The Giants Anti-Team of the Decade (Part 1: Position Players)

Denard Span “plays CF,” August 2017

by DrLefty

First things first: I have to hat-tip Mr. Lefty for the concept of today’s post. We were going to bed last night, and I told him I had nothing, NO idea, about what to write today. He suggested I start a four-week series on the decade in review, and I said “Eh. Baggs did something like that this week.”  Then he suggested that I could instead highlight the worst Giants players of the decade at every position, and we started brainstorming and were off to the races. So many possibilities. So much food for creative thought.

In other words, if you love what follows, thank him. If you hate it, blame HIM.

 

Ground rules

One obvious limitation of this rather mean-spirited exercise is that if a player really, really stunk, he didn’t stick around for very lo–oops, not you, Aubrey. You’ll have to wait your turn. You have your own separate section.  Anyway, just to keep this from diving into a bottomless pit of ridiculousness, I’ve followed this methodology.

  1. For starters, they had to be in the Opening Day lineup.
  2. OR, if they were obtained later in the season, they had to start at least 25 games at the position for the Giants.

As Baggs did, I’ll go by position and a specific season of the 2010s.

 

C Eli Whiteside, 2011

This was a tough category since Buster Posey played catcher for nearly all of the 2010s (with the exception of the first half of 2010, and I don’t have the heart to pick on Bengie Molina). Eli Whiteside, as you’ll recall, became the primary catcher in 2011 after Posey went down for the season in late May. Whiteside started 64 games at catcher, hit .197, and had an OPS+ of 63. He has the dubious distinction of losing the backup catcher job to 22-year-old Hector Sanchez in 2012 (we’ll get to him in a minute, too).

We’ll always have this moment in 2011, though. Check out Eli bouncing like a boxer.

There was also the time Eli weathered a home-plate collision with Prince Fielder, just two days after Scott Cousins took out Posey.

 

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Hector Sanchez, 2014

You will see as we go along that some of our “anti” examples are guys who also had good seasons for the Giants. Just not this season. Hector Sanchez, in my opinion, got a bad rap sometimes from Giants fans and even Giants announcers. As mentioned, at age 22 he beat out both Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart for the backup catcher job to start 2012. Posey was coming back from a terrible injury, and no one knew how he’d respond to a major league workload. Manager Bruce Bochy handled him carefully, giving him a lot of days off and having him play a lot of first base. Hector was reliable enough as a backup that Posey not only stayed healthy but also went on to win the NL MVP award that year.

But in 2014, leaving aside catching Tim Lincecum‘s second no-hitter, Hector was so bad that he ended up losing the backup job to rookie Andrew Susac. His slash line in 177 plate appearances was .196/.237/.301/.538, and his bWAR was -0.4. He just turned 30 last week and hasn’t played in the majors since 2017.

 

1B Brett Pill, 2012

This also wasn’t an easy category since Brandon Belt held down the position for most of the decade, and Aubrey Huff is going to have his own section later. 2012 was a weird year at 1B for the Giants. As already mentioned, Bochy played Posey there quite a bit, and there was Bochy’s strange, lingering loyalty to Huff. When those two weren’t playing, it was either Belt or Pill. Pill just barely qualified for this list by getting 105 ABs in 2012. He hit .210 with four homers and 11 RBIs and a -0.2 bWAR. By June, Huff was pretty much out of the picture, Belt and Posey split the time at 1B, and Pill was sent back to the minors.

We did have this one great moment, though, when Pill took Clayton Kershaw deep with Belt aboard, leading to a 2-1 win for Ryan Vogelsong. This video is a feel-good compilation of Giants hitting homers off Kershaw, and Pill’s is the third one.

 

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Ryder Jones, 2017

This one took some digging because even though Belt missed considerable time several seasons with injuries, his primary backup was Posey, who was pretty good. But in 2017, Belt only played 98 games at 1B, and rookie Ryder Jones started 30 games (164 plate appearances) at 1B. He was terrible, hitting .173 with an OPS+ of 37 and a -1.4 bWAR. I for one don’t ever need to see him playing for the Giants again, though I’m sure he’s a fine young man and I wish him well. Just somewhere else.

 

2B Emmanuel Burriss, 2012

2012 was a strange year at 2B for the Giants. The starting 2B was supposed to be Freddy Sanchez, but despite persistent rumors in the spring that he’d be back any day now, Freddy was never ready and never set foot on a field for the Giants in 2012–though oddly, he showed up in uniform in the dugout during the postseason.

Freddy Sanchez’s Ghost in the Giants’ dugout during the 2012 playoffs.

 

Anyway, so Freddy wasn’t the Giants’ 2B in 2012 (or ever again). Ryan Theriot, picked up late in spring training, was the Opening Day 2B and made most of the starts until the Giants obtained Marco Scutaro at the trade deadline. Theriot actually started more games at 2B than any other Giant in 2012, but Emmanuel Burriss was there, too, making 37 starts and 150 plate appearances, and he was really bad (OPS+ of 43, batting average .213, slugging percentage .221, -1.1 bWAR).

 

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Jeff Keppinger, 2011

So, speaking of Freddy Sanchez, he was having a pretty good year in 2011, in fact maybe headed for an All-Star berth, when he dove for a ball in June, landed on his shoulder, and had to be helped off the field…and that turned out to be the last moment of his baseball career, though we didn’t know that for quite some time. The Giants, having already lost Posey for the year a few weeks earlier, scrambled to replace Sanchez. Emmanuel Burriss was there again (28 starts at 2B, -0.2 bWAR), and who could forget #ForeverGiant Bill Hall? (Hall and Dan Uggla are lucky they don’t qualify under my self-imposed rules.) In July, GM Brian Sabean traded for Jeff Keppinger, who pretty much held down 2B for the rest of the season, starting 55 games there. He wasn’t good (-0.7 bWAR, mainly because of his stone hands in the infield), nobody liked him, and he didn’t come back after 2011.

 

3B Casey McGehee, 2015

Apologies to HaakAway, who I know has some kind of personal connection to ol’ Casey, but hoo boy, was he bad. The Giants made a desperation trade for McGehee after losing long-time starter Pablo Sandoval to the Red Sox in free agency, not wanting to entrust the position to 24-year-old Matt Duffy, despite his nice work as a bench player on the 2014 World Series champions.

McGehee started 32 games at 3B and made 138 plate appearances before Bochy threw in the towel and went with rookie Duffy instead, and McGehee was traded back to the Marlins (from whence he’d come) shortly thereafter. In his brief stint with the Giants, McGehee grounded into 15 double plays in just 138 plate appearances, which is pretty darn impressive. This caused him to earn the mean nickname “McGIDP” from Giants fans. It didn’t all turn out badly for Casey, though, as his terrible experience as a Giant led him to find God.

“If you’ve ever had 50,000 people booing at the sight of you or at the announcement of your name, you can understand how bad things got for me for a while,” McGehee said. (https://www.jacksonsun.com/story/news/2019/06/14/mcgehee-talks-effect-fca/1458402001/)

 

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Pablo Sandoval, 2017

You could almost have said “the whole 2017 roster” for this one and been about right. The Opening Day starter at 3B in 2017 was Eduardo Nunez, who started 49 games there. Also logging 15+ starts at 3B were Christian Arroyo (-0.5 bWAR), Conor Gillaspie (-0.7), Jae-gyun Hwang (-0.2), and Ryder Jones (-1.4). It was so, so, so bad. Only Nunez, who was traded in July, and Kelby Tomlinson, who started 24 games at 2B, had (very small) positive WAR. Sandoval came crawling back to the Giants after the Red Sox decided they’d rather pay him $50 million to go away, and he made his debut in August to mixed reactions from both the fans and the team. He started 38 games at 3B but hit just .225 and had a -0.4 WAR. He also hit the walk-off homer on the last day of the season that kept the Giants from having the #1 draft pick in 2018 (though they ended up with Joey Bart because of that, so maybe we can forgive Pablo for that one.

 

SS Orlando Cabrera 2011

2011 was a pretty bad year at SS for the Giants. They had lost both of their primary shortstops from their 2010 championship team (Juan Uribe and Edgar Renteria), and Sabean signed a very washed-up Miguel Tejada to start the season there. Due to injuries (as well as suckitude and bad attitude), Tejada only actually played 42 games at SS that year and was ultimately dumped at the end of August. To my surprise, the guy who started the most games at SS in 2011 was…rookie Brandon Crawford (65). Mike Fontenot also played 37 games at SS that year.

But Cabrera, obtained at the trade deadline, was the worst of them all. He had a 36 OPS+ and was absolutely brutal in the field. Worse, Sabean got him and promptly sent Crawford to the minors. The Giants, who were in first place in the NL West on the day Cabrera was acquired, went into an immediate tailspin, and the story goes that between the 2011 and 2012 seasons, the starting pitchers went to Sabean and demanded that he let Crawford play, which he has done ever since.

 

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Brandon Crawford, 2019

Crawford took over SS in 2012 and has made eight straight Opening Day starts there. He was the infield captain for two World Series winners, a three-time Gold Glove winner, and a two-time All-Star, including as a starter for the NL as recently in 2018. But Crawford went off a cliff in 2019. His wRC+ of 74 was the third-worst in the majors of all qualified hitters. His defense regressed badly, too, and he was only 13th out of 21 qualified shortstops in defensive rankings. Many observers believed that he had gotten out of shape and lost a step. Crawford still has two years and over $30 million left on the six-year contract he signed after the 2015 season–with a no-trade clause. One of the more interesting questions of the offseason and of 2020 is what the Giants are going to do with/about Crawford.

 

RF Jose Guillen, 2010

It was harder than I thought it would be to find truly terrible right fielders. Hunter Pence, of course, held down the position for most of the decade, and while there were guys before and after him and replacements for him during injuries in 2015 and 2016, none of them were all that awful. I had to go back all the way to 2010 to find Guillen, who started 38 games for the Giants in right field down the stretch in 2010. His hitting wasn’t terrible (89 OPS+), but apparently his fielding was bad enough that he amassed a -0.6 bWAR in a little over a month. He also got caught having steroids mail-ordered to his house right at the end of the season, meaning the Giants were stuck with Cody Ross at the last minute for the playoffs, and…never mind, that part turned out pretty great.

 

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Justin Maxwell, 2015

Hunter Pence was hit by a pitch during spring training and sustained a broken wrist that kept him our several months. The Opening Day right fielder was thus Justin Maxwell, a likable enough guy, who started 58 games in RF, had an OPS+ of 69, and played to a 0.0 bWAR, only avoiding negative numbers because of pretty good defense.

 

CF Denard Span, 2017

Now, I don’t want to hear any nonsense about how Span was decent at the plate that year. In 2017, he played the worst CF I’ve ever seen, and that’s counting Angel Pagan in 2015 (we’ll get to him). Span had an absolutely horrific -27 defensive runs saved, by far the worst of any outfielder in the majors. He and the other outfielders were so bad that year that several starting pitchers had their ERAs inflated by more than a point (Jeff Samardzija being the most prominent victim). I remember watching George Springer playing CF for the Astros in the 2017 World Series and wanting to weep with envy.

Whatever else you can say about Bobby Evans and the Longoria trade before the 2018 season, at least he made the Rays take Span as part of the deal. I think the pitchers might have gone on strike otherwise (see Crawford, after 2011).

 

(Dis)Honorable Mention: Angel Pagan, 2015

It’s hard to believe this, but in a span (see what I did there?) of three years, the Giants had two of the three worst seasons in MLB by a CF–and they were two different guys. Pagan had a DRS of -20 in 2015, also worst in baseball, and with a year remaining on his contract, was moved to left field for 2016 to make room for…Span. The guy that replaced Span in 2018, Gorkys Hernandez, wasn’t any particular great shakes, but after Span and Pagan, he seemed like a huge improvement. Then in 2019, with first Steven Duggar and then Kevin Pillar playing CF, we actually got to see how normal baseball teams operate.  It truly is amazing, given the large outfield at AT & T/Oracle Park, that management let this brutality go on for as many years as it did.

 

LF–The whole 2017 team

The Giants are now on 13 straight years and counting of having a different guy be the Opening Day left fielder, going back to Bonds’s final year in 2007. It would be hard to overstate how terrible things have been out there. Case in point: The only guy Baggarly could come up with in left field for the “team of the decade” was Melky Cabrera in 2012, and Melky (a) wasn’t the Opening Day left fielder (that was Huff, and Melky was the right fielder) and (b) got popped for PEDs on August 15 and didn’t play in the postseason.

The 2017 team took the LF situation to new depths. The Opening Day starter was Jarrett Parker. The list of the other guys who played there: Brandon Belt, Gorkys Hernandez, Aaron Hill, Orlando Calixte, Ryder Jones, Chris Marrero, Carlos Moncrief, Mike Morse, Eduardo Nunez, Justin Ruggiano, Austin Slater, Kelby Tomlinson, and Mac Williamson.

Come to think of it, that list maybe should have come with a trigger warning. My bad.

 

(Dis)Honorable Mention: The whole 2013 team

The “plan,” such as it was, for 2013 in LF was a platoon of Gregor Blanco and returning 2010 hero Andres Torres. It wasn’t a good plan, and it didn’t work, in part because Angel Pagan sustained a serious injury and Blanco had to play mostly CF that year.

/TRIGGER WARNING

Here’s the list of everyone else, beyond Blanco and Torres, who played LF in 2013 for the Giants: Jeff Francoeur, Cole Gillespie, Roger Kieschnick, Francisco Peguero, Juan Perez, Brett Pill, and Kensuke Tanaka. The only reason 2013 didn’t “win” this category is that Blanco actually had a decent year overall.

 

The Anti-Giant of the 2010s: Aubrey Huff, 2011-12

In Baggarly’s “team of the decade” article, he identified Huff’s 2010 season as the best season of the 2010s by a Giants first baseman. Huff did have a fine year in 2010 and certainly helped lead the Giants to their first World Series title of the San Francisco era.

If only Huff had ridden off into the sunset after 2010. And if only he had never discovered Twitter.

After the 2010 World Series, Juan Uribe quickly jumped ship to the Dodgers, and Sabean panicked and signed Huff to a two-year deal worth over $20 million, not wanting to lose two 2010 heroes in short order. Huff took the money, got out of shape, abused drugs and alcohol, and was absolutely dreadful for the Giants in 2011-12. In 2012, he had an anxiety attack  and went AWOL from the team. When he returned, he hurt his knee jumping over the dugout rail to celebrate Matt Cain’s perfect game and was out for another couple of months. He finally, finally screwed things up badly enough that Bochy was forced to play Belt instead of Huff, a day some of us thought would never come.

Huff gets his own category for two reasons. First, he played 1B, RF, and LF, all badly, in 2011-12. He even played an inning at 2B, which was long enough for him to lose a game for the Giants in 2012 (and that apparently precipitated his panic attack/AWOL episode). Indeed, he played RF so poorly that it inspired his teammates to turn it into a crime scene.

Aubrey Huff “crime scene” in RF, 2011

 

Second, Huff has gone on in his post-Giants career to be a complete idiot on Twitter. There are too many examples to list here, but just this week, he posted these doozies:

 

I am stunned, STUNNED, I tell you, that his wife divorced him.  Then he posted one (which I’m not going to put here) about teaching his children how to shoot people in the head in case an election doesn’t go the way he wants it to.  Oh, and he says he’s thinking about running for Congress next year!

 

#Huff2020. Shudderrrrrrrr.

Honestly, is there some petition we can sign to get him removed from the former Giants rolls?  Does anyone really want to see him at the 2010 or 2012 World Series team reunions?

 

Final odds and ends

On Monday we’ll find out if the Giants are going to offer arbitration to Kevin Pillar and others, and maybe this week there will be some more back-of-the-40-man tinkering. It could be a real free-for-all, a late Black Friday!

 

You all should be praying for something newsworthy to happen by next week, or I’ll have to go on to Part 2 of this series–the pitchers. Mike Kickham, anyone? Steve Edlefson?  Just something to look forward to. Lefty out.