San Francisco Giants
Not much is expected out of the San Francisco Giants this year. Their National League West division is dominated by two superteams in the Dodgers and Padres, leaving the Giants playing for pride. At least, that's how it looks on paper here in the preseason. An achievable goal for San Francisco would be to break even—after finishing 29-31 in 2020's mini-season, the Giants have had four straight losing campaigns. The last time they had five straight sub-.500 seasons was...never. Going all the way back to the franchise's inception in 1883, four consecutive losing seasons is the worst they've done, and that's not a record they look forward to breaking. It'll be a challenge, but they start off their season with a set against the Mariners, whom they were 4-0 against last year. All four of those games were in San Francisco, as the two scheduled for up here at TMP were relocated due to wildfire smoke. The air will be better this time around for sure, and the quality of the Mariners' play should be too.
Meanwhile, the Giants are at a crossroads. Three stars from their World Series years of the last decade are at the end of their contracts—first baseman Brandon Belt, shortstop Brandon Crawford, and catcher Buster Posey may well be playing their last years in Bay Area orange and black. Same goes for Silver Slugger-winning second baseman Donovan Solano and starting pitchers Johnny Cueto and Kevin Gausman. It's safe to assume that the Giants' roster at the end of the year won't much resemble the version from Opening Day. Meanwhile, their few additions from the offseason are topped by underwhelming names like utilityman Tommy LaStella, starting pitcher Aaron Sánchez, and onetime Mariner reliever Matt Wisler.
Posey opted out of the 2020 season and that may have been the difference between a winning and losing season for his squad; San Francisco used four players behind the plate last year, none of whom hit better than Joey Bart's .233/.288/.320, a far cry from Posey's career averages (.302/.370/.456). With Posey back in action to join Belt and fan-fave outfielders Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson, the Giants should have a better offensive showing than they mustered last year, when they were near the bottom of the National League in most batting metrics. On the mound, Gausman is the ace after a 3-3, 3.62 ERA season in 2020; the staff as a whole strikes fear in the hearts of no one, though there's enough talent there to be respectable.
Who’s Hot & Not
Top players in 2020
..309/.425/.591, 9 HR, 30 RBI
.297/.400/.568, 10 HR, 35 RBI
.326/.365/.463, 3 HR, 29 RBI
Last 3 series vs. Seattle
|9/17/20||SF 6, SEA 4|
|9/16/20||SF 9, SEA 3|
|9/9/20||SF 10, SEA 1|
|9/8/20||SF 6, SEA 5|
|7/25/18||SEA 3, SF 2|
|7/24/18||SF 4, SEA 3|
Gabe Kapler: Making friends isn't the job of a baseball manager, and for that Gabe Kapler can be grateful. He was canned from his first managerial gig in Philadelphia despite a not-terrible .500 Phillies' record during his tenure, because his players didn't much like him and the Phillie clubhouse was a bastion of tense hostility. It wasn't likely that Kapler would get another opportunity, but the Giants came calling because their president of baseball operations, Farhan Zaidi, worked with Kapler in the Dodgers' organization when Kapler was the director of LA's farm system. Kapler had bad press in that gig too, but Zaidi wanted to hire not so much a manager but a mouthpiece, a representative for him in the dugout. As Zaidi's proxy, Kapler's job is to mold young players as a sort of development coach with everything else a secondary concern.
He can be grateful for that, too, as he's gotten poor marks for his in-game strategizing in both Philadelphia and San Francisco, particularly when it comes to handling the bullpen. That's a frustration Mariner fans can relate to; much as Seattle's Scott Servais kept throwing dangerously wild Taylor Williams into the fire last year in save situations until the club traded Williams away in self-defense, Kapler had a similar affinity for Trevor Gott, who finished the year with an ERA of 10.03. As Nick San Miguel of the Fansided blog Around the Foghorn put it, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me; fool me thrice, shame on Farhan Zaidi and the Giants," San Miguel ascribing responsibility to Zaidi as the man pulling Kapler's strings.
Matt Wisler: After turning in a typical Seattle reliever's season in 2019, going 1-2 with an ERA over 6.00, Wilser hooked on with the Twins for last year's short season and was a completely different pitcher. He threw 251⁄3 innings for Minnesota for an impressive ERA of just 1.07 while striking out over 30% of his batters. Now, the FIP was much higher (3.35), so the ERA might be illusory, but it's still worlds better than his showing as a Mariner. In 2020, Wisler relied heavily on one pitch, throwing the slider nearly 85% of the time. Asked about the preference, Wisler said, "I’m just like, 'I know my slider is better than you are, and I’m just going to throw it to you. And if you hit it, I still don’t think the next time I face you, you’re gonna hit it again.'"
|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|