Like many teams above the .500 win percentage mark with a plausible shot at contending for a playoff spot, the San Francisco Giants are also looking to fill a void in their starting rotation. When on their best stuff, the one-two punch of Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto can be one of the best in baseball, but in a division as contested as the NL West, every game matters. You can’t simply rely on two starters to take you to the postseason.
Combined, Giants’ starters have an ERA of 4.25, tenth among starting rotations in the NL, and a WHIP of 1.36, ranking them thirteenth in the NL. Though simply stating the starters’ ERA and WHIP doesn’t tell the whole story, following the starters day-by-day radiates the feeling that sometimes they want to win the division and the other times they look sloppily careless. The Giant’s organization has addressed this sloppy play by not being afraid of optioning under-performing starters like Chris Stratton and Tyler Beede, and by sending inconsistent starters like Derek Holland to the bullpen. Another way they could address the inconsistency in the rotation is by acquiring at least another starter come the deadline. Not only will this further show that the organization is serious about contending but it will also make the other starters and pitchers in general that their spot in the roster is never 100% secure. Following are a couple starting pitchers the Giants should consider targeting:
Steven Matz (LHP, NYM)
Though often overshadowed by the dominant one-two punch of Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz continues to be as productive as ever when he is healthy. Quietly having a good season, Matz boasts an ERA of 3.38 with a WHIP of 1.25. Although he has allowed a whopping high 15 home runs he has limited their damage by not allowing many base runners. Through 96 innings of work, he has only walked 37 and struck out a mere 85 batters. Though his strikeouts don’t look tremendous, they don’t need to be for him to be an effective pitcher. Given that his primary pitch is a sinking fastball, hitters are always looking to ambush a low fastball with the new launch angle approach. This, first of all, is why Matz has given up 15 home runs, but more importantly, why an ambitious hitter will be just that. He will be ambitious and try to jump on pitches that aren’t in the zone, forcing the hitter to make weak contact or no contact at all.
Ultimately, Matz is a gamer who takes advantage of hitter’s weaknesses. He is as consistent as he is reliable, pitching more than five innings in nine of his last ten games. Not only can he be an effective middle-of-the-rotation arm but he shouldn’t be too expensive to acquire. Given the young 27-year old’s disabled list record, there is constant worry that Matz may not have that long of a career, or even pitch a full season. He shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, he is slowly getting better and giving up fewer contact and transitioning to a battery mate like Buster Posey will only improve the young Matz’ performance. Acquiring Matz may be a slight risk, but a slight risk, huge reward starter is what the Giants’ rotation needs during times of struggle.
Kyle Gibson (RHP, MIN)
Another under-the-radar arm that could hugely benefit the Giants is Kyle Gibson who is having a career-best season for the struggling Minnesota Twins. Despite a pitiful 4-6 record, Gibson has been the Twins most consistent and reliable starter, posting a 3.42 ERA with a WHIP of 1.23 while limiting opponents batting average to .226. While Gibson may not be flashy or exciting to watch, he is an absolute workhorse who goes out and does his job – to keep his team into games. And has he done a fantastic job at that. In five of his last seven starts, he has pitched seven innings or more and has allowed three or less earned runs in nine of his last eleven starts. With this kind of consistency from a starter in the middle or back-end of the rotation, the Giants won’t have the best starting rotation, but they will have one that can at least keep the Giants’ offense within striking distance.
Like Matz, Gibson, is another low-risk, middle to high-reward target and should not be expensive to acquire. The Twins, struggling inexplicably, would be more than willing to part with a starter who is having a season he may not repeat again.
Though these possible targets may not be the most flashy starters, they have the most important quality in a starter: consistency. They’ll give the Giants the depth they need to contend for a spot in the playoffs.