Baseball is here.
At long, long, long last, baseball is here. The San Francisco Giants, who mysteriously are not listing Arson Judge on their active roster, have packed their lucky underwear, traveled across the country, made their final roster decisions, and are now set to take on the New York Yankees, a team that won 99 games a year ago and then promptly stole the Giants best player.
It’s the first of many, many previews between now and a series against the Los Angeles Dodgers that spans the end of September and the start of October.
Let’s do the damn thing.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. New York Yankees
Where: Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
When: Thursday (10:05 a.m. PT), Saturday (1:05 p.m. PT), and Sunday (10:35 a.m. PT)
National broadcasts: Thursday (MLB Network, out of market only) and Saturday (FOX)
Thursday: Logan Webb vs. Gerrit Cole
Saturday: Alex Cobb vs. Clarke Schmidt
Sunday: Ross Stripling vs. Domingo German
Yes, the Giants and Yankees are doing that annoying thing where they play one game and then take a day off (they get to do it the next series, too!). And yes, the Giants are throwing a trio of right-handed pitchers at New York, a team made up predominantly of right-handed hitters. And yes, the Giants are getting lucky by facing Schmidt and German instead of Carlos Rodón and Luis Severino, who start the year on the Injury List.
Three Giants to watch
Logan Webb: Starting off on the right foot may be a touch overrated. The Giants lost their season opener in 2012, and things worked out fine. When they blew a late lead to lose their opener in 2021, I distinctly remember thinking that the team wasn’t good enough to mess around and lose games they should win. Remind me why you listen to me? Oh, you don’t? Excellent.
But while statistically Game No. 1 is no different than Game No. 37 or Game No. 148, emotionally it really is. Starting the season right feels important. And that’s extra true given who the Giants are up against: a behemoth team anchored by a player the Giants publicly did everything they could do to sign. I remain an Aaron Judge fan, but between his decision to not sign with the Giants, and his comments when Carlos Correa (briefly) signed with the other New York team, it’s fair to think that players in the Giants clubhouse might feel like they have a point to prove.
It starts with Webb, the homegrown ace who makes his second consecutive Opening Day start. If I had told you three or four years ago that the Giants would use a homegrown pitcher against Gerrit Cole and arguably have the advantage, you would have been very happy.
So be very happy. Because Logan Webb is freaking awesome.
Michael Conforto: Conforto feels like something of an X-factor for the Giants this season. If you’re looking for a way that the Giants could disappoint you, it starts with Conforto playing like he did in 2022, when he missed the entire year due to injury, or even like he did in 2021, when he sported a mild 106 wRC+ and just 1.4 fWAR. If you’re looking for a way the Giants could excite you and make a run, it starts with Conforto playing like he did in 2020, when he was one of the best hitters in baseball with a 158 wRC+ and put up 2.0 fWAR in the pandemic-shortened season. Or like he did in 2019, when he had a 127 wRC+ and was worth 4.4 fWAR.
He’s looked healthy this spring, and I am tremendously excited to see him in a Giants jersey playing meaningful games.
Blake Sabol: The Giants have tried a few Rule 5 guys since Farhan Zaidi took over, and none of them have stuck. Dedniel Núñez surviving an entire year on the Injured List just to get returned to the New York Mets the next offseason is the closest thing they’ve had to a success. Sabol feels different. Is that me overreacting to meaningless spring games, where Sabol hit 16-46 with seven extra-base hits and 12 walks, giving him an OPS almost as good as 2022 Alex Blandino and 2021 Heliot Ramos?
Perhaps. I guess that’s why he’s on this list.
Three Yankees to watch
Aaron Judge: You know how good Judge is, because you spent the first six weeks of the offseason dreaming about how he’d look in a Giants jersey. He’s coming off of an offensive season that would make all but a few Barry Bonds campaigns jealous. He’s the reigning MVP and the American League single-season home run record holder. He’s either the best, second-best, or third-best player in the world, depending on how you feel about those fine chaps toiling away in Southern California mediocrity.
This isn’t exactly how we envisioned seeing Judge in the opening series, and the sting of finishing second won’t dissipate if he has a hitless series with 10 strikeouts. But it would be pretty cool if he had a hitless series with 10 strikeouts.
Gerrit Cole: Brandon Crawford’s brother-in-law takes the bump for the series opener, and here’s a reminder that he’s still really good. We forget that because he’s no longer nine-years, $324 million good, but … he’s still on the short list of elite pitchers in the Majors, and is coming off a 3.50 ERA, 3.47 FIP, and 11.5 K/9 season. He’s only two years removed from a 5.2-fWAR season, and only two more years removed from a 7.5-fWAR campaign. He’s very good at throwing baseballs.
Giancarlo Stanton: Before the Giants were rejected by a tall and handsome Adonis-esque dinger-mashing outfielder who chose the Yankees, they were rejected by … a different tall and handsome Adonis-esque dinger-mashing outfielder who chose the Yankees. Injuries and a relegation to designated hitter have taken some of the shine off of Stanton, who has accrued just 4.4 fWAR over the last four seasons, after being worth 4.2 in his first year with the Yankees. And last year was the worst offensive season of his career. But if you want to try telling the Giants pitchers that the guy with “only” an .831 OPS over the last four years, and who will likely surpass 400 career homers this year, isn’t much of a threat anymore, then be my guest.
Time to let your optimism fly. Or your pessimism. Whatever. Do you.
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