It’s almost that time. In less than a week pitchers and catchers will be reporting to Arizona for Spring Training. You know, there really is not a much better time than when baseball is set to renew itself each year. In honor of this, it’s time to start thinking ahead to the start of the season, and just how the starting rotation for the San Francisco Giants will look like come Opening Day. Mainly, let’s focus on what order the starters should be in- who will be starting Opening Day at Chase Field in Arizona against the Arizona Diamondbacks on March 31st; and who will be the fifth starter.
Most of the Giants returning rotation is intact, with Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Tim Lincecum, and Ryan Vogelsong are back and ready to reclaim their status as one of the best rotations in baseball after a lackluster 2013 campaign. With the offseason signing of former Atlanta Braves starter Tim Hudson, the Giants can roll out some quality arms steeped in experience, including playoff experience, that should position the men in orange and black to keep pace in the National League West with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Diamondbacks; and the rest of the division.
Of course there could be injuries, or spring training camp surprises that alter and change the pitching order for the Giants come the regular season; but for the sake of argument we will assume that the five aforementioned starters will be healthy and in the starting rotation when the season starts. That being said, here is how I breakdown the Giants starting rotation, giving them the best chance of winning and matching-up with other teams rotations also.
Cain is still a horse, and capable of winning 15 games and eating up innings in the process. Cain may have had a tired arm or shoulder last season with all the extra workload that included the 2012 playoffs. It was a close call deciding between him and MadBum, but with Cain’s longevity in a Giants uniform and what he has meant to the team, including his potential and productivity; Cain gets the nod on Opening Day.
I would follow that up with Bumgarner as the second man in-line to take the hill. He is a young, strong, dominant lefty who will wreak havoc on the league again this season. MadBum is a calming presence in the rotation, able to step-in and stop a losing streak and bring stability to the staff when things are going a little rough. This was evident last season when Bumgarner was called upon frequently to provide a quality start when things were in disarray for the Giants.
Now, spots three and four are really interchangeable, and based almost on preference. Even more so, this decision by Giants may be based upon loyalty and popularity. Lincecum and Hudson are going to be three and four in the rotation. Lincecum, that of a no-hitter last year, still has the stuff to get hitters out effectively.
In addition, with the contract situation off his mind, he can focus on the game of baseball and not the other stuff. Even though his fastball speed may not be what it used to be, he is remaking his game in to that of a more well-rounded pitcher who still can get a strikeout when needed; and uses his changeup to keep hitters off-balance.
Also the Giants faithful still love their adopted son from the Northwest, and with his status as a quality starter still present, Lincecum gets the number three starting position. That leaves Hudson as the number four starter. It’s a great option to have this big time pitcher in the number four slot in your rotation. A true bulldog on the mound, Hudson knows how to pitch and thrives in big games. Look for the former Bay Area pitcher to recover from his ankle injury last season, and really solidify the Giants rotation as one of the best.
Hudson really could have gone in the number three position, but Lincecum has been here longer, is younger, and should be rewarded for his contributions in addition to his productivity. Lincecum and Hudson could both win between 13-16 games this coming season if everything falls in to place nicely for the Giants.
This leaves Vogelsong as the number five starter. Not bad, not bad at all. I am willing to give him a pass on last season. A rough start hurt, and then just as he was getting in to a semi-groove, Vogey was injured and in essence lost any chance of having another stellar campaign for the Giants. Prior to last season, Vogelsong had two really solid seasons for the Giants, including big time performances in the 2012 postseason. I am ready to roll with Vogey in the five hole for the Giants pitching staff.
So there you have it, a look at what the Giants starting rotation order should look like on Opening Day. Do you agree with me? If not, what changes would you make to the starting order?
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