This has not been a good week for Bay Area sports fans, and I’m not even talking about the sideshow that the Warriors-Kings series turned into. Between the news that the A’s are leaving Oakland and the horrific play by both Bay Area teams…well, it’s ugly out there, folks.
I really don’t care much about the A’s, though I do know a couple of A’s fans personally and feel for their distress. I still remember how bereft I felt when the Giants were going to move to Tampa Bay after the 1992 season. I am sorry for their loss…really.
But let’s talk briefly about the woeful 2023 San Francisco Giants and what’s gone wrong so far. (“What hasn’t?” you might be asking. Actually, a few things. We’ll get to that.)
- The record: The Giants just lost the second game of the series against the Mets a few minutes ago. (As I write, it’s about 7:30 a.m. Saturday here in Madrid.) They are now 6-13, which pencils out to a record of 51-111 over a full season. They have not won two games in a row. They have lost five of their first six series and have already guaranteed no better than a split in the current one. They are 2-6 at home. Since an OK 3-3 opening road trip, they’ve gone 3-10.
- The injuries: Last night’s starting lineup included two guys who should be on the River Cats (Brett Wisely and Heliot Ramos) and a guy who wasn’t even in the organization when the season started (Darin Ruf). The big free agent signings (Joc Pederson, Mitch Haniger, and Michael Conforto)–nope. The former two are on the injured list, and Conforto, who has only appeared in four games (eight plate appearances) in the past week, probably should have been. Austin Slater hasn’t played yet this season. The Opening Day starting catcher, Roberto Perez, was finished for the season after just five games in a Giants uniform. Even Bryce Johnson, another River Cats replacement, is out with a concussion. Alex Wood is already on the injured list, too. Now, it’s tempting to use the injuries as the excuse for the Giants’ putrid play, but–really, what did we expect? Farhan Zaidi signed these guys because they were injury-prone, and therefore cheaper. As is said, it’s a feature, not a bug.
- The pitching: depth, depth, depth. That’s what we kept hearing. Sure, we don’t have Kevin Gausman or Carlos Rodón anymore, but we have so much depth. “Admirable” depth. “Enviable” depth. We fans may not have been clever enough to see the genius, but, as Larry Baer put it, sooner or later, the “light bulb” would go on. Well, it turns out that “talent” may actually matter more than “depth.” Who cares how many “healthy arms” you have to “eat up innings” when they, to put it politely, suck? It also turns out that strong springs from Sean Hjelle and Tristan Beck don’t automatically erase their mediocre minor league track records. Who would have guessed?
- The hitting: When the Giants had that glorious 3-3 road trip at the beginning of the season, they faced all right-handed starting pitchers. But then they started facing lefties, and missing major right-handed bats (see injuries, above), they were forced to turn first to switch-hitter Johnson, then call up Ramos even though they said they weren’t going to; he had to “earn his way back,” and then fish Ruf back out of the dumpster the Mets had left him in. (Actually, considering how badly that Ruf trade turned out for the Mets, he’s lucky they didn’t drown him in the Hudson River.) Anyway, the hitting has been really bad, and especially against lefties. The only offensive stat at which the Giants excel at all is home runs (third in MLB with 30). They lead the majors in striking out (205 strikeouts), though interestingly, both the Dodgers and the Phillies are right behind them at 202.
OK, so that’s all big picture stuff. To be fair, not everyone on the team is contributing equally to the suck. Joey Bart (raise your hand if you had him leading the team in hitting after 19 games. OK, now put your hands down, liars.), Thairo Estrada, and J.D. Davis are hitting over .300. Nine players (counting Ruf in a limited sample size) have an OPS of .759 or above. BUT four of those guys are lefty hitters, and the Giants can’t hit lefties, so there’s your problem (again). On the pitching side, Anthony DeSclafani and Alex Cobb have ERAs under three, and Tyler Rogers hasn’t given up a run yet. Scott Alexander has been very good so far. It’s also fair to observe that the team defense is, overall, improved from last year. They are seventh in MLB in defensive WAR and are particularly impressive at 2B (4th in MLB), 3B (2nd), and CF (7th).
On the other hand, we could go on and on about players who are the problem, but in the interests of time, I’m going to single out three: one position player, one starting pitcher, and one relief pitcher.
- Position player: Brandon Crawford. Crawford is -5 in Defensive Runs Saved this season (that’s a lot for only 19 games). The Giants are 24th in defensive WAR at SS, and Crawford has had 80% of the innings there. At the plate, his wRC+ is 50 (league average is 100). Crawford is a liability so far.
- Starting pitcher: Logan Webb. It’s ironic that right as the Zaidi regime finally signed a pitcher to a long-term deal, the first homegrown pitcher to get one since Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain in 2012, that pitcher has gone into the tank. Going into today’s start, Webb is 0-4 with a 4.94 ERA and five home runs allowed (after only allowing 11 all last season). He does lead the team with 28 strikeouts in 23.2 innings pitched, so that’s positive. But he has definitely not pitched like an ace and is part of the early season problem.
- Relief pitcher: Taylor Rogers. In last night’s game, Rogers pitched his first clean inning of the season. That’s right. In nine appearances, he’s only once had a 1-2-3 inning. His ERA, even after giving up 0 earned runs in his last four outings, is still over 11, and he has twice as many walks as strikeouts. Now, maybe he’s righting the ship–we hope so–but considering that he was THE big bullpen acquisition, and actually signed to a three-year deal with no opt-out…this is bad. Is it Tommy La Stella bad? Maybe not, but he’s certainly been a big part of the problem in this early season disaster.
- “Honorable” Mention: Manager Gabe Kapler. I hesitated to blame him much for last year’s crash from the 107-win heights. With all the roster churning, he had to deal with what Zaidi gave him. Even now, I’m not sure how many of his decisions are dictated from on high, such as the piggy-backing of starters (NOT WORKING), the platoon lineups (NOT WORKING), and the frenetic swapping in of players as soon as the opposing team brings in a pitcher throwing with the other hand (NOT WORKING). But when a team is going into its 20th game with a .316 win percentage, you have to place blame everywhere.
OK, on to other things.
TWG Meet-Up in Madrid!
MrLefty and I enjoyed hanging out with AKSisterFan yesterday. When we realized we’d be in Spain at the same time, we started emailing to figure out if our schedules would sync up, and while they didn’t in Barcelona, we made it work here in Madrid!
Today’s Game (if we must)
Mets at Giants, 1:05 p.m., Oracle Park
Random lefty with an ERA over 6* vs. Logan Webb
*so you know what that means…
If our travel goes as planned, we’ll be back in California by Sunday afternoon. I don’t think that will help the Giants any, but it will be nice not to wake up every morning to news of another Giants loss. Lefty out.
But before we go: MyGuy2023™ Contest
Here is the announcement from HaakAway, the MyGuy™ Grand Poobah.
Three Reasons to Join in on MyGuy2023™
No matter how bad things get on the MLB level, you will have eight young guys to look at instead. One of them will Ease Your Pain.
Staying strong always requires hope that things will get better. This is not pie-in-the-sky but trusting your guy has character and dreams: If You Build It He Will Come.
When August rolls around some unheralded prospect will be the talk of the town. Think Panik and Duffy. Some here will claim he always was their guy. But only those who filled out their MyGuy™ ballot have valid bragging rights to say, “He was My Guy from the beginning.”
How to Join MyGuy2023™
Pick one position player and one pitcher from each minor league team in the Giants’ system. Choose the eight you think will Improve the most this year. Then follow the link to our ballot and check the boxes that match your picks. You will get an email confirmation. Save that email as it gives you a link back to change your picks right up until the deadline: Willie’s Birthday, May 6.
Want even more details or have questions?
Write me at: MySFGiantGuy@gmail.com.