Giants 2012 rotation a little shaky after 1-2 punch

If Tim Lincecum and the rest of the Giants' staff gets any run support in 2012, San Francisco could regain its championship form. (photo by Dirk Hansen)

The San Francisco Giants pitching is obviously their strength. From top to bottom it can compete with any in baseball. Tim Lincecum can make a case for the best pitcher in baseball, and Matt Cain is one of the most underrated pitchers in the league. Without run support, the starting staff’s win-loss record never looks great, but they keep every game close. Now that Jonathan Sanchez was traded to the Royals, Madison Bumgarner and Ryan Vogelsong will have to rise to the challenge. The top of the Giants 2012 rotation is set, but there are still some questions at the bottom, especially about the fifth spot.

Tim Lincecum
2011 stat line: 13-14, 2.74 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 220 K
2012: Arbitration eligible
2013: Arbitration eligible

Notes: Lincecum is clearly the best pitcher on this staff and is one of the better pitchers in baseball. He is arbitration eligible this offseason and should make somewhere around $20 million. The Giants will try to sign him to a long-term deal, but unless they improve the offense (one of the best pitchers in baseball had a losing record), he will keep getting paid big sums of money in arbitration and will leave in two years via free agency. Some people in the Bay Area are calling for him to be traded in order to get the biggest bat possible, but I doubt the Giants will do that.

Matt Cain
2011 stat line: 12-11, 2.88 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 179 K
2012: $15.3 million
2013: Free Agent

Notes: Cain is the clear-cut, number-two starter, and a good one at that. He could vie for an ace spot on most rotations, but in San Francisco, he’ll always be in Lincecum’s shadow. Cain doesn’t get the wins but, like Lincecum, has very good numbers. I expect him to get an extension sometime this offseason or during next year. If the Giants want to trade one of their big pitchers, Lincecum is more likely, which could mean big money for Cain.

Madison Bumgarner
2011 stat line: 13-13, 3.21 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 191 K
2012: Pre — arbitration eligible
2013: Arbitration eligible

Notes: The Giants rotation starts to get tricky at the number-three spot. I think Bumgarner is the best choice in this spot. He is the Giants third-best pitcher and is a lefty to change it up after the first two righties. After a shaky 0-6 start to the 2011 season, he made a dramatic comeback winning seven of his last 10 starts. In his second full year, he should know how to navigate his way through a full slate of starts and turn them into wins. If he continues to grow, the Giants will look to sign him to an extended contract while he is still young and inexpensive.

Ryan Vogelsong
2011 stat line: 13-7, 2.71 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 139 K
2012: Arbitration eligible
2013: Arbitration eligible

Notes: The Giants’ 2011 winner of the Willie Mac award, given to the player who best exemplifies spirit and leadership, should continue his success into the 2012 season. The Giants should pay him around $$ million dollars next year. After a career of mediocrity, he has finally tasted glory and the confidence boost should help him continue the success. Some say he should be in the third spot because of his experience and Bumgarner’s lack thereof. Like I said before though, Bumgarner will pitch third if for no other reason than because he is a lefty.

Barry Zito
2011 stat line: 3-4, 5.87 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 32 K
2012: $19 million
2013: $20 million

Notes: The Giants still have two years left of dealing with the highest-paid fifth starter in the league. After dealing with injury problems last year, he was replaced by Vogelsong, who never looked back. When Zito returned, Vogelsong had taken his spot and Zito only started when someone needed a rest. After Sanchez was traded, Zito will most likely be reinstated in the Giants rotation. He will be on a short leash, though, with Eric Surkamp on his heels. If Zito slips up, he could be replaced quickly by the rookie.

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