It’s 2016, a fact that could be viewed by some as a sign that it’s the San Francisco Giants’ year. Winning World Series championships in 2010, 2012, and 2014, the Giants missed the postseason a year ago, and now find themselves in a potential three-team battle out west with their rivals the Los Angeles Dodgers and the revamped Arizona Diamondbacks. However, the San Francisco Giants starting rotation is struggling early on; it’s not the smoothest of starts for the team by the bay.
Two of the Giants biggest offseason acquisitions were Jeff Samardzija and Johnny Cueto, who, while it’s still very early, are both throwing up more red flags than zeros on the scoreboard. For a team that is built around pitching, could the assembled staff be San Francisco’s downfall in 2016?
Four of the projected starters for the Giants have ERAs over 7.00, in addition to growing health concerns among the unit. The ace, Madison Bumgarner, has a 7.20 ERA, with two home runs allowed in two outings. Bumgarner has also been sidelined for 1-2 weeks with foot and rib injuries. Suddenly a new hair cut is the least of the concerns facing the 26-year old left-handed Cy Young contender.
After a down year in 2015, Samardzija was still able to negotiate a a solid deal from the Giants during the winter. Unfortunately, through four spring outings, 2016 is looking like a recurring 2015 nightmare for Samardzija. He has allowed 12 runs and three home runs in 13 innings for an 8.31 ERA. While Samardzija is a guy that has shown the ability to stay healthy and eat up a ton of innings, the results are trending in the wrong direction for the 31-year old.
The other free agent signing, Cueto, is also off to a rocky start in his new surroundings. In two outings, Cueto has a 16.62 ERA and had to leave his last game due to a potential concussion after being hit in the head with a line drive. Jake Peavy is not faring much better with an 8.53 ERA after allowing 12 runs through four outings, and Matt Cain has yet to make his spring debut as he continues to return from injuries.
In what will likely be a very competitive NL West, San Francisco can ill afford to fall behind in the standings out of the gate. For a team that relies heavily on solid starting pitching, it appears that their rotation may face challenges early on. If Bumgarner, Cain, and Cueto are limited for the remainder of the spring, their innings will not be built up for the start of the season. More of a burden then falls on the likes of Chris Heston and the Giants bullpen for the first month of the season.
This rotation has a lot of dollars invested in it. Will it be enough to keep the team afloat until the big arms right the ship? For an even year on the calendar, the San Francisco Giants are starting off in an odd way.