We have seen a lot of players move from one National League West team to another over the past decade, and this season is no different.
Randy Johnson is now the latest to make the voyage along the West Coast, packing his bags and coming back home to get into the exclusive 300 Win Club while wearing the orange and black of the Giants.
With Johnson joining an already talented pitching staff, does Johnson’s move North give the Giants a better pitching staff than his former team, the Arizona Diamondbacks?
Without a doubt, it’s a tough call, but it’s one that now favors Johnson’s current team.
The battle of aces and Cy Young Award winners
Tim Lincecum and Brandon Webb—it doesn't get much better than these two in the National League.
Two of the past three NL Cy Young Award winners are their respective team’s clear aces and will set the ridiculously high standards for the rest of the rotation to meet.
Some felt Webb should have claimed his second Cy instead of again placing in second behind Lincecum last season. His heavy sinker is the perfect kryptonite for the friendly confines of Chase Field.
His record over the past three years (46-25) speaks for itself, and he is one of the best and most consistent pitchers around.
In the other corner is the skinniest pitching heavyweight in the game today.
The 24-year-old Lincecum not only claimed the Cy Young in his first-full major league season in a runaway vote, but he completely dominated hitters in the process.
The Franchise has made it clear this spring that despite last year’s standout season, he can still get better on the mound. That’s a scary thought for hitters in the National League.
It’s hard to believe that Tiny Tim can get much better than he was last season. The fact that he wants to and feels he needs to makes me appreciate him even more than I already do.
Battle of talented righties who are complete studs—Matt Cain vs. Dan Haren
The Giants would love it if Cain makes the same kind of improvement this season that Dan Haren did in 2007 when he was an All-Star with Oakland.
In Haren’s first two years in Oakland, he had solid stats (other than in the win-loss column), but in 2007, he made the big step and established himself as a top of the rotation horse.
In his first season in Arizona, despite a rough start and finish to the year, his stats were among the best in the league. A 16-8 record and 3.33 ERA is nothing to shake your head at.
It’s no secret that Cain has the talent to be the Giants’ second ace behind Lincecum, but poor run support and his mindset of having to throw a shutout every time he pitches are the existing obstacles holding him back.
His 15-30 record and 3.70 ERA over the past two seasons is Exhibit A of how the Giants offense has not aided his case to become a front-line starter.
With a better offense in 2009, there’s no reason to think that a boost in confidence will allow Cain to take a big step forward and get on the same level that Haren is.
The edge goes to the D-Backs until Cain gets some run support on a regular basis.
Two left-handed middlemen—Randy Johnson vs. Doug Davis
Despite Cain being the second-best pitcher on the San Francisco staff, Johnson will likely be put in-between the righties just to prevent teams from seeing a southpaw-filled back end of the rotation.
If Spring Training is any indication of what Johnson has left in the tank, it should be exciting when he takes the hill every fifth day. The Diamondbacks got a first-hand experience this past Tuesday when the Big Unit struck out seven and limited his former team to two hits in three innings.
In Arizona, the D-Backs will feature Doug Davis and his career 81-83 record and 4.34 ERA. Nowhere close to what Johnson has done over his career.
So if the choice is between a soon-to-be 300-game winner and a future first-ballot Hall of Fame selection or a pitcher who is below .500 for his career, I'll take the former any day of the week.
The back end of the rotation—Barry Zito & Jonathan Sanchez vs. Jon Garland & Max Scherzer
As I outlined earlier this week, being this low in the rotation could benefit Zito and turn his career back around. He won’t be the Opening Day starter, won’t be counted on to lead the rotation, and he could possibly rebound by knowing that he isn’t the main man anymore.
Zito will be paired with another lefty, Jonathan Sanchez to complete the Giants rotation.
Sanchez had a consistently inconsistent first season in the San Francisco rotation. It was either a dominating performance or a quick outing for Sanchez. He finished 9-12 with a 5.01 ERA and was in jeopardy of facing stiff competition from Noah Lowry this spring had Lowry been healthy.
Lowry is again on the shelf, so the fifth starter spot is all Sanchez’s. If Sanchez can have more good than poor outings, he will probably be one of the best No. 5 starters in the game.
Arizona brought in Jon Garland to be its No. 4 starter. In Anaheim last season, he went 14-8, but had a very high 4.90 ERA.
You would think, like a lot of other pitchers who come to the senior circuit, that Garland’s ERA will go down because of the disappearance of the designated hitter. The Diamondbacks would surely be happy if he can put up those kind of wins, but pitching at Chase Field, that ERA from last season will have to get lower.
Scherzer had a 2008 much like Sanchez had in 2007.
Is he a starter or is he a reliever? That’s what Scherzer heard even before the season began after he dominated the Arizona Fall League as a closer two years ago.
But now is his chance to show that he belongs in the rotation. He has the stuff, but like a lot of young pitchers, it’s a matter of putting it together.
The D-Backs get the nod with the No. 4 starter, while Sanchez—being a more established major league pitcher—gives the Giants the edge.
Final Verdict: The Giants in a Matt Cain special 3-2.