The 2019 season was the end of an era by the Bay as future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy retired after 13 seasons in charge of the San Francisco Giants. Bochy led the Giants to three World Series titles.
San Francisco has a new general manager in Scott Harris and skipper in Gabe Kapler. Oh, and World Series heroes Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey are gone, Bumgarner to division rival Arizona through free agency while Posey opted out for 2020.
With all of these changes, it is tough to know what to expect out of the Giants, especially in a shortened season. The experts don’t expect much, with the BetUS World Series odds for the Giants at +15000, tied for last in the five-team NL West.
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San Francisco 2019 Results
The Giants got off to a slow start in Bochy’s last season, going 11-15 in April and 10-16 in May. They picked things up with a winning June and a 19-6 July before finishing 22-32 over the last two months.
San Francisco finished in third place in the NL West at 77-85, 29 games behind the Dodgers, their hated rivals. They were 38-38 inside the division last year and 11-9 in interleague play.
The Giants really struggled at home in 2019, going 35-46 and scoring 136 fewer runs at home than they did while going 42-39 on the road.
The offense also let the Giants down in 2019 as they were shut out 17 times. San Francisco finished in the bottom three in the National League in runs scored, batting average, home runs, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, walks, and total bases.
San Francisco Key Additions
Off the field, the Giants made additions with Harris and Kapler. Harris joined after a stint with the Chicago Cubs in which he reached assistant general manager status under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Kapler was let go by the Philadelphia Phillies after two seasons in which he went 161-163 as manager.
In his first venture into free agency, Harris re-signed fan favorite outfielder Hunter Pence. Pence was an All-Star with the Texas Rangers in 2019, batting .297/.358/.552 with 18 homers, 17 doubles, and 59 RBI. Pence was a part of the 2012 and 2014 World Series champions in San Francisco as he spent seven seasons in the Bay Area.
The Giants also signed infielder Wilmer Flores away from Arizona, where he spent one season. Flores hit .317/.361/.487 in 89 games while hitting nine homers and driving in 37 runs.
On the pitching side, San Francisco brought in right-handed pitchers Kevin Gausman, Tyler Anderson, Trevor Cahill, and Drew Smyly and re-signed Tony Watson.
Gausman split last season between Atlanta and Cincinnati, going a combined 3-9 with a 5.72 ERA. In 31 games and 17 starts, he struck out 114 batters in 102 1/3 innings.
Anderson had just five starts with Colorado, going 0-3 with an 11.76 ERA. He helped the Rockies to the playoffs in 2017 and 2018, going a combined 13-15.
Cahill pitched 37 times for the Los Angeles Angels with 11 starts. Overall, he was 4-9 with a 5.98 ERA over 102 1/3 innings. He developed a hand injury in camp.
Smyly made 12 starts for Kapler in Philadelphia and another 13 appearances for the Texas Rangers. Overall, he was 4-7 with a 6.24 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 114 innings.
San Francisco Big Losses
Bumgarner finished in the top 10 in the Cy Young race four times with the Giants and was the 2014 National League Championship Series and World Series MVP. In 11 years with the team, he won 119 games with a 3.13 ERA over 286 starts while striking out 1,794 batters. Last season, he led the NL in starts while going 9-9 with a 3.90 ERA and 207 innings pitched.
Posey has been the Giants’ backstop and leader since winning the NL Rookie of the Year in 2010. The 2012 MVP opted out as a 33-year-old this season after hitting .302/.370/.456 over 11 seasons. He played 114 games while batting .257/.320/.368 with seven homers, 24 doubles, and 38 RBI.
The Giants also lost their lone 2019 All-Star as lefty closer Will Smith signed with Atlanta. In 63 games, he was 6-0 with a 2.76 ERA and 34 saves while striking out 96 batters over 65 1/3 innings.
Outfielder Kevin Pillar left to sign with Boston after batting .264/.293/.442. The 31-year-old added 21 homers, 37 doubles, and 87 RBI in a team-high 156 games.
Backup catcher Stephen Vogt went to Arizona with Bumgarner. He played 99 games batting .263/.314/.490 with 10 homers, 24 doubles, and 40 RBI.
San Francisco Pitching
The Giants get right-handed pitcher Johnny Cueto back from injury after the 34-year-old pitched just four times. In 2017, his last full season, Cueto went 8-8 with a 4.52 ERA in 25 starts. He was a top-10 Cy Young finisher while leading the Giants to the playoffs in his first year with the team in 2016.
Veteran innings-eater Jeff Samardzija follows Cueto. He was 11-12 with a 3.52 ERA in 32 starts over 181 1/3 innings.
Gausman, Smyly, and Anderson should slot into the next three slots in the rotation, with Logan Webb and Dereck Rodriguez providing options as well. Webb went 2-3 with a 5.22 ERA in eight starts last year, and Rodriguez was 6-11 with a 5.64 ERA in 16 starts and 28 total outings.
Watson could resume closer duties as he is the only pitcher in the bullpen with MLB closing experience. He was 2-2 with a 4.17 ERA over 60 outings.
Righties Trevor Gott, Sam Coonrod, and Tyler Rogers are bullpen options with Andrew Suarez from the left side. Gott went 7-0 with a 4.44 ERA in 50 outings.
San Francisco Offense
Kapler will have a lot of moving parts to his lineup, especially with early-season injuries to third baseman Evan Longoria, first baseman Brandon Belt, and designated hitter Pablo Sandoval. A possible lineup is SS Brandon Crawford, 3B Donovan Solano, RF Mike Yastrzemski, DH Hunter Pence, LF Alex Dickerson, 1B Wilmer Flores, 2B Mauricio Dubon, C Rob Brantly, CF Steven Duggar.
Crawford is the mainstay from this group and hit .228/.304/.350. He added 11 homers, 24 doubles, and 59 RBI while scoring 58 runs.
Solano will be one option at the hot corner while Longoria recovers from a heel injury. A utility player, he hit .330/.360/.456 in 81 games with 13 doubles, four homers, and 23 RBI. Longoria hit .254/.325/.437 with 20 homers, 19 doubles, and 69 RBI.
Yastrzemski, the grandson of Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, hit .272/.334/.518 for the Giants in 107 games. The left-handed hitter launched 21 homers with 22 doubles and 55 RBI.
Dickerson played 56 games as a 29-year-old, batting .290/.351/.529 with six homers, 13 doubles, and 26 RBI.
Flores can play first, second or third base and is likely to get some time at first while Belt recovers from an oblique injury. Belt hit 17 homers and drove in 57 runs with a .234/.339/.403 line.
While Flores is at first, Dubon can play second base. He appeared in 28 games, batting .279/.312/.442 with four homers, five doubles and 12 runs scored.
Who starts at catcher with Posey staying home and Vogt in Arizona is a big question. The catcher in waiting is top prospect Joey Bart, but the Giants weren’t expecting his arrival until 2021. While he could debut this season, look for Brantly, who hasn’t started an MLB game since 2017 or switch-hitting Tyler Heineman to get the nod.
When Pence is at designated hitter, Duggar will get the third outfield spot. Last year, he hit .234/.278/.341 in 73 games with 12 doubles and 28 RBI.
Sandoval is still getting back into shape after Tommy John surgery but should be able to be the designated hitter. He hit 14 homers in 108 games last season while batting .268/.313/.507 and driving in 41 runs.
Three Key Players
No one really knows what to expect from Cueto, who has logged 69 innings over the last two seasons. A return to 2016 or 2017 form would set up the Giants’ rotation to succeed and take the pressure off an inexperienced bullpen.
Pence returns, and his energy and experience can go a long way to help San Francisco start the post-Bochy era. Getting to be the designated hitter should help Pence as well since he has battled through injuries in the past.
Longoria is the bat in the middle of the lineup when healthy. The sooner he can get back from a heel injury, the quicker the Giants can get everyone back into their normal positions and spots in the order. Longoria has hit at least 20 homers in 10 of 12 MLB seasons and played at least 120 games 10 times as well.
The 60-game schedule has 40 in-division games and 20 interleague games giving the Giants a tough schedule, with games against playoff contenders like the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, Oakland A’s, and Los Angeles Angels.
San Francisco has to be ready to go right away, with 10 road games against the Dodgers and Astros in its first 18 contests. The Giants opened in Los Angeles with a four-game set and return to Dodger Stadium for three more in early August.
The Giants play three home games against the A’s and three games across the Bay against their neighbors as well. They will not travel to the Texas Rangers and don’t play host to the Astros. The Giants finish the season with four home games against the Rockies and three against the Padres.