number the last two years have been really good. The last two years he’s had ERA’S of 2.96 and 2.80 with WHIPS of 1.17 and 1.10. Those numbers certainly look like someone who’s figured out how to pitch and will be a quality second lefty in the Giants staff to pair with their future star Bumgarner.
Another thing that works in the favor of Crick and Escobar is that they are both 21 years old and going to be 22 this season so they are the perfect age to come in and be a starter for at least 10 years if everything goes well. These guys will get the exposure they need in camp and then continue to work on their pitching in the minor leagues until they will called upon.
As previously stated, those two pithers will be at the Giants disposal and expecting call-ups if there is either an unfortunate injury to one of the current starting 5 or somebody in the rotation is struggling.
Getting back to the Giants current starters. It’s a given that Bumgarner will be as good or even better than he was last year where he made the All Star team for the first time and finished 13-9 with a 2.77 ERA. He should have had more wins last year as his run support was among the worst in baseball last year. Cain should bounce back from his rough season and be the pitcher he’s been the last couple years. Those are the two certainties that the Giants are counting on.
Lincecum shouldn’t be given up on. He pitched better last year than his overall numbers would indicate. He would leave games with runners on base and the bullpen would continously let those runs score. His walks were down from 2012, his strikeouts were still around 9 per 9 innings which is elite. He’s continuing the transition from being a thrower to a pitcher, which takes a lot of time to learn.
Lincecum has said that he’s spent a lot of the offseason watching film of the hitters that he’ll be facing this coming season. He said he’s never done that previously so he’s already putting in more effort toward being more of a student of the game knowing he won’t over power hitters anymore. Lincecum taking this approach shows that he knows that the Giants will be counting on him to get back to at least a number 3 starter in their rotation. If he can compile an ERA in the 3.50 range that will be perfect for the Giants as they will once again have a big three in their pitching rotation.
Finally, Vogelsong is looking to bounce back from a tough season last year where statistically he was one of the worst pitchers in baseball. However, the Giants believe that pitching in the World Baseball Classic following the long regular season, didn’t give him enough time to recover and he came in to the year with a tired arm. His velocity was down from 92 MPH in 2012 to about 87-88 MPH in 2013. It wasn’t just his velocity, but his location was very hittable and he wasn’t spotting his pitches very well. He’s worked very hard this offseason to show that he has something left in the tank and the Giants believe that he will get back to Vogelsong of 2012.
Health will be the number one thing for the Giants rotation. If they stay healthy they should have a good season. Some pitchers in their rotation will need to bounce back and have solid seasons in order to improve upon their 13th ranked rotation in the National League which they had last season.