Home Runs

Part one of our post-2018 autopsy of the Giants will involve an overly simplistic view of the offense. We all know the lineup lacked punch, but when you compare it to the playoff teams, using two simple measures, things look even more bleak.

Consider: Team Leaders in Home Runs, and
Number of Players Equaling Giants’ Team Leader in Home Runs.
Here we go:

Giants Team Leader in HRs: Evan Longoria, 16

  • Red Sox: JD Martinez, 43; # of players with 16+ HRS=5
  • Indians: Jose Ramirez, 39; # of players w/ 16+=7
  • Astros: Alex Bregman, 31; # w/ 16+=5
  • Yankees: Giancarlo Stanton, 38: # w/ 16+=(Yanks had 6 different guys hit at least 24+!!!)
  • A’s: Khris Davis, 48; # w/ 16+=5
  • Braves: Ronald Acuna, 26; # w/ 16+=4
  • Cubs: Javy Baez, 34; # w/ 16+=3
  • Rockies: Nolan Arenado, 38; # w/ 16+=6
  • Dodgers: Max Muncy 35; # w/ 16+=8 (This actually jumps to an astonishing 10, if you consider that Manny Machado and Brian Dozier both hit more than 16 when you take into account their pre-trade numbers)
  • Brewers: Christian Yelich, 36; # w/ 16+=5

Again, this is a very simplistic model, and we all know the Giants need to hit more home runs, but this is a startling view of reality. Not only do the Giants not have anywhere near the top end power that most good teams have (remember no Giant has hit 30+ home runs since Barry Bonds), but they also lack the depth (the Cubs, the closest team to the Giants in this measure, had a guy named Kris Bryant only hit 15 home runs in a season shortened by injury…he’s capable of 40+ any normal year).

Part of what is worrisome about the Giants entering 2019 is not that they lack top-end power and can go get it in the form of Bryce Harper, nice though that may be, they simply don’t have the depth of power to compare to other good teams. In other words, they could use a power upgrade at nearly every position on the field, and that’s probably not going to change dramatically any time soon.

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It’s Over…Now What?

It’s over. I’m not just talking about the season, I’m talking about this era of Giants baseball. You’ll need a subscription, but Tim Kawakami says as much in this article.

What do you think? Is there a version of the Posey/Bumgarner/Belt/Crawford Giants that is truly competitive again?

On the one hand the clear answer is: No. In 2016, the Giants reloaded, they brought in Cueto and Samardzija and they made some big moves at the trade deadline, and they did nearly take down the eventual World Champion Cubs. But, the reality is the Giants are 155-194 since the All-Star break in 2016.

On the other hand, the less clear answer is: Perhaps.

Why, perhaps? Well, for one, the Giants have not been able to stay healthy. And that’s not just an aging roster thing. Joe Panik gets hurt, a lot. Brandon Belt get hurt, a lot. Mac Williamson runs into a wall and loses another season. Everyone breaks their pinky. Madison Bumgarner falls off a dirt bike.

That stuff has to drive Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans absolutely nuts. How do you really evaluate this team and this organization. Here are a few conclusions:

  1. The Giants’ front office does not get enough credit for how well it has done developing players. They have not all panned out, but no one has all their guys pan out. That’s baseball. And it does seem like there is hope around the bend: Shuan Anderson, Heliot Ramos, Joey Bart, and several others provide a lot of excitement about the next wave. So, don’t let the failure of Panik/Belt/Williamson sucker you into thinking the Giants can’t develop players.
  2. The Giants have a knack for making great under the radar signings. There are so many to point out, but in just the last year I could point you to everyone from Todd Hundley to Pablo Sandoval to Alen Hanson to Reyes Moronta to Derek Rodriguez to Derek Holland. Expect more of that in the future.
  3. Now to the crux of things: the Giants need to plan for a team that is not built around Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner. This is where it gets hard. Do you trade Madison Bumgarner? Do you try to sign him to a team friendly deal, and potentially tick him off? Do you let him go in free agency, pointing out that this is what the team should have done with Matt Cain, et al? Hard questions. And then the Buster Posey conundrum. He’s still a great catcher, but he probably needs to move to first base to preserve his body. So, do you trade Brandon Belt? Probably. And then, will he ever hit with power again? Right now, he’s basically Freddy Sanchez/Marco Scutaro, and while both of those guys are near and dear to our hearts, they are not middle of the order/franchise cornerstones. Is Buster Posey even worth it as a first baseman?
  4. The Giants need to find a cornerstone. Here’s where it gets tricky again. The formula for 2010/2012/2014 was (a) pitching, (b) bullpen, which is to say more pitching, (c) defense, which is to say pitching, and (d) an offense built around an interstellar force of a Catcher. Buster Posey was so valuable to the Giants because he provided first base/left field/middle of the order awesomeness but as a catcher. That meant that the Giants could get away with Aubrey Huff/Pat Burrell/Brandon Belt/Melky Cabrera/Brandon Belt/Travis Ishikawa at 1B and LF. I am extremely tempted by Bryce Harper, because I think the Giants need that kind of presence. But, the Giants themselves just retired Barry Bonds number recently and while that was a nice bit of nostalgia it was also a reminder that they never won a championship with that model of team building. Which leads to the final point…
  5. The real big problem, in my humble opinion, is that the Giants pitching has fallen way, way off from the glory days. I get that trying to recreate the golden has gotten them in trouble, but I continue to believe that pitching wins.

Whatever happens next, let’s not forget how incredible this era has been. What we witnessed from 2009-2016 was amazing and rare, and most of the other fan bases would kill for that era.

But, going back to the well again and again is tired. That well is empty. Time for something fresh. Will the Giants do it?

Dog Days… #sfgiants

I really thought this weekend’s series against the Diamondbacks was make or break for the Giants. They needed to take 3 of 4 at a minimum, gain some ground, or else they were screwed.

Somehow, they went 2-2 and are no worse off. The rest of the NL West was very on brand, no one did much this weekend and so the situation stands at this:

  • Arizona 62-51    —
  • Dodgers 62-51   —
  • Colorado 59-52  2
  • Giants     57-56   5

Don’t get me wrong a sweep would have been awesome. In that scenario, the Giants would be three out of first place and hot on the heels of both Colorado and Arizona. It was a missed opportunity, just not as devastating as it could have been.

My only significant thought of the day is this: if the Giants are going to make any move upwards, it must come on the backs of McCutchen, Posey, and Longoria. Somewhere, somehow, those dudes need to rediscover the glory days of 2012-2013 for just 2 months.

Well, in the last week here’s what those three have been up to:

  • McCutchen .440/.517/.720 (2 home runs)
  • Posey           .467/.529/.533
  • Longoria     .393/.414/.750 (2 home runs)

The only hope they really have left is for the offense to carry them back to a respectable +/- and hope they can get enough from the beleaguered staff to win a bunch of games.

They have a good test this week with two against the juggernaut Astros and then 4 at home with the Pirate who are really trying to win right now. (After that, they go to LA). Huge 9 games ahead!

Deadline Thoughts

The trade deadline is 3 days away and the rumors continue to fly. By all accounts it seems like the Giants will be (a) Quiet, but also (b) Looking to make moves to improve the 2018 team. That’s wonderful, I do appreciate the desire to be competitive, but it is with a slightly heavy heart that I must disagree.

I’ve seen enough to conclude that the team as presently constructed will not be able to do much better than 84 wins. The entire season has been a major flirt with .500. They’ve be no more than 5 games over or under all season. And this is perfect:

Therefore, it seems prudent to do the follow things this year at the deadline:

  1. Trade Andrew McCutchen: It pains me to write this. Yes, McCutchen hasn’t had an incredible season. But it has been fun to watch him; I have really enjoyed him being on the team. I would love to live in the alternative universe where he had a one year, pre-free agency, bonanza and put up the kind of numbers that would have made us all scream for him to stay. It’s been much more of a steady plod. I’d love it if the Giants could ship him to Cleveland or Houston, get a nice prospect in return and let Andrew have a moment in the postseason. It feels silly to keep him around for this year, and I haven’t seen enough to make me excited about him signing on for the next 3-5 seasons (bring on Bryce!). Plus, moving on would give the Giants two months to see what they have with Austin Slater/Mac Williamson/etc.
  2. Trade one of Tony Watson and Will Smith: I’d prefer they keep Watson because he is very cheaply controlled for the next two seasons, and I think they could get more for Smith, but cash in on one of hese guys! The premium for good lefty relievers (especially ones who can get out right-handed hitters) is crazy. Take advantage!
  3. Trade Sam Dyson: This is a no-brainer. Dyson has been found money from the moment he showed up off the scrap heap. The Giants would get some salary relief and probably something interesting in return.

There are a variety of other possibilities. It doesn’t seem like the Giants are in any way shape or form ready to burn it to the ground and start over. But, there might be creative ways to move on from Evan Longoria, or even Joe Panik/Brandon Belt. There might be ways to sell off other spare parts (Pablo? Gorkys?). Who knows?

I don’t favor the rebuild at this point either, as I think the Giants do still have enough pieces to compete. The emergence of Derek Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez, the young arms in the bullpen, and some studs waiting in the wings (Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos, etc), give me hope for the (immediate) future.

Back to Bryce Harper, I know many fans are in a lather about bringing him over, and while it still feels like a longshot, I do think he is the missing piece.

Yes, the Giants went with the star strategy for 15 years and it got them no rings, but they won 3 World Series with an all-world catcher in the middle of their lineup and a bunch of guys orbiting around that sun. That sun has gone out, and what I am saying is the Giants might have a wave of pitching good enough to get the job done, but they do not have a middle of the order force anymore. The have a bunch of planets, but no sun.

So, trade off the few items of value now, let the young guys play, and then go all in this offseason (which is what the who year has been about, right?)

All-Star Break Review

50-48

That’s where we stand at the traditional All-Star break evaluation point.

So, there’s that.

It does feel like the Giants missed a significant opportunity over the past three weeks. They are over .500, they are “only” 4 games out of first place, and the second half does not present the same travel/scheduling challenges that the first half did.

Yet, it seems like they should have won a few more games along the way.


100 games in and it is still really difficult to evaluate the team as a whole. Their top three starting pitchers have all missed significant time (and it looks more and more like Jeff Samardzija may not give them anything this year). That alone is a recipe for disaster. And yet it has not been a disaster.

It’s been the year of the broken pinkie, and even beyond that, nearly everyone of significance has been on the DL. The only exceptions to this: Crawford, McCutchen, and Posey, and Posey’s been dealing with a bad hip (more on this later).

Given all of that, it could be so, so much worse.

And yet it still feels like the Giants have left something on the table.

Do I have any confidence that they could surge in the second half and actually win this division, or sneak into a wild card spot? I do have any. Some. But this season just feels like it is destined to be fits and starts, resulting in a nice but unsatisfying 84 wins.

Let’s take a deeper look, and grade out the roster for the season so far.


Catcher: Giants’s catchers are slashing .270/.341/.421 and have an sOPS of +124 (which means they are 24 “points” better than the league average at this position). That’s pretty good!

The problem here though is that these numbers are skewed by a surprisingly strong first half from Nick Hundley. Andrew Baggarly wrote extensively this morning (subscription likely needed to read this article) about Buster Posey, his diminished production and how hard it is for catchers to age well. It will be fascinating to see what happens, because that article reveals that Giants brass believe a move to a different position would bring back the power. But then to get Buster to a different position would mean moving on from Longoria or Belt, both of whom are under contract for a while. So, not impossible but tough.

Here are some of the pertinent quotes:

Posey remains a brilliant hitter — watch him battle with two strikes to extend a rally or find a way to turn around a closer’s upper-90s heat in the ninth inning or, as he is doing once again this season, draw walks at the same rate he strikes out. But there is no disputing that his overall offensive impact has faded with each passing year. His home run swing has leaked air in each of the last five seasons, from 22 to 19 to 14 to 12 to five as he enters the break. His .774 OPS this season would be the lowest of his career.

Bochy and Giants executive vice president Brian Sabean are both bullish on Posey’s post-catching career.

“If anybody could transition up the line to become more like his younger self from a run production standpoint, you’d bet on him because of his bat-to-ball skills,” Sabean said. “Especially against above-average velocity, his swing is very true. It stays on the same plane. There aren’t many guys who can swing like that.”

My grade for the position is a B+. For most other teams this position would grade out as an A, but for the Giants with Posey, the standards are pretty high.

First Base: Ah the conundrum that is Brandon Belt. Overall he’s had a solid first half, been one of the Giants best hitters, and is well positioned to finish with the best stat line of his career. But, a random, wierd injury (appendicitis) once again slowed him down and since he’s been back he hasn’t quite been the same force of nature.

Overall, Giants first basemen have slashed .280/.371/.462 with an tOPS+ of 134. Not bad either, but not quite the world beater level that many teams are able to get out of this position (which is sort of the ultimate summary of Brandon Belt’s career to this point).

My grade: B+

Second Base: Here is where things start to get ugly. Joe Panik started the year on fire, settled into a nice groove, steadily declined into a miserable slump, and then severely pulled his groin (I have yet to hear when he might return). The Giants have gotten a bump in production from Alen Hanson, but I still think he is most effective coming off the bench and in spot starts (especially against right handers, his right-handed hitting has been so-so).

The numbers: .239/.289/.347 with an tOPS+ of 79, which is really bad.

My Grade: C- (only passing because this is 2B and the defense has been ok)

Shortstop: There is no shortage of superlatives for Brandon Crawford and the season he’s been having. He is a deserving All Star game starter, and he’s been the Giants best overall player. No slight to Brandon, but this is part of the problem. Any team where Brandon Crawford is your best player is a team that is going to struggle to score runs.

The numbers: an outstanding .297/.367/.470, tOPS+ of 135!

My Grade: A+

Third Base: Evan Longoria and Pablo Sandoval have passed the eye-ball test for the most part. But this speaks to how bad this position was in 2017. It was terrible. That’s part of why Longoria was brought in. The strategy for the Giants this offseason was to try to upgrade the black hole positions from 2017, and they have certainly upgraded third base, but this position is still a problem.

One reason this is still a problem is that there are a lot of good third basemen in the game these days. But even with that the numbers don’t lie: .254/.296/.440. The slugging has been ok, but that on base percentage (.296) is terrible. Plus, the defense from 3B has not been as good as advertised.

My Grade: C+

Left Field: Welcome to the vortex of suck. A small subplot to the Giants last decade has been the utter inability to replace Barry Bonds. The Giants have masked over their deficiencies with a couple hot streaks from Pat Burrell, Melky Cabrera, Gregor Blanco, Mike Morse, and Travis Ishikawa (!). Part of the interesting symmetry and irony of the Giants championships is that they had the greatest LF of all time and never won a World Series with him, and then won three with the aforementioned cast of clowns. Baseball.

But outside of a couple nice streaks here and there, they have been routinely terrible in LF, and this year is no different. Part of the problem here was so many ABs given to Hunter Pence who has been sadly awful. The other part of the problem is that the one guy who seemed to be primed to take this spot over, Mac Williamson, eternal BaseballMonk tease, had a GREAT week and then bonked his head on a wall and hasn’t been the same since. Sad face emoji.

The search for an answer in LF continues, 11 seasons and counting.

The numbers: .237/.291/.357 with an tOPS+ of 82 (eep).

My Grade: F

Center Field: Here is the most interesting evaluation for the team so far. Austin Jackson got a lot of starts here and was not very good, and then Gorkys Hernandez wrestled control away from the other contenders and he has put up some surprisingly awesome numbers. Now, Hernandez has been shifted to LF and Steven Duggar has taken over for the last week and he too has put up some pretty good numbers (while also bringing the best defensive presence the Giants have had in CF in a long time).

The numbers: .272/.329/.410 with a surprisingly great tOPS+ of 108.

My Grade: A surprising B+

Right Field: This position has been nearly completely held down by Andrew McCutchen. I have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, Andrew McCutchen is such a great dude, has been such an amazing player, and was someone all Giants fans always coveted. Seeing him in the orange and black is so cool.

And yet, he’s just not the player he once was. You want your RF to hit more than 10 home runs per 100 games. So while there have been some good moments and flashes of the old brilliance, you can’t help but wonder about Giancarlo Stanton, or dream about a future with Bryce Harper manning the expanses of triples alley.

The numbers: .262/.353/.410 with an tOPS+ of 115 (good, but not great).

What you have here is one positional stud (Brandon Crawford at SS), a few good but not greats (1B, C, RF, CF) and then a couple of really troublesome spots (3B, LF, 2B), which all comes out to be a pretty average lineup.

It’s also worth nothing (and I don’t have solid numbers to back this up) but the bench has been very, very good, while the pitchers (and I do have numbers to back this up) have been AWFUL. Like some of the worst hitting from any pitchers, ever.


Speaking of the pitchers, I will be quick here: at the risk of totally coping out, I am going to grade the pitching staff an incomplete. If I really had to give it a grade it would be a C+. It hasn’t been that bad, but the whole thing has gone so completely not according to plan who can even know which way is up at this point.

What I do know is this: We are still very much back where we started. If the Giants are going to erase a 4 game deficit and sneak in to the postseason Johnny Cueto is going to need to be very good.

Enjoy the All Star Break!

Game On! #sfgiants #weekinreview

Holy smokes a lot happened this week with our beloved baseball club. Let’s recap:

  • After a heart warming sweep of the first place Diamondbacks, the Giants road-woes came right up and slapped them across the face. They dropped 3 games in Colorado, managing to score a grand total of 3 runs in those 3 games. That’s basically getting shut out for 3 straight games in any other park. Then, they had a somewhat frustrating split against the Cardinals, frustrating because the series marked the return of two pitchers who were supposed to help (more on this later).
  • Joe Panik got hurt and is on the DL, probably for a while. This makes us all sad, but it also forces us to face the harsh reality that Joe Panik is not having a good season, and it may be in the Giants best interest to let Alen Hanson play everyday. Hanson has been far superior with the bat, and I think he makes them a better, more dangerous team for now. Nonetheless, get well Joe!
  • The Giants welcomed back Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija. My pre-season naming of Cueto as the MOST IMPORTANT player this season, still stands in many ways. If he can be good from here on out, the Giants have a puncher’s chance. He was not very good in his start on Thursday, however, and there will be a dance the rest of the season around when to pull the plug. If he continues to stink (and the Giants fall out of contention), he’ll go back on the DL and the Giants will hope he can heal up for 2019. If they stay in the race and Cueto can give them anything positive, he’ll hang in the rotation as long as they need him. Meanwhile, Samardzija showed signs of life in his return, but he still hasn’t looked better than some of the other options available to the team.
  • Speaking of that, the Giants went ahead and kept both Andrew Suarez and Derek Rodriguez in the rotation and that sure looks like a good idea. Chris Stratton was sent back to Sacramento to keep pitching every 5th day and try to get some consistency back in his curveball and location. I hate to say it, but he has not been the same since becoming a dad.
  • The Giants sent Derek Holland to the bullpen, even though he had been one of the most consistent starters recently, and they continue to carry 13 pitchers on the roster. Some of this is due to having a high number of pitchers who require baby gloves at this point. The Giants don’t want Cueto or Samardzija throwing 100+ pitches right now, so that means it is wise to have Holland and Blach in the bullpen. But also, Will Smith and Mark Melancon (and now Ray Black) need to be managed in how often they are used, since they are still building up strength coming off injuries. I can’t remember a staff that had so many issues like this.
  • Speaking of Will Smith he is finally the closer and he’s been nasty so far and DANG IT BOCHY WHY WASN’T HE THE CLOSER IN 2016.
  • And then (I told you it was quite the week) the Giants made a trade yesterday. They FINALLY got rid of Cody Gearrin (hallelujah), and shipped out the suddenly redundant and underused OF Austin Jackson. In order to do this, the Giants sweetened the pot by including pitcher Jason Bahr. Bahr is a guy who created some buzz this season, and seems like a nice prospect, but the Giants have traded away a lot of buzzy prospects who were never heard from again. This move is a win, in my mind, because it creates “cap” space, gets rid of two guys who were no longer useful and created space for the Giants to see what they have with Gorkys Hernandez, Austin Slater, Steven Duggar, Ray Black, and maybe another bullpen arm or two before this is all said and done.
  • You read that right: Steven Duggar is here! Sounds like the Giants will use him and Hernandez interchangeably in CF, but then Gorkys just pulled a muscle, so we may get a good stretch from Duggar, which is excellent news.
  • That was a lot! Somehow, in the midst of all this roster churn and losing (2-5 on the week), the Giants are still only 3.5 games out of first in the NL West.

Which brings us to the question: what does this all mean? The Giants are still very much in this thing in 2018. They are finally at “full strength” in their starting rotation, the bullpen is pretty good, and they should (in theory) be able to score enough to be competitive.

One could look at the trade as a step towards more moves to strengthen the squad for the stretch run.

Or, are the Giants coming to grips with the reality that they are a bit lucky to be 47-45 (with that ugly -27 =/-), and it’s time to get ready for next year?

It feels more like the latter. Here’s my take:

  1. The Giants brass realize this is a down year in the NL West and so are willing to give the Cueto’s of the world an opportunity to make a run. Who knows maybe they get hot and sneak into the playoffs this season. So, they are not going to blow the whole thing up, but they are going to want to see and invest time in the guys who might be around next year.
  2. They’ve made one trade to make sure they stay beneath the tax threshold (the “cap”) so that they can be sure to reset and go into the offseason with a clean slate. This will allow them to extend Bumgarner, pursue Bryce Harper, or do whatever it is they want to do with their “extra” money to get younger and better.
  3. Now, to the big rumor: there are more moves probably coming. Word is the only Giants’ who are off-limits this July are Posey and Crawford. That means Bumgarner, Belt, your favorite prospect, whoever, is on the table!
  4. I don’t think the Giants are going to trade Belt/Bum/etc, unless someone fills AT&T park with gold and prospects. What this means, though, is that Giants will listen. They want to get a good sense of what a different future could look like, and shopping will allow them to do this.

So, hang on tight Giants fans, the next 3+ weeks are going to be very interesting.

A Couple Quick Thoughts… #weekinreview #sfgiants

The Giants are on a roll right now and for the first time this season it feels real. They are two bullpen meltdowns away from being tied for first place.

So, a couple of quick accolades:

  1. Austin Slater: starting left fielder…may be it so for as long as it needs to be.
  2. Hunter Pence: master cheerleader/pinch hitter…never thought this day would come while he was a Giant, but I kind of love it.
  3. The Brandon’s continue to mash: Amen and Amen.
  4. Madison Bumgarner is a stud: duh.
  5. Rookies in the rotation: 100!
  6. Will Smith closer: getting jiggy with that.

That last one kind of hurts to be honest. I still think the Giants force a Game 5 against the Cubs if Bochy had of stuck with Smith in that infamous 9th inning. Maybe he was already hurt. Who knows. But now, it looks like he may take the 9th and run with it. So be it.

The Giants have three games in Colorado, and then a 10 game home stand before the All Star Break. Also, we may see Samardzija and Cueto soon. Also, the trade deadline looms. There is going to be a lot to talk about this July.

After 2017, I’m all for it.