Last week, as I laid out the pathway back to contention, I argued the Giants needed to go on a 9-1 run, starting against Kansas City. Well, they proceeded to go 0-7 instead.
We are now officially in the Dark Days.
Many have pointed out that the Giants are on pace to lose 100 games and have one of the top 2 or 3 picks in next years draft.
Tim Kawakami went a step further:
The Giants are currently on pace to lose 300 games this season.
— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) June 20, 2017
Who saw this coming? Where do we go from here?
Let’s pull the scope back just a bit and take into consideration that as awesome as the Giants have been they’ve chosen to operate with a smaller margin for error than a typical “dynasty.”
What I mean by that is they went all-in on an organizational philosophy built around run prevention. Some of this was due to budget constraints, a lot of this was due to the ballpark. Either way, it has proven to be a sound strategy. Great pitching, strong defense, and just enough offense brought the team 3 world championships.
But, it also brought with it the great phrase: Giants baseball, torture.
Which is to say: The Giants don’t win a lot of 8-3 joy rides. That hasn’t been the blueprint since Barry Bonds left.
They’ve also hesitated from bringing in high-priced free agents to bolster the lineup. Maybe this is the Aaron Rowand effect, but the Giants have built their lineups from the draft and spare parts. A few good trades were mixed in here and there, but there’s been no big bat riding in on a white horse, not in a long, long time.
All of this to say, that while it has been a golden run of roster building, there is a smaller margin of error involved, and that margin has gotten taxed to the max this season.
Let’s also not forget that at this time last year the Giants had the best record in baseball. How did the fall come so fast and so hard?
A simplistic reading of the 2017 season points to the Madison Bumgarner injury and says, like 2011 when the Giants lost Posey, this is not a team designed to overcome the loss of a superstar. While there’s no doubt that was a devastating moment, the failure this year has been far more systemic.
- Many, myself included, thought the Giants would be able to move on from the “Core 4” since there seemed to be a plethora of arms making their way through the farm system. This has proven to be a drastic mis-read.
- I also thought the addition of Mark Melancon would create the stability needed to help everyone else fall into their roles.
- Again, this is a systemic failure. Because the offense and starting pitching and defense have been bad there hasn’t been opportunity for the bullpen to get sorted. The Giants have been great, historically, at playing downhill: getting an early lead and making it stand up. They’ve been behind consistently all season and that is taxing on even the best bullpens.
- The Giants have a lot to figure out here. How healthy is Melancon? What young guys are going to be able to stick? (The Giants called up Kyle Crick today). Can Derek Law get his mojo back? Can Will Smith make it back healthy?
- I still think the Giants have a strength here with this cast of characters, but there are some other things that need to be in place first in order to find out.
Starting Pitching Problems
- What to make of this mess? Again, any evaluation of the starters does have to begin with the loss of Bumgarner. His presence takes so much pressure off everyone else. That being said, the Giants once had a rotation full of arms they produced (Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Sanchez), and those were power arms. Since then they’ve produced Ty Blach, who is fun and a nice story, but the opposite of a power arm. The Giants are moving in the opposite direction of the rest of baseball on this one.
- Perhaps I am being foolish, but I still like the Giants rotation moving forward. I think Bumgarner comes back and still has it. Johnny Cueto has had blister issues, but don’t forget the situation with his ailing dad, plus I think Cueto is a guy who plays better on better teams. I like Samarzija moving forward, and I still have high hopes for Matt Moore.
- There are questions though: does Cueto opt out? What if Bumgarner is good but not great? Which means that the Giants need someone to make the jump. We’re looking at you Tyler Beede. It is time for the system to produce major league quality starting pitchers again.
An offensive Defense
- Alex Pavlovich did some great work on the divide between the Giants and Rockies. The Giants aging outfield is a massive problem, especially with a cadre of pitchers who rely on the flyball to get people out.
- The Giants have masked their outfield problems with the home-grown goodness of an awesome infield.
- But that outfield situation. Bleak.
- It seems the Giants recognize this but I am not sure what can be done in the immediate moment to help here.
A Punchless Lineup
- We have plenty of time to continue the dissection, but the lack of power, especially in an era of homers-a-plenty is disturbing.
Final thought: I had a friend of mine who is a Dodgers fan (I know, we are still friends) ask me how long of a leash Bochy has. I have to think that it continues to be super long. How do you fire this guy?
The deeper issue to me is the roster building, not the roster management.
That being said, this is what happens to aging dynasties (it will happen to the Warriors in a few years). The Giants kept filling holes and plugging along, but when you win consistently in MLB you tend to reload with average prospects. Amazingly a lot of those have worked out for the Giants, but now the cupboard is bare, and it’s time to start charting a new course.