Unfortunately, 25-man roster space is limited, so there can be some talent loss. Adrianza is out of options and would have to be DFA or traded if Duffy took the other MI utility spot opposite Arias. Hanchez, as well, I believe is out of options. Ishikawa is out of options plus has a $1.1M contract. Perez, Duffy and Susac, while perhaps better backups in some ways, still have more options, and thus probably will end up in AAA Sacramento (have to get used to saying that) while the three get 25-man spots.
The pitching staff of 12 is particularly impacted. We've already lost Kickham to waivers. There is currently one pitching spot open, assuming Hudson is prepared enough by opening day to not be placed on the DL, but Machi, Kontos, and Cordier are all out of options. Machi has been a very good reliever in 2013 and 2014, Kontos was very good in 2012 and 2014, and Cordier can bring 100 MPH heat. The Giants might be able to stash one of them in AAA by using Pence's spot to hold onto the pitcher into mid-April and then waiver in hopes that another team won't want to risk losing their own player just to poach the Giants, but that still means one pitcher lost via waivers or trade.
- 2 ace level starters
- 1 good starter
- 1 about average starter (which was usually Zito)
- 1 poor starter (a typical classic #5 starter, which is usually a composite as the team searches)
- Two ace performances out of Bumgarner, Cain, Lincecum (maybe even Peavy)
- One good performance out of Cain, Hudson, Peavy, Lincecum
- One average performance out of Cain, Hudson, Peavy, Lincecum
- Baseball Prospectus: 3.91 runs scored per game (lowest)
- Bill James Handbook: 4.41 runs scored (highest)
- Davenport: 3.98 runs scored (not surprising, he helped design the BP methodology)
- Shandler's Baseball Forecaster: 4.22 runs scored
- Steamer: 4.16 runs scored
- ZiPS: 4.06 runs scored (I've often been at odds with their projections in the past as being too low, and it would have been low man on totem pole without BP providing their projection for free for once and Davenport starting to provide his for free)
- Pagan is projected to match average 2014 NL leadoff hitter in 2015
- Panik is projected to be much below
- Belt is projected to be just short of average for #3 hitter
- Posey is projected to be much above
- Pence is projected to be slightly above average
- McGehee is projected to be slightly below average
- Aoki is projected to be slightly above average
- Crawford is projected to be above average for #8 hitter
In 2014, the Giants averaged 4.10 runs scored per game, which was more effective than the 4.00 runs scored it was estimated by the lineup calculator to score based on the composite lineup batting lines.
Thus, the lineup is approximately around as good as it was last season, slightly below depending on how effective they are at scoring in 2015. But it is projected to be slightly above average in the NL again, assuming the NL averages what it did in 2014 (3.95 RS/game), whether with Pence or while he's out. And I would note that the 2014 team was only projected at 4.00 runs scored per game for the team, even with Sandoval and Morse, while the 2015 team is projected at 4.07 runs scored per game for the lineup, showing how big of a sinkhole second base was for much of the season, and how relatively similar both Sandoval's and Morse's contributions were in 2014, on an overall basis, once you look at the changes in 3B, LF, and 2B for 2015 vs. 2014. Based on this, the talent on this year's team can outhit last year's team.
- Bumgarner: If anything, I would expect an improvement to 2013 levels. He started off 2014 shaky, as he apparently had some jitters being the ace of the staff now. But then pitched the rest of the season like he did in 2013. In 2013 he had 81% DOM/6% DIS and after his slow start in 2014, 74% DOM/7% DIS. That's dominance, that's a premier ace performances. In 2013, his ERA was 2.77, in 2014, in those starts, it was 2.84. His ERA projections range from 2.83 to 3.19.
- Hudson: He's been steady Eddie his whole career. If he says he's feeling good, I believe him. His ERA has not ranged very high or very low, he's never been actually average in his career, and typically around mid-3's. I expect that again. So does his ERA projections, ranging from 3.28 to 3.94.
- Cain: Basically, he's replacing his performance and Peavy (plus five Petit starts). In 2014, they altogether had a 3.64 ERA. Projections for his ERA ranges from 3.20 to 3.78, so he is projected to basically match that if not beat it. But if he is back to normal - remember, I've documented his decline after the Perfect Game - he had ERAs of 2.88 and 2.79 in the seasons before. I expect him to at minimum return to prior goodness, with the possibility that now that he's healthy in elbow and ankle, could outperform what he did in 2011 and 2012.
- Peavy: He is taking over Vogelsong's spot in the 2014 rotation. Vogie had 32 starts and 4.00 ERA. Projections for Peavy's ERA ranges from 3.35 to 3.87, which are all improvements over what Vogie provided.
- Lincecum: He's the true pain or gain in this rotation. He had a 4.74 ERA in 2014 and lost his spot in the rotation to Petit late in the season. Together, adding Lincecum's starts to Petit's end of season starts, they had a 4.58 ERA in 2014. He is projected to have an ERA of 3.66 to 4.45 in 2015, which is an improvement. However, if his work with his father returns him to prior repeatability, he could be much better. As I've shown, in 2012, he had 3.06 ERA in 13 starts, in 2013, he had 3.39 ERA in 12 starts, and in 2014, he had a 3.11 ERA in 18 starts, so it's not like he hasn't been extremely good during extended stretches during 2012-2014. He had the skill, his problem was repeating them. Presumably, his work with his father will fix this problem of repeatability, and hopefully once and for all, as this time he is learning his mechanics rather than being guided by his father. If he's able to achieve that, we could possibly have three starters below 3 ERA.
And as I've outlined above, the Giants lineup looks pretty good on paper. Top to bottom, they look very capable of keeping the line moving, as Bochy likes. Roughly league average, and with all the numbers plugged in, above average by a good margin. And a league average or better offense tied with a good to great pitching staff (depending on how well Lincecum does), is going to win around 90 games (the Giants would have won 90 in 2014 had it not been for their poor one-run games performance, as a .500 record there would have resulted in 90 wins).
All the sabers have the Giants way down in second place in the NL West. All of them are not aware of Bochy's record of averaging 4 games over .500 in one-run games over his career. That ends up adding 2 extra wins per seasons (changing two losses to wins), and in approximately 40% of his managing career, he has been at 8 or above, adding at least 4 extra wins in those seasons. That changes an 88 win team to a 90-92 win team, and a low 90's win team to mid-90's. With Bochy's magic in close 1-run games, we should win somewhere in the 90's. That should easily get the Giants into the playoffs, and I would not be surprised if it leads to another division title nor if they win over 95 games. Barring any horrendous run of injuries, of course, but that's not very predictable and more of an outlier.
And if they get into the playoffs, especially if Cain and Lincecum are back to their old selves (in terms of ERA), I would not be surprised if the Giants win championships back-to-back. Thus my expectations that the Giants are poised to go back-to-back in championships in 2015, they have a lot of positive factors pushing them into the playoffs, and if they have a 3 or 4 ace level rotation, they should be able to run through the playoffs again.