Giants expectations for Logan Webb remain sky high ahead of MLB Opening Day 2023

Giants, Webb expects to see more after ace’s strong 2022 originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

NEW YORK — For the second year in a row, Logan Webb will be the first Giants pitcher to take the balland for the second straight year, Giants fans entering Oracle Park through the main gate will see a giant image of the homegrown ace as they approach.

Both are well-deserved honors for a young right-hander who broke through in 2021 and then made it up in a season that was largely one of disappointment for the organisation. Webb made 32 starts last year and set career highs in innings and strikeouts while lowering his ERA to 2.90. He was 14th among the MLB pitchers in WAR, earned All-Star consideration in July, and finished fourth on a Cy Young ballot in November.

And yet, when Webb returned to San Francisco for FanFest last month, he frowned as he thought about his 2022 season.

“I told you that last year,” he said. “I didn’t really like my season.”

It was something Webb said in September and again in the off-season. At various times throughout the spring, he expressed a low level of frustration. After serving well in his last vote before opening day, Webb smiled and pointed out an error.

“The walks kind of pissed me off,” he said.

This is nothing new for Webb and the Giants. That’s also why they think there’s a lot more in the tank. Gabe Kapler, Andrew Bailey and the staff have consistently challenged the youngest member of the rotation, and even as he began flirting with fame in 2021, Kapler repeatedly suggested Webb could still do more. Webb has also taken this approach, and the older employees are excited to see where it takes him.

“I’m looking for him to just walk around with confidence that he’s the best pitcher in the game,” right-hander Alex Cobb said. “That’s all he has to worry about. There’s a time when you’re young in your career and you know you’re good, you just don’t know how good you are. I think it’s like putting back-to-back years together, he’s done it, he knows how good he is now and what his potential is.

“There’s a handful of pitchers that you say are the best in the league and he falls into that category. Now it’s just him who puts everything together to be the best.”

The next step for Webb will be to fully bring his name into this conversation, and that’s exactly what Kapler expects. He’s a manager who hates publicly setting expectations or talking too much about where the team and players compare to others, but he said at the end of the camp there’s no reason it shouldn’t The start of a long run can be when Webb is there competing for the Cy Young Awards.

To get there, Webb knows adjustments need to be made. His overall numbers in 2022 were good, but he wasn’t thrilled with how he reached the finish point. Webb’s home run and walk rates have stayed the same year over year, but his strikeout rate has dropped from 9.6 per nine innings to 7.6. His expected stats took a small step back, and for long stretches he just didn’t quite feel like himself on the mound. Both Webb’s sinker and slider were hit harder in 2021, and one came on the latter pitch Decrease in vertical and horizontal movement.

The Slider is a Pitch Webb spent a lot of time reflecting on this spring, and he didn’t just take the traditional route of checking in with like-minded pitchers. When asked about the pitch late at camp, Webb pointed to Kyle Harrison and veteran Taylor Rogers as two pitchers he’d spent a lot of time with. Both throw left hands, but Webb would consider where to start the pitch when moving in or out of the zone.

After his last spring outing, Webb said the pitch “feels 100 percent better.” The mechanical adjustments he made during the off-season also paid off.

“There were some changes that I think I had to do a little with my mechanics in the off-season, my delivery a little, just to keep it up a little bit longer where I’m not going through months like I did last year it’s just a grind,” he said. “The velocities varied a lot and that’s something we really wanted to delve deep into. We found that there were some mechanical things. I don’t think you’ll really notice , if you’re watching me out there, but I feel it, I notice it.”

Webb’s first opportunity to test everything that matters will come on the biggest possible stage. He will take the ball Thursday at Yankee Stadium and look at Aaron Judge, a player he met and tried with in November convince them to come to San Francisco.

Had Judge or Carlos Correa signed, it probably would have been their face on the poster that hung at the entrance to Third and King. But it will be Webb blowing his fist up with a big smile on his face. It’s an image that teammates find appropriate.

Reflecting on his first few months at Webb, new signing Ross Stripling compared him to former Los Angeles Dodgers teammate Clayton Kershaw. Four days a week, Webb is a beaming smile, traversing the clubhouse and talking to everyone and everyone. One of the team’s biggest stars may also be among the front runners in terms of the amount of time he spends in the stadium, but that day five changes everything.

“He’s got that advantage you like to see from a starter who’s kind of Kershaw-like in a way where he’s very happy, he’s a great teammate and then when the lights are on he’s a competitor and he’s wants to hit you,” Stripling said. “Most guys have that, but you see he has that on a different level that you see with the big guys where they can flip a switch in their head where they’re just after blood seek.”

RELATED: Webb eager for Giants under the radar to ‘prove people wrong’

The switch will be flipped Thursday at Yankee Stadium, a venue Webb has never visited. He used to travel to Cooperstown as a kid and visit the old one, but Wednesday’s practice was his first chance to see the new one. It’s going to be one of the biggest games of the regular season Webb has attended and he said he’s excited while also trying to keep things normal.

When asked if he could face the judge, Webb pointed out that the Yankees have multiple MVPs on their list. It’s a star-powered group, and in recent years Webb has increasingly found himself in those circles. The question now is how to proceed and whether Webb will be happy with it at the end of the season.

“I have some high expectations. I have to try to keep her to myself for a bit,” he said, smiling. “I’ll tell you at the end of the year.”

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