30 Clubs in 30 Days: San Francisco Giants

I’m going to skip the intro to this one mainly because I’m writing this before I spend the entire day on the plane so if any big news happens in the sporting world, whether it be March Madness or NFL free agency or something else, I implore you to look elsewhere because I will be unable to provide you with any of those services. However I can preview baseball teams, which is what I’ll be doing today with this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days featuring the San Francisco Giants.

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2017 Results:

Record: 64-98, 40 games behind Los Angeles Dodgers, 23 games behind Colorado Rockies for 2nd Wild Card spot

Notable Offseason Additions: 3B Evan Longoria, RF Andrew McCutchen, RP Tony Watson, 2B Josh Rutledge, CF Austin Jackson, SP Derek Holland

Notable Offseason Subtractions: SP Matt Cain (retired), LF Michael Morse, CF Denard Span, 3B Christian Arroyo, SP Matt Moore, RP Kyle Crick

Best Offensive Player: C Buster Posey

Best Pitcher: Madison Bumgarner

Depth Chart:

C-Buster Posey, Nick Hundley

1B-Brandon Belt

2B-Joe Panik, Kelby Tomlinson

3B-Evan Longoria, Pablo Sandoval

SS-Brandon Crawford

LF-Hunter Pence, Jarrett Parker

CF-Austin Jackson, Gorkys Hernandez

RF-Andrew McCutchen, Mac Williamson

SP-Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Ty Blach, Chris Stratton

Bullpen-Mark Melancon (CP), Sam Dyson, Hunter Strickland, Will Smith, Tony Watson, Cory Gearrin, Josh Osich

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Bruce Bochy (12th season with Giants)

Hitting Coach-Alonzo Powell

Pitching Coach-Curt Young

1st Base Coach-Jose Alguacil

3rd Base Coach-Ron Wotus

Bench Coach-Hensley Meulens

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I don’t know what the Hell happened to the Giants last season but they are way too good a team to go 64-98 and tie for the worst record in all of baseball (the Tigers will hold the #1 overall pick in the draft thanks to a tie breaker after Pablo Sandoval hit a walkoff home run on the season’s final day). Injuries did play a factor but there was also a ton of ineffectiveness from Bruce Bochy’s squad. However they made several moves that should have Giants fans excited for the coming season. Here’s how they’re projected to line up in 2018.

1. Andrew McCutchen-RF

2. Joe Panik-2B

3. Buster Posey-C

4. Brandon Belt-1B

5. Evan Longoria-3B

6. Brandon Crawford-SS

7. Hunter Pence-LF

8. Austin Jackson-CF

9. Pitcher’s Spot

That’s a pretty solid lineup. Buster Posey is the highlight, of course. The 2010 NL Rookie of the Year and 2012 NL MVP was the lone bright spot for the Giants last season. In 140 games, Posey hit .320 with 12 home runs and 67 RBI while playing above average defense behind the plate and being worth 4.3 WAR. However his efforts were wasted because other guys had down years. Brandon Belt’s 2017 was particularly poor as he only hit .241 with 18 homers and 51 RBI and was second on the team with a 2.3 WAR. I expect a bounceback year from him, though, as he dealt with injuries that limited him to 104 games last season. The Giants scored the second fewest runs in the Majors in 2017 and their shortstop Brandon Crawford was the team leader in RBIs at 77, which is not what you want to see, especially considering Crawford is better known for his defensive prowess than as a hitter. In fact, despite his typically stellar defense, Crawford was a league-average player with 2.0 WAR in 2017, as he only slashed .253/.305/.403 with 14 home runs in 144 games played. AT&T Park is up there with Kauffman Stadium as one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the game so it’s going to hurt the overall numbers, but still, this lineup is too talented to repeat their 2017 performance, especially after the additions of Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen, both of whom quietly had very strong seasons. Last season Longoria hit .261 with 20 home runs and 86 RBI while winning the AL Gold Glove for third basemen. McCutchen was also very good despite the fact that he’s far removed from the player who won the 2013 NL MVP. In 2017, McCutchen hit .279 with 28 homers and 88 RBI while being worth 3.7 WAR in what was probably his best season since he cut his dreadlocks. He was coming off an abysmal 2016 and a poor performance in the World Baseball Classic so to see him come together was encouraging. Where he actually slots in the lineup will be interesting to see because the Giants lack a true leadoff hitter and I think McCutchen or Joe Panik could be capable of taking over that role.

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Giants pitching fell on some hard times in 2017. Madison Bumgarner missed half the season due to injury while Jeff Samardzija had some of the worst luck on the mound and Johnny Cueto had an unusually below-average season. Matt Moore had the worst ERA in baseball and was shipped to Texas while Ty Blach had the worst K/9 rate in the Majors at 4.01. A healthy Bumgarner is a Cy Young candidate and can be downright untouchable, as we see every time the Giants are in the postseason, particularly the 2014 World Series. In 2016, his last healthy season, Bumgarner went 15-9 with a 2.74 ERA and nearly struck out 10 batters per 9 innings. Cueto started the All Star Game for the NL in 2016 but was strangely ineffective in 2017 as he had an ERA of 4.52 that wasn’t affected by his defense, as he had a 4.49 FIP. Samardzija had a below average ERA of 4.42 however he had a very respectable FIP of 3.61, which could suggest that he’s in for an uptick in production in 2018. On paper this is a very talented pitching rotation that really didn’t perform up to its capabilities in 2017 but I anticipate them being very solid in 2018.

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The Giants bullpen was decent in 2017, however closer Mark Melancon had a year he’d like to forget. He had an ERA of 4.50 while saving 11 out of 16 opportunities. He dealt with injury in 2017 and he will look to return to the form that made him an All Star with the Pirates. Sam Dyson had an ABYSMAL start to the 2017 season with the Rangers as he carried an ERA over 10 for much of the season before being shipped to the Giants. He still struggled by the bay but at least this performance was respectable, as he carried a 4.03 ERA in 38 appearances with the Giants. He’s been a successful closer in the past and the Giants are going to need him to return to some semblance of that form if they hope to have a solid option for the 8th inning. Hunter Strickland throws really hard but he holds grudges, as you may have seen when he pegged Bryce Harper for an incident that happened 3 years prior. However he was arguably the Giants’ best reliever last season as he posted an ERA of 2.64. Cory Gearrin had a strong season as well, posting a 1.99 ERA however that was helped immensely by the defense behind him as his FIP was near 4, so there may be some regression. There’s talent in this Giants ‘pen but they’ve got some work to do.

Overall, I think the Giants’ 2017 season was a fluke and I think their trend of bad odd-numbered years and good even-numbered years will continue this season. I’m not sure if it will be enough for them to make the postseason, as the NL West looks to be very challenging in 2018, but they will certainly be in the hunt for the Wild Card if not the division title at the very least.

Projected Record: 85-77, 3rd in NL West

That’s going to do it for this edition of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I preview the Seattle Mariners, who always seem to be threatening to be really good but never quite reach that potential. Let me know what you think of the Giants’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.

30 Clubs in 30 Days: Boston Red Sox

Some huge news in the college basketball world as some initial reports have been released regarding current and former players and improper benefits from either schools or agents. The biggest names listed are Michigan State’s Miles Bridges (as if Michigan State needed any more scandals), Alabama’s Colin Sexton, Duke’s Wendell Carter, Markelle Fultz of the 76ers (attended Washington), Kyle Kuzma of the Lakers (attended Utah), and Dennis Smith Jr of the Mavericks (attended NC State). The investigation is still ongoing so I’ll provide more details when more information is released. Also, a big trade was agreed upon between the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams, as the Chiefs are sending star cornerback Marcus Peters to LA for a package of draft picks. This just made an already good Rams defense absolutely terrifying. But today is 30 Clubs in 30 Days and I’m featuring the Boston Red Sox. As I’m sure readers of my blog are well aware, I’m a Red Sox fan, so I apologize if I go a little more in depth with them than other teams. I’m only human. So let’s get a look at the Red Sox’ chances in 2018.

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2017 Results:

Record: 93-69, Won AL East over New York Yankees by 2 games, lost to Houston Astros in ALDS

Notable Offseason Additions: OF JD Martinez

Notable Offseason Subtractions: RP Addison Reed, OF Chris Young, RP Fernando Abad, RP Blaine Boyer, 2B Josh Rutledge, CF Rajai Davis, SP Henry Owens, SP Doug Fister

Best Offensive Player: RF Mookie Betts

Best Pitcher: Chris Sale

Depth Chart:

C-Christian Vazquez, Sandy Leon

1B-Hanley Ramirez, Mitch Moreland

2B-Dustin Pedroia, Eduardo Nunez

3B-Rafael Devers, Deven Marrero

SS-Xander Bogaerts

LF-Andrew Benintendi, Brock Holt

CF-Jackie Bradley Jr

RF-Mookie Betts, JD Martinez (DH)

SP-Chris Sale, David Price, Rick Porcello, Drew Pomeranz, Eduardo Rodriguez, Steven Wright

Bullpen-Craig Kimbrel (CP), Joe Kelly, Matt Barnes, Heath Hembree, Carson Smith, Tyler Thornburg, Austin Maddox, Brandon Workman, Robby Scott

Coaching Staff:

Manager-Alex Cora (1st season with Red Sox)

Hitting Coach-Tim Hyers

Pitching Coach-Dana LeVangie

1st Base Coach-Tom Goodwin

3rd Base Coach-Carlos Febles

Bench Coach-Ron Roenicke

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The Red Sox regressed in a big way offensively in 2017. After scoring the most runs in the American League in 2016, they dropped off significantly and finished dead last in the American League in home runs. For a while, it didn’t look like they were going to do a whole lot to change things other than bring back guys from last year’s team (Mitch Moreland and Eduardo Nunez). That was until they signed JD Martinez to a 5-year $110M deal. I won’t expand too much about his potential role in Boston, as I did so in the blog I just linked. Now they look to get back on track under rookie manager Alex Cora. Here’s a look at how the Red Sox are projected to line up in 2018.

1. Eduardo Nunez/Dustin Pedroia-2B

2. Andrew Benintendi-LF

3. Mookie Betts-RF

4. JD Martinez-DH

5. Xander Bogaerts-SS

6. Hanley Ramirez/Mitch Moreland-1B

7. Rafael Devers-3B

8. Christian Vazquez/Sandy Leon-C

9. Jackie Bradley Jr-CF

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Now on paper that’s a pretty imposing lineup as long as they can return to their 2016 forms because only Christian Vazquez took a step forward at the dish in 2017. It’s an entirely new coaching staff with a different philosophy so it’ll be interesting to see how they do things. Alex Cora stated recently that he doesn’t really get the whole “lefty/lefty righty/righty” conundrum, stating something along the lines of “you’ve been hitting lefties all your life and now all of a sudden you can’t hit lefties when you reach the Majors? Doesn’t make sense to me.” He hasn’t even managed a meaningful game yet and I already love his style. But there is a ton of ability in this lineup if Cora and company can get the most out of it. The young stars have been nicknamed the Killer B’s, consisting of Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr, and Andrew Benintendi, all of whom can take over games when teams aren’t careful. Betts is the most dangerous of the bunch, as he was AL MVP runner-up in 2016 and despite taking a step back in 2017, was still their best hitter, batting .264 with 24 home runs, 102 RBI, 26 stolen bases, 32 DRS, and was worth 5.1 WAR. Bogaerts is another talented hitter but he’s also extremely streaky. When he’s hot, he’s impossible to get out. You’ll see 3-4 game after 3-4 game and his batting average will skyrocket up into the .350’s. But when he’s cold, you have to work your ass off to let up a hit to him. In fact, there was a long stretch in the middle of the season where Bogaerts was the worst statistical hitter in baseball. Jackie Bradley is another guy who can be streaky, like Bogaerts, but unlike Bogaerts, Bradley is an excellent defender at a premium position so when he’s not hitting well, he can still make excellent contributions in the field. I listed Bradley as the 9th hitter mainly because he’s had so much success in that position. In fact, it’s been a while since I updated this stat, but last I checked, Bradley was a career .346 hitter when batting 9th. Benintendi was the runner-up for AL Rookie of the Year last season and probably would have won it, too if Aaron Judge didn’t set the rookie record with 52 home runs and finished runner-up for AL MVP. Benintendi hit .271 with 20 home runs, 90 RBI, and 20 stolen bases while playing a solid left field. Another guy the Red Sox have to be excited about is third baseman Rafael Devers. Devers is a bad defender at the hot corner and I think that he’s going to have to eventually switch to either first base or start DH’ing before long. But he shows bat discipline well beyond his years (he turns 22 in October). Watching Devers’ at bats as a youngster, I noticed that he doesn’t try and do his own thing at the plate. He takes what the pitcher gives him and goes with the pitch. For example, he’s not going to try and pull everything. If he’s thrown a curveball low and away, he’ll wait patiently for it to get to him and will send it the other way. He’s a guy I’m really excited for in his first full season in a Red Sox uniform.

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The Red Sox pitching was fantastic in 2017, as they finished 4th in the Majors with a 3.73 team ERA. That was thanks in large part to their trade acquisition of Chris Sale from the Chicago White Sox in the 2017 offseason. Sale was an absolute monster in his first season in a Red Sox uniform, going 17-8 with a 2.90 ERA and 308 strikeouts. He was 5 strikeouts away from tying Pedro Martinez’s franchise record, a record he likely would’ve broken had he been allowed to pitch his last start. However that start came at a time that would’ve affected his ability to start Game 1 of the ALDS so I think then-manager John Farrell made the right move there. David Price was battling injuries throughout the year but he was pretty solid when he was on the mound and even better when he was placed in the bullpen. He finished the year at 6-3 with a 3.38 ERA, which included an ERA of 0.00 in 5 relief appearances. A fully healthy season for Price would be huge for the Red Sox. Rick Porcello had a rough follow-up to his Cy Young-winning 2016 season, as he went 11-17 (most losses in baseball) with a 4.65 ERA. However he is still one of the more talented pitchers on the Red Sox roster and if he can return to form in 2018, that’s three aces at the top of the Red Sox rotation. And that’s without even mentioning Drew Pomeranz, who after a brutal first 2 months of the season, was absolutely terrific for the Sox. In the second half of the season, his ERA was 3.01, bringing his overall line to 17-6 with a 3.32 ERA. Not bad for your fourth starter.

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The Red Sox bullpen is also expected to be very strong, spearheaded by the American League’s Reliever of the Year in Craig Kimbrel. Kimbrel was dynamite in 2017, as he finished with 35 saves, a 1.43 ERA, and a Strikeout per 9 rate of 16.43, which is absolutely ridiculous. Provided Kimbrel can stay healthy, the 9th inning will be a sure thing for the Red Sox. It’s the rest of the bullpen that has some question marks. Joe Kelly had a breakthrough season as a reliever, including throwing the fastest pitch ever by a righty at 103.5 mph and finished with a 2.79 ERA but that was after being in the low 1’s for much of the year. Tyler Thornburg and Carson Smith hope to be big parts of the Red Sox bullpen but both guys are recovering from injuries. Smith was able to appear at the end of the 2017 season and he did pitch pretty well, pitching to a 1.35 ERA in 8 appearances. Thornburg, however, has yet to pitch an inning for the Red Sox after being acquired from the Brewers in the Travis Shaw trade. He was Milwaukee’s closer prior to the trade so he’s another guy the Sox have to be excited for. The Red Sox could potentially have one of the top bullpens in baseball if they can stay healthy.

Overall, I think the Red Sox have a legitimate shot at a World Series. Basically every facet of their team could rank amongst the top 5 in baseball. The problem is going to be getting by the Yankees, who made the biggest move of the offseason when they acquired Giancarlo Stanton in a trade with the Marlins. It’s going to be a fight to the death between those two teams. The return to form of the hitters in this Red Sox lineup will go a long way towards the success of Alex Cora’s first year as manager. If all goes well, this team could win 100 games.

Projected Finish: 95-67, Host AL Wild Card Game against Anaheim Angels

That’s going to do it for Day 5 of 30 Clubs in 30 Days. Join me tomorrow when I discuss the Chicago Cubs, who are looking to win the NL Central for the third straight season and will try and win their second World Series in 3 years. Let me know what you think of the Red Sox’ chances in the comments section below or on Facebook or Twitter @jimwyman10.