Five Takeaways From the Giants’ Opening Weekend

After earning a split against the Padres, early results have been mostly positive for the Giants. Here's what we learned about the 2024 club.

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 30: Jung Hoo Lee #51 of the San Francisco Giants celebrates a team victory with Wilmer Flores #41 during a game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on March 30, 2024 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Brandon Sloter/Getty Images)

The San Francisco Giants made as much noise as any team not named the Dodgers this offseason, especially late in the winter. With the additions of Jung Hoo Lee, Matt Chapman, Jorge Soler, Blake Snell, Jordan Hicks and Robbie Ray, the Giants completely revamped a roster in desperate need of a refresh.

The busy offseason had hopes through the roof in San Francisco as a frustrated fanbase finally had reason to believe. The Giants went to San Diego for Opening Weekend and there was plenty of good to go around. They also got demolished on Sunday, reminding fans that this team is still a work in progress.

The Giants came away with a split against the rival Padres, and overall the results were mostly positive. As they head to Los Angeles to measure up with the Dodgers, let’s take a look at what Opening Weekend taught us about the 2024 Giants.

The Offense Has Clearly Improved

The biggest improvement the Giants had to make heading into 2024 was on offense. They were abysmal last year, unwatchable at times, and it led to their demise down the stretch. The Giants finished 21st in the league in wRC+ last year with 93 as a team. Their .238 team batting average ranked 28th and their .312 OBP ranked 24th.

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Obviously, we have a very small sample size, but so far things are much better. The Giants put together a 108 wRC+ in their series against the Padres, slashing .265/.340/.449 as a team. What jumps off the page most is that the Giants finally have run producers in the heart of the order.

Chapman is already off to a nice start, including a huge game Friday night. He sparked the offense with three hits, two homers and five driven in. He likely will not be the Giants’ best hitter, but his consistency is something they have missed for so long. If he brings 115-120 wRC+ type production, it will go a long way in making this a good offense.

Things look better elsewhere, too. Guys are working good at-bats, and the lineup card is so much deeper than it has been in years. Bob Melvin has options to mix-and-match, and the Giants 1-9 looks really good on paper.

It starts with Lee at the top, who we will talk about later. First, I want to talk about another name in the lineup. One that is off to a flying start and could be a huge boost if he can return to previous form.

Michael Conforto May Just Be Back

We did not cut Michael Conforto enough slack for how difficult it is to take a year off and produce right away. Conforto struggled in 2023, hitting just .239 with a .718 OPS and 100 wRC+.

In 2024, Conforto is off to the best start on the Giants. He stormed out of the gates against San Diego, slashing .400/.471/933 with two homers and two doubles. In just one series, he posted 243 wRC+ and 0.4 fWAR!

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Conforto will not produce like this forever, but the Giants don’t need him to. If he can even just return to his previous form, it would be a massive boost to the Giants offense. In fact, I believe Conforto is the X-factor in this lineup. If he can post numbers around his career .813 OPS and 121 wRC+, the Giants offense could go from good to great.

The most encouraging sign early is that Conforto is scorching the baseball. He had four barrels on 10 batted balls and an average exit velocity of 94.0 miles per hour. It’s hard to not sound like you’re overreacting with such small sample sizes, but it’s even harder to not be excited about the kind of start Conforto is off to.

Jung-Hoo Lee Is Awesome

The Giants signing Lee seemingly flew under the radar, but it may go down as one of the offseason’s best. The Korean showed his special contact skills, failing to swing-and-miss at a single pitch in the zone.

Lee picked up four hits, including a home run, during the series, and struck out just twice. Lee also worked three walks during the course of the series, posting a .368 OBP on Opening Weekend. He showed signs of being an elite hitter and set the tone at the top of the lineup. Everything this year will start with Lee setting the table, and if he is effective it will make the rest of the lineup so much better.

I like that Melvin went with Soler right behind Lee in the lineup. With Lee’s ability to get on and his speed, it sets Soler up to drive him in early and get the Giants off to fast starts. There are also plenty of options behind him to protect Soler, that make pitching to him really difficult for pitchers.

I will not go as far as saying this lineup is relentless, but it is definitely tough. They will force pitchers to work all year long, and it is certainly way better than last year. I am not sure there will be a tougher out than Lee, and as he goes this team will go. So far, it looks like he could take them to new heights.

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The Rotation Has Serious Potential

We all know that Logan Webb is an ace. Even though he was not at his best on Opening Day, there was some promise. He allowed just two runs on five hits and two walks in six innings while striking out five. It was not his best, but it was more than enough to put the Giants in position to win. They took the lead just after he exited, but the bullpen gave it right back by allowing four in the seventh.

What remains unknown about this rotation is how high the ceiling can be. Based off Opening Weekend, it is hard not to be encouraged. Just Baseball’s No. 47 overall prospect, Kyle Harrison, followed Webb and was excellent. He struck out five in six innings, allowing just two runs on six hits and no walks. The two runs came on solo shots by Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.

Harrison made seven starts at the end of 2023 and the results were not great. He struck out a good amount of batters, but his FIP was 5.53. He also let up more than two homers per nine innings. It will be interesting to see what kind of jump he can take in 2024. The potential is there, but he did let up loud contact in his first start and flirted with danger. However, if he can be a mid-3.00s ERA guy and slot into the middle of this rotation, the Giants could have something big on their hands.

Another starter who impressed in his first start was Jordan Hicks. Many people were surprised the Giants are trying him out as a starter, but they may be on to something. Hicks was sharp in his first start, holding the Padres to no runs on three hits and a walk while striking out six in five innings.

Command is always a concern with a flamethrower like Hicks, but 51 strikes on 81 pitches is just above league average. The decision to make Hicks a starter will play out over the coming weeks and months, but the Giants have cover if it does not pan out. Alex Cobb–who was expected to miss months with a hip injury–is expected back soon. They should also get Ray back around July.

Of course they also have Snell waiting in the wings. It remains unclear when he will be ready to get back on a mound, but he has been throwing simulated games. Snell likely will need at least two tune-up starts before heading to the Majors, so it could be until mid-April before he cracks the rotation.

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Because of that, getting to that point could be tough. The Giants got rocked on Sunday as they turned to Daulton Jefferies and Kai-Wei Teng from the minors for innings. They will likely need to throw a few bullpen games, though hopefully not as many as last year.

Once everybody is back though this has the makings of a really good rotation. The Giants could be forced to pick five out of Webb, Snell, Harrison, Hicks, Ray, Cobb and Keaton Winn. That is a really good problem to have for Giants’ management. Of course, they will need health and performance, which is why I say this rotation could be really good, and not will be really good.

The Left Side Of The Infield Is A Vacuum

So that Matt Chapman guy is pretty good at defense, huh? Nick Ahmed…not too shabby either, eh?

There are now six Gold Gloves combined on the left side of the Giants infield and it showed on Opening Weekend. Nothing got by Chapman and Ahmed, who are going to make a sick duo defensively on that side.

Defense was another area the Giants needed to make major improvements, and it is already clear they have. San Francisco was 23rd in Defensive Runs Saved last year with -15, and they were even worse on the left side. Giants’ third basemen ranked 27th in DRS with -11 last year, and their shortstops were dead last with -21.

Adding two of the best defenders at their respective positions is a good way to make issues go away. Adding a guy who projects to be a very good defender in center field should help as well.

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When the Giants won 107 games in 2021, they were a very good defensive team. Having good defense behind the pitching staff will go a long way in helping them stay afloat as they deal with injuries. It will also make life easier on guys like Harrison and Hicks, who are still trying to find their footing as starters.

Just like on offense, things are already looking up defensively for the Giants in 2024. Of course it is way too early to make significant judgements about this team, but it does look much improved. The best things for Giants fans is they should only get better and healthier as they add guys like Snell and Ray into the fold.

Hope can be erased pretty quickly in April, but there is plenty of reason to hope so far in San Francisco.