Loading

wait a moment

Kurtenbach: Three reasons to be excited about the 2020 San Francisco Giants

I’ve been moonlighting at KNBR over the last few months and I’ve already gotten in trouble a few times for bashing the Giants on-air.

So be it. I’m bullish about the Giants’ big-picture plan. I expect them to be a juggernaut this decade. But I’m not going to pretend that this baseball team has any chance of sniffing the postseason. Also, I truly have no idea how to tone down my pessimism. (I wish I did.)

So when I present optimism about these Giants, know that it’s coming from a place of personal truth. This is abnormal for me.

Here are three reasons to be excited — yes, I mean it — about this Giants’ season:

1. Platoons… Platoons everywhere

The Giants could have two entirely different lineups this year — one for lefty pitchers and one for righties.

Call me a nerd if you want, but I think that’s pretty awesome.

Yes, most analytically inclined teams in baseball have a ton of platoons in their lineups, but there are always a handful of players that are in the lineup every day.

The Giants don’t have such good-player luxuries — they might only have one or two players worthy of everyday status and those players’ standings are flimsy at best.

So with new roster rules in place, limiting the number of pitchers and added a 26th man to the everyday proceedings, don’t be shocked if the Brandons and Buster Posey only play against righties. (We’ll see about this new Posey swing — despite being right-handed, had zero homers and an abysmal .575 OPS against lefties last year.) The outfield is going to be in a constant state of flux, too. And hey, maybe Mauricio Dubon will play four positions in a single game. The only constant, it seems, is Evan Longoria, and who knows how long that lasts.

Does it make it easy on the fan? Nope. I’m a fan of the Giants’ no-name home jerseys, but they might want to make an exception for this year. It’s going to be hard to keep up.

But the platoons should give these Giants a better chance to score runs this season, and that’s what I like to see when the home team is at the plate.

And it’s not like anyone was showing up to the ballpark to watch specific Giants players anyway — as Jerry Seinfeld aptly noted, it’s just “rooting for laundry”.

2. The return of Johnny Cueto

Cueto is a gem and I am happy he is back in the fold for the Giants this year.

The 34-year-old could be the Opening Day starter, even, after coming back from Tommy John surgery late last season.

The righty isn’t part of the Giants’ long-term plans. Like so many on the team, he’s just a holdover — I’d say they’re resting and vesting, but they still play often.

Cueto stands apart because he pitches with a rhythm, a verve. In a game that is becoming increasingly robotic, Cueto represents a wonderfully human element with his Quick pitches, wiggles, extended wind-ups, and a willingness to throw any pitch at any time in any location. He’s a swashbuckler. Baseball needs more of those.

Win or lose, he’s a joy to watch work, and that, paired with his endearing personality, makes him as good of a reason to tune in this year as any.

3. The counter-punch

Talking to the Giants’ new director of pitching Brian Bannister (you might remember from his career as a Major League pitcher) at the team’s media day a week back, I’m really excited to see how his plan for this season is implemented.

The pitchers had a massive advantage in baseball not too long ago, but the confluence of a juiced ball and advancements in coaching brought about the counter, a launch-angle revolution.

Bannister thinks it’s time that pitchers turn the tables again.

The key, he said, is improved pitch selection and creation. We’ve seen teams like the Astros [insert boos here] have their pitchers throw their best pitch — be it a breaking ball or fastball — at dramatically higher rates, and that, paired with fastballs (and now some breaking balls) high in the zone, has created some balance to the hitters’ advantage.

But Bannister thinks that baseball is just barely scratching the surface with that kind of data-driven game planning, and it’s his job to get not only the Giants’ big league pitchers to amplify their existing stuff and add new, more effective stuff to their repertoires, but also integrate this kind of coaching into every level of the San Francisco system.

I think Bannister could be the most important signing the Giants made this offseason.

This offseason, there’s been plenty of talk about the Giants acquiring “Drew Pomeranz-type” players, aka buy-low, sell-high candidates. Well, Bannister was the first guy to move Pomeranz — who netted Dubon for the Giants in a trade last season (no small coup) — to the bullpen.

Bannister helped Pomeranz with the change when he was the assistant pitching coach with the Red Sox and Pomeranz was a former All-Star starting pitcher who couldn’t seem to break through with Boston. The move didn’t take immediately, but it was clear there was something to work with there.

Bannister was right. Pomeranz — pushed from the rotation back to the bullpen by the Giants last year and then traded to Milwaukee — signed a four-year, $34 million contract with the Padres this season.

His time with Bannister and then the Giants helped him find his best role as a Major League pitcher.

I’m beyond curious to see who Bannister — now fully empowered by the Giants in a way he never was with the Red Sox — can unearth in San Francisco.


Source: East Bay Kurtenbach: Three reasons to be excited about the 2020 San Francisco Giants

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *