San Francisco Giants
Just one year removed from their 2016 Wild Card campaign, last year's Giants were terrible. San Franciscans saw their club post its worst record in 32 years, a dismal 64-98 showing good for last place in a stacked NL West. Some of the blame can be placed on injuries—Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, and Johnny Cueto all missed significant time—but if the Giants wanted to continue their recent pattern of postseason appearances every other year, things were going to have to change. But rather than tear things down and rebuild, the Giants went after veterans with successful pasts in hope of bringing professionalism and winning attitudes back to 24 Willie Mays Way.
After missing out on Giancarlo Stanton, SF beefed up their outfield by trading for Andrew McCutchen and signing free agent Austin Jackson. McCutchen had a down year in 2016 and bounced back a bit last season, but the Giants are hoping to see the Cutch that finished in the top five in MVP voting (winning it in 2013) from 2012-2015. Expectations aren't so lofty for Jackson, but the former Mariner was excellent in a part-time role with Cleveland last year and figures to be an upgrade over the departed Denard Span, who was dealt to Tampa Bay for the Giants' other big-name acquisition, third baseman Evan Longoria. At 31, Longoria is past his prime, but he still won a Gold Glove last year and should be a big improvement over last year's 3B production in San Francisco (Giants third basemen in 2017 combined to hit .216/.268/.300).
The Giants' hopes for the year took a nosedive late in spring training when Bumgarner took a line drive off his pitching hand and broke his pinky. That sort of injury generally has a six-to-eight week recovery time, and it will likely be the All-Star break by the time MadBum is back to a point where he can pitch deep into games. Without Bumgarner, the rotation is a crapshoot. Who will step into the vacancy is unclear, and the others in place are Cueto and also-ailing Jeff Samardzija, who are eminently hittable, and unproven youngsters Ty Blach and Chris Stratton. The 'pen could be a strength if closer Marc Melancon is healthy, but as with most bullpens, nothing is certain.
The Giants began the season in Los Angeles against their hated rivals the Dodgers and managed to score only two runs, both on solo homers by Joe Panik. Even so, they managed a split of the four-game series, winning two of the games 1-0 and being shut out themselves the other two.
Players to Watch
Johnny Cueto: The veteran Dominican right-hander seems to fly under the radar, but he's been a durable starter over the years and consistently puts up impressive numbers. Four times he's topped 200 innings in a season—including an eye-popping 2432⁄3 in 2014—and was an 18-game winner in 2016. Last year he missed time on the DL and had a recurring issue with blisters on his pitching hand that contributed to his worst season since his rookie campaign in 2008.
Brandon Crawford: An elite defensive shortstop, Crawford already has three Gold Gloves to his credit, can hit the occasional longball, and, while not a speedster per se, is a keen baserunner. His one real weakness is plate discipline—100+ strikeouts has been normal for him, and if he could cut down on those and draw a few more walks he could be as much a force with the bat as he is with the leather.
Brandon Belt: The year ended early for Belt in 2017, thanks to an errant pitch from Arizona's Anthony Banda that clocked him in the head and gave him his fourth concussion. He went on the DL and stayed there for the final two months of the season; he appears to be free of concussion symptoms now, though, and if he can avoid getting hit in the head again could replicate the kind of numbers he put up in 2015 and '16 and challenge for a Gold Glove at first base.
Bruce Bochy: This will be Bochy's 12th season helming the Giants, a tenure second only to the Angels' Mike Scoscia among current managers. he's taken San Francisco to the postseason four times in the past eight years—each of the even-numbered years—and is looking for number five in 2018. Achieving that will be a challenge in a strong NL West division, but a Wild Card berth is not out of the question.
Austin Jackson: Ajax played parts of two seasons with the Mariners, coming over at the July trade deadline in 2014 from the Tigers in a three-team deal that cost the M's infielder Nick Franklin. Though a capable center fielder, he underperformed in Seattle and was cast off in a waiver trade with the Cubs late the following year for the ever-popular Player to be Named Later.
|San Francisco Giants||(1958 - present)|
|World Champions:||1905, 1921, 1922, 1933, 1954, 2010, 2012, 2014|
|League Champions:||1888, 1889, 1904, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1917, 1923, 1924, 1936, 1937, 1951, 1962, 1989, 2002|
|Division Titles:||1971, 1987, 1997, 2000, 2003|