I’m really grateful for all the excellent contributions in the Bush League Ramble season preview series so far, and for all the positive feedback to the posts. It has been great fun curating the series, and getting the articles published, but now it’s my turn – feel free to comment below and do catch up on the rest of the series so far Cubs, Brewers, Dodgers, Indians, White Sox, Mets, Rays, Phillies, Cardinals – and if you’re interested in writing about your favourite team, give me a shout.
Well I’m glad 2017 is finished! Comfortably the worst season I’ve endured in the 20+ years I’ve been following the Giants. Don’t get me wrong, I know we’ve had more than our fair share of success recently but I did not see last season coming. 98 losses, 40 games back on the Dodgers, a whisker away from being the worst team in baseball, and very, very little to report in terms of redeeming features. I suppose you could argue that having had such a torturous year the only way is up, so fingers are steadfastly crossed!
The front office has done a stand-up job in reviving spirits in the Bay Area after a terrible year last time out. Bringing in Cutch and Longoria gives fans hope that at least there will be competitive baseball being played in September, and an outside chance that we could sneak a wild card spot away from the Diamondbacks. The window is still closing for this ageing side, and you get the feeling that the management have decided to have one last throw of the dice this year before they are forced to start tearing down. Credit to GM Bobby Evans for twisting whilst nearly every other team seems to be sticking, but we’ve got to face facts – the team now has one of the top five payrolls in the sport and they aren’t anywhere near the top five in terms of talent on the pitch.
I’m expecting bounce back years in varying degrees from basically everyone(!), but fingers crossed that Bumgarner and Cueto, in particular, can shore up the rotation, and that Panik, Belt and Crawford can get back to their effective best. Defensively the team is stronger than last year, assuming Pablo Sandoval doesn’t get too much playing time at third base, and I expect experienced all-stars Longoria and McCutchen to give the whole playing staff a boost. It will be interesting to see what happens in the outfield with rumours that they’ll platoon promising rookie Steven Duggar with Austin Jackson in centre field.
Tony Watson is a great signing, and on paper I’m more pleased with the bullpen than I have been for a while, especially if Will Smith can come back strong after Tommy John surgery, and if Mark Melancon remembers how to pitch in the ninth inning. Concerns remain about rotation depth, with Chris Stratton and Ty Blach looking to be the ones to get the nod at four and five respectively, and there could be trouble ahead if anyone (especially anyone good!) gets sidelined for any considerable time with injury.
We still aren’t going to get many home runs but we’ve got some guys who can hopefully get on base a bit more now, and there might be a chance that any two or three of Belt, Cutch, Longoria, Pence, Posey could go deep 20 times, even if that’s small change in the current run scoring era. Overall I’ll be happy if we only lose half our games, as opposed to two-thirds of them!
81/81 – I’m cautiously optimistic we might do better than this if everything (and it needs to pretty much be everything!) goes well, but realistically we are an ageing side who’ve lost 140 games in the last season and a half, so I’d bite your arm off for a .500 year thank you very much!
McCutchen will be reinvigorated by the California sunshine and go nuts with the bat, getting 25-30 home runs (hey that’s a lot in San Francisco!)
One to watch
Steven Duggar will impress as long as he’s not rushed.
Steve Klein – @kleinst01