Sorry to be the one to pop the balloon, San Francisco Giants loyalists, but there’s no such thing as even-year magic.
I realize recent events don’t exactly back me up on this. As everyone knows, the Giants won World Series titles in 2010, 2012 and 2014. This being 2016, another autumn parade down Market Street must seem like a foregone conclusion.
This isn’t to say the Giants won’t win their fourth championship in seven seasons. They very well could. But it won’t be simply because 2016 is an even-numbered year. It’ll be because they were the best team – or, more accurately, the team that got hot at the right time.
If the Giants win their fourth World Series in seven seasons it won’t be because 2016 is an even-numbered year; it’ll be because they got hot at the right time.
Giants fans should be well-versed in that happy happenstance.
When you take a look at these Giants and examine how the roster was put together there’s not much resemblance to those three championship clubs.
Under Brian Sabean (who passed the official general manager title to Bobby Evans), the franchise didn’t do much big-ticket shopping in free agency. Not since 2006, when Barry Zito got $126 million(!) to move across the Bay.
In 2010, Sabean got an MVP-caliber season from Aubrey Huff (on a $3 million dice roll) and plucked Pat Burrell off the scrap heap. In 2012, he struck gold with Ryan Vogelsong and acquired Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro in deft midseason trades. In 2014, unheralded acquisitions Michael Morse and Jake Peavy provided an .811 OPS and 2.17 ERA over 12 starts, respectively.
This offseason, by necessity, the Giants went back to ordering from the entree side of the menu. They committed $220 million to right-handers Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, bolstering what had become a suspect starting rotation behind Madison Bumgarner.
220millions of dollars committed by the Giants to Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija
There are no sure things in baseball – especially when the subject is pitching arms – but there’s not much evidence the Giants spent foolishly.
Cueto (six years, $130 million) has been one of the National League’s best pitchers since 2011, despite playing half his games at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati.
I don’t put much stock in Cueto’s 4.76 ERA last season following a July deadline deal to the world-champion Royals. What he did in the World Series (a two-hitter in Game 2 against the Mets) makes up for that. More bothersome, at least potentially, are the murmurs of a balky elbow.
Cueto should be as entertaining as he is effective. No other pitcher boasts four different windups – Yahoo baseball writer (and ex-Bee colleague) Jeff Passan nicknamed them The Traditional, The Quick Pitch, The Rocking Chair and The Tiant – or match his endearing fondness for using Instagram to share photos of himself dozing and on horseback.
Meanwhile, the Giants need Samardzija (five years, $90 million) to climb back into the saddle following a dreadful year with the White Sox in which he allowed more hits (228) and earned runs (129) than any pitcher in baseball.
Even though Samardzija is 31 (13 months older than Cueto) there’s a belief the former Notre Dame wide receiver can get more out of his ability. Thus far his mid-90s fastball and sharp slider has produced only one good season – a 2.99 combined ERA for the Cubs and A’s in 2014.
Pitching for the Giants comes with three built-in perks: pitching coach Dave Righetti; catcher Buster Posey, one of MLB’s best pitch-callers and framers; and the hitting-suppressed environment of AT&T Park.
Provided Cueto and Samardzija take advantage of their new digs and Bumgarner keeps doing what he does, that will ease the burden on the bottom of the rotation or bullpen – both of which are a little shaky.
By contrast, the everyday lineup should be solid. Every day this team has a chance to hit. Let’s be honest. During the Giants’ first two World Series triumphs, they had maybe three threatening hitters, four if you’re being generous.
This team has double that number. The homegrown infield of Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Matt Duffy and Posey is the envy of every MLB club not named the Cubs or Royals.
The outfield, not so much. Pence will be productive as long as he remains healthy, which is no longer a given. Same goes for Angel Pagan and free-agent center fielder Denard Span (three years, $31 million), who are also both coming off injury-plagued seasons.
If you look at this team Bobby Evans did a great job of assembling this club. He added depth to the rotation and to the outfield. I’m sure more is expected out of us, which they should. It’s a really good ballclub.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy
The Giants aren’t flawlessly constructed. They could use more power in the outfield and off the bench (Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson, come on down) and another stopper in the bullpen. But they have fewer holes than the competition.
It’s easy to forget the Dodgers finished eight games ahead of the Giants last season in the N.L. West. But does anyone besides Tommy Lasorda think they’re a better club? Not after failing to re-sign Zack Greinke. Certainly not with all those spring training injuries.
Speaking of injuries, Greinke’s new employer, the Diamondbacks, suffered a doozy with center fielder A.J. Pollock sidelined indefinitely by a broken elbow that will require surgery. That’s a huge blow to an up-and-coming team.
With the Padres and Rockies barely trying these days (not to mention the Brewers, Reds, Braves, Phillies and Marlins), the Giants are all-systems go for another even-year run.
But if the season ends with yet another orange-and-black parade, it’ll be because of expensive signings, years of good drafting and pure, unadulterated coincidence – not hocus pocus.