The 2017 Major League Baseball season opens for the Giants on Thursday, March 30, with a three-game stand at Oakland. Which means two things. First, even though their home opener isn’t until Monday, April 10, since their season opener is right across the Bay, a lot of Giants’ fans will treat the opening series as if it were home. And second, the Giants will probably start the season in the hole.
For reasons I’ve never understood, even when the Giants have a great year and the A’s don’t, those upstart ALers from across the Bay generally get the best of the boys in orange and black. So I figure they’ll open 1-2 or even 0-3 before they get back to the NL competition. (OK, it’s not as bad as all that. The A’s hold a 57-53 edge in games played since interleague play began in [can you believe it’s been this long?!] 1997.) But they have dominated in the last 11 seasons.
As the longest Spring Training in MLB history finally winds down, the Giants find themselves with a 12-15 record going into today’s game against the Rockies, the team voted Most-Likely-to-Hold-the-Cellar-in-the-NL West this year. Last I looked, they were up 5-0 in that one.
So how’s the roster shaping up?
Actually, everything is pretty much set. If the season were opening today, you’d see this lineup (not in batting order):
- Jarrett Parker in left
- Denard Span in center
- Hunter Pence in right
- Eduardo Nunez at third
- Brandon Crawford at short
- Joe Panik at second
- Brandon Belt at first
- Buster Posey behind the plate
The five-man rotation has been set for some time, though the fifth slot is still a little soft and could go a couple of different ways:
- Madison Bumgarner
- Johnny Cueto
- Matt Moore
- Jeff Samardzija
- Matt Cain (or Ty Blach, who’s made this really competitive)
The bullpen is a bit unsettled but the team’s current depth chart has reliefers in the following order:
- Mark Melancon
- Derek Law
- Hunter Strickland
- George Kontos
- Cory Gearrin
- Josh Osich
- Steven Okert
- Albert Suarez
That leaves four spots on the Opening Day 25-man roster. Appearing to have the best inside tracks on those slots are:
- Mac Williamson (OF)
- Conor Gillaspie (IF)
- Kelby Tomlinson (IF)
- Gorkys Hernandez (OF)
Overall, the Giants are below the middle of the National League in almost every pitching statistic. This is in part because they’ve given an awful lot of guys a chance to pitch who just clearly weren’t ready. But it is also due to established pitchers not being as ready as you’d expect them to be for Spring. Here are the team totals in some selected categories and where they stand in the majors (which, recall, includes 32 teams):
*WHIP=Walks plus hits per inning pitched. In other words, how many times the pitcher lets batters get on base per inning. Walks includes hit batsmen.
As I said, not encouraging.
How about the offense?
Here’s a similar table comparing team hitting against all others in MLB.
SLG=Slugging Percentage, calculated as total bases divided by at bats
OBP=On Base Percentage, meant to determine the number of times a batter gets on base per at bat. The official formula is: OBP = (Hits + Walks + Hit by Pitch) / (At Bats + Walks + Hit by Pitch + Sacrifice Flies)
OPS=On Base Plus Slugging, designed to measure the ability of a player both to get on base and to hit for power. As you can see in the above table, the Giants have an OBP of .302 and an SLG of .409. The total is rounded to .712.
Clearly, as I’ve said several times this Spring Training Season of commentary, these numbers are all but meaningless. They certainly aren’t good predictors of where the season might go, any more than their won-loss record is. But I pore over them, take them apart, share them with you because…that’s what SABRmetricians do! (Go ahead, ask me.)
NEXT UP: I’ll provide detailed spring stats for the likely 25-man roster.