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Know Your Enemy: San Francisco Giants

Remember when we used to care about the Giants?

Hey, Tim Lincecum DID find work after all?
Hey, Tim Lincecum DID find work after all?
Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

2015 record: 84-78 (2nd)
Major arrivals (with 2015 bWAR):
Kyle Blanks (0.4), Johnny Cueto (3.9), Jeff Samardzija (0.2), Denard Span (0.8)
Major departures (with 2015 bWAR): Jeremy Affeldt (-0.8)., Nori Aoki (1.0), Marlon Byrd (0.6), Mike Leake (0.1), Tim Lincecum (-0.3), Yusmeiro Petit (0.4)
Probable lineup and rotation

  1. CF Denard Span
  2. 2B Joe Panik
  3. C Buster Posey
  4. RF Hunter Pence
  5. 1B Brandon Belt
  6. SS Brandon Crawford
  7. 3B Matt Duffy
  8. LF Angel Pagan
  1. Madison Bumgarner
  2. Johnny Cueto
  3. Jeff Samardzija
  4. Jake Peavy
  5. Matt Cain

Something something even year. Maybe that's why both Fangraphs and PECOTA have the San Francisco Giants tabbed to win 87 games and make it back into the playoffs this season as one of the National League wild-cards. And, as we saw in 2014, that's all they need. That said, I wasn't perhaps as impressed with their winter as some. Yes, picking up Cueto will certainly bolster a rotation (pause for Paul Goldschmidt to sigh heavily, as his favorite chew-toy Lincecum is currently unemployed), but Samardzija is going to need a significant bounce-back to justify that five year, $90 million contract. Cain, too, will earn $21m, despite being below replacement level in 2015.

If you had to pick one strength for the team, it's probably the infield, which looks extremely solid all the way around, with all five men worth at least 3.3 bWAR last season, anchored of course by three-time All-Star, St. Buster of the Flowers. Panik was the only one to appear in less than 137 games, missing time with a stress fracture of his back (believed by some to be the result of a Justin Upton slide into second), but is expected to be 100 percent ready for Opening Day, and there are no other significant health issues to report. Their 25-man roster is also close to set, with the final bench spot about the only serious battle left to be decided this spring.

Santiago Casilla had his first full season as closer in 2015, after taking over from Sergio Romo. He anchors a strong bullpen which has five men who posted sub-three ERAs over more than 50 appearances last season, making for a potentially formidable arsenal in the later innings of games. However, it didn't really seem to help too much last year, San Francisco posting a 19-28 record in one-run contests; that ranked 13th in the league (ahead of only the Reds and Phillies, who both lost close to 100 for the year) and, arguably, could have cost the Giants a spot in the post-season.

At +69, their run differential for 2015 was almost identical to that of the division-winning Dodgers (+72),. and the arrival of Cueto has likely helped narrow that gap further. The back of the rotation certainly has its question-marks, with a potentially steep fall-off beyond the #2, and not a great deal pf depth to cover in the event of any injuries. The outfield is also no great shakes, in particular Pagan, whose -1.9 bWAR was the lowest figure among National League position players. All told, this is a good team rather than a great one, with its share of weaknesses to counter its strengths. Still, in a relatively-even division, that should be enough for San Francisco to compete.