[Hat-tip to Jeff’s train wreck GIF last night that gave me the idea for today’s featured image.]
When even the hardened beat writers are expressing astonishment, you know you’re in uniquely bad territory.
I've covered the Giants for 16 seasons. Tonight's 7-0 loss in Arizona was one of the emptiest games I've seen them play.
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) May 18, 2019
Think about that. Baggarly covered the bottom-feeder 2005-08 Giants. The lackluster defending-champion 2013 Giants, who finished 10 games under .500. The 98-loss 2017 Giants. The 5-and-21-in-September 2018 Giants. He’s covered some baaaaaaaad versions of the Giants. And yet last night’s loss shocked even him.
In his gamer for The Athletic, Baggs breaks it down further.
To summarize: they were shut out despite being fresh from a day off, coming out for early hitting, playing in a hitter-friendly environment and facing a back-end pitcher who wasn’t even on his game.
On Twitter, he added this graphic to show where 30-year-old rookie Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly was throwing pitches.
No, you shouldn't see so many of those orange-yellow dots middle-middle. Especially when most of them are 91 mph straight fastballs. pic.twitter.com/fUFMekzXBZ
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) May 18, 2019
And yet, and yet, and yet.
It’s tempting to look for answers beyond “They’re just not good” or “They’re too old.” The Giants’ position players are not that old. Evan Longoria is the oldest among them at 33, but he wasn’t even playing last night. Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford are 32, Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval are 31, Kevin Pillar is 30, and Joe Panik is still in his 20s. Used-to-be and coulda-been Giants Hunter Pence (36) and Adam Jones (turns 34 on August 1) are doing just fine, thanks. So “too old” doesn’t quite fly here.
As for “not good,” most of them have been All-Stars, Posey and Crawford as recently as last season. Maybe the game has passed them by with changing pitching strategies and launch angles and exit velos and such, but a 91-MPH straight fastball leaking out over the plate is still something a healthy major leaguer in his early 30s should be able to hit. The game hasn’t changed that much.
The only guy who seemed fired up was Bruce Bochy, who was ejected in the seventh inning after a terrible call made by crew chief Joe West. Though he was rightfully outraged by the call, he was also clearly unhappy with his team’s performance. From Alex Pavlovic’s gamer:
He’ll come back tomorrow, ready for another fight, but you could see on his face that a performance like this did not sit well with him.
“I hope it doesn’t with anyone,” he said. “That’s not what we’re here for.”
So what is it? Brandon Crawford stood out with his terrible ABs in key spots last night. He publicly campaigned in the offseason for the Giants to sign Adam Jones, who had three hits, including an RBI double, for the Snakes last night. Jones would be leading the Giants in homers and OPS. Are Crawford and others still fuming about the quiet winter that led not to Bryce Harper or Adam Jones in the corners–or even Pence, last year’s Opening Day left fielder–but to waiver-wire strangers in the Opening Day lineup–strangers who were gone two weeks later? Is Pillar upset about being moved to right field? How much of the poison leaked out by Derek Holland a week ago has infected the rest of the clubhouse?
I don’t know. I’m just speculating. But several guys did show up last night. Bochy for one. Posey, back from his concussion, with two hits. And Jeff Samardzija, who despite an odd line (no strikeouts for the first time in 101 career starts), pitched well and surely deserved better.
A couple of “standouts”
I’m not really sure what the negative corollary of “standout” would be, so I put it in quotes because these two guys deserve special mention for their putridity last night (and in general).
- Mac Williamson: Since his homer in his first game back with the Giants, Mac is 3 for 26. The Giants have been true to their word and playing him everyday. Whatever happens with Mac, this time no one can say they didn’t give him a shot. Luckily for him, his would-be replacement, Aaron Altherr (who basically is Mac but can speak German) is hitting .033 for the season (1 for 30). But it’s not too hard to squint at Sacramento box scores and see who might be next up, such as a guy with Hall-of-Famer blood running through his veins (Mike Yastrzemski, .327/1.153 OPS, 12 homers) or the versatile Austin Slater (.313/1.026 OPS, 7 homers, 36/28 K/BB).
- Derek Holland: A lot has been written and said about Holland’s inflammatory comments last weekend after being told he was demoted to the bullpen. Not sure what was so complicated about this. Holland had a 6.75 ERA as a starter and had been getting progressively worse over his final four starts. That’s exactly the kind of performance that gets you demoted–that is, when the team is paying you $7M and isn’t just going to DFA you on a whim. Anyway, Holland’s first relief appearance was mop-up duty in a loss to Toronto, and he gave up no runs despite walking two. But last night he gave up three runs before registering one out, and yes, he was victimized by the bad hit-by-pitch call that got Bochy ejected, but the rest of that inning (four runs total) was all him. That turned a still-sorta-close game into a blowout, and the Giants whimpered through their last couple of turns.
How much more leash does Mac get? How about Holland?
A few bright spots
Unlike 2017, when you’d be hard-pressed to find anything good to say about any player, there are some Giants who are still providing value and clearly haven’t given up:
- Jeff Samardzija: I had literally zero expectations of him this season. His shoulder ailment last season was so lingering and so mysterious that I figured he’d used up all the bullets the baseball gods had allotted to him. But he’s really been pretty good for the Giants this season, arguably their most reliable starter. At 2-2, 3.69 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, he’s not All-Star. But he’s a solid contributor, and that’s more than I thought they’d get.
- Pablo Sandoval: He’s outplaying Evan Longoria, and though I know Longo was sick last night and that’s why he was out of the lineup, there have been several other times that Pablo has taken starts away from Longoria. He looks solid in the field and is hitting better than he has in years (.903 OPS after last night’s game). Bruce Bochy was sure right to fight for him to make the Opening Day roster. This season would have been even uglier without Pablo.
- Buster Posey: It was hard to know what to expect after that serious injury and surgery, and Buster looked terrible at the plate for the first few weeks. But he’s hitting .300 with two homers and 11 RBIs in his last 15 games, and with every day that goes by, he looks more like that elite major league hitter we’ve been watching for almost ten years now.
- Joe Panik: In April he hit .202 with a .550 OPS and was getting platooned. In May, he’s hitting .341 with a .957 OPS and more walks than strikeouts. Batting leadoff this year, he has a .325 batting average and .400 OBP.
- Will Smith: Smith obviously didn’t appear in last night’s game, but this season he is 1-0 with 11 saves in 11 opportunities, a WHIP well under 1, and 20 strikeouts in 16 innings. He has been really, really good, and his positive, enthusiastic demeanor is refreshing, too. It seems inevitable that he’ll be traded, maybe very soon, and I’m really going to miss him. He’s fun to watch.
10.5 Games Out
Double-digit deficit in the standings before Memorial Day. This is so, so, so bad. The situation is such a mess that it must be hard for Farhan Zaidi, Bochy, and others to even know where to start. Is it confronting some bad attitudes? Better preparation, better coaching? Jettisoning some dead weight, and damn the cost?
Holland’s comments last weekend were a wake-up call of sorts, not that anyone should have needed one after the way the last couple years have gone. Instead of a “proud” franchise or a “model” organization, the Giants have spiraled into confusion, embarrassment, and despair.
Tonight’s game, if anyone cares
Giants at Diamondbacks, 7:05 p.m. at the Snake Pit
Madison Bumgarner (2-4, 4.04 ERA) vs. Zack Godley, (1-3, 7.65 ERA)
It’s still a MadBum start, and we may not have many more of those, at least in a Giants uniform. So there’s that. Lefty out.