Based on Spring Training 2018 and late last season's performance, can Derek Holland be named a starting pitcher over Ty Blach? I like Blach, but he seems to be more valuable as a reliever, since he showed late last season that he got hit hard after the first time around
Based on Spring Training 2018 and late last season's performance, can Derek Holland be named a starting pitcher over Ty Blach? I like Blach, but he seems to be more valuable as a reliever, since he showed late last season that he got hit hard after the first time around the lineup.
-- Lou T., Santa Rosa, Calif.
Holland certainly has a legitimate chance to make the season-opening rotation. Otherwise, he wouldn't have remained a candidate this long. He has experience in big games, has established himself as a proven winner and seems eager to become part of the club's culture. But Blach won a lot of admirers within the organization with the moxie he displayed while working through the very simple fact that he's relatively easy to hit. He averaged a Major League-low 4.01 strikeouts per nine innings last year. However, Blach has improved that figure to 7.8 this spring. Choosing between Blach and Holland will be difficult for the Giants' decision-makers.
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Grégor Blanco looks pretty good batting and fielding. I have my fingers crossed for him to be in the starting lineup on Opening Day. Do you think he has a good chance to start?
-- Penny J., Charleston, S.C.
I believe that Blanco will make the Opening Day roster as an extra outfielder. He can play all three spots, remains an above-average defender and is a solid bet to reach base. But I simply can't envision Blanco wresting playing time from right fielder Andrew McCutchen, left fielder Hunter Pence and whoever plays center field.
The Giants appeared to be in a position to display significant offensive and defensive improvement over last season. However, I still have real concerns about the pitching situation, both the rotation and bullpen. Do you share these concerns?
-- Gerald L., Columbus, Ind.
Frankly, yes. Giants starters didn't throw enough pitches or work deep enough into ballgames to build sufficient endurance for the start of the regular season. This could force the Giants to rely more heavily on the bullpen, which didn't have a chance to jell during the compressed Cactus League season.
During a really bad 2017 season, the Giants lost about 30 games by one run. With the new position players and hopefully healthy pitchers, shouldn't the Giants be contenders?
-- George B., Regina, Saskatchewan
They could be, but they're playing in a National League West that could be the Majors' toughest division. The Dodgers, Rockies and D-backs all reached the postseason last year. None of those clubs weakened itself during the offseason.
A quick note: The Giants fared better than you might have thought in one-run games last season. Their record in such contests was 23-24.
Is it simply the downside of a natural cycle a team goes through after a decade of dominance, or do the Giants have a fundamental player development problem to solve?
-- Mike M., Oakland
I don't think there's anything fundamentally wrong with the Giants' player development system, The nature of the MLB Draft, which enables losing teams to receive the higher selections, is meant to promote parity. Keep that in mind. For instance, those four consecutive losing seasons that the Giants endured from 2005-08 enabled them to draft Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner and Buster Posey. Many teams have to become worse before they get better.
Chris Haft has covered the Giants since 2005, and for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter at @sfgiantsbeat and listen to his podcast.