Greek Giant wrote a couple of days ago–after Sean Manaea‘s latest disastrous outing–about the amount of money spent/wasted on Manaea, Ross Stripling, and Joc Pederson (about $69 million total, if you assume that both Manaea and Stripling will opt into the second year of their contract). I’m not sure I’m ready to pronounce Pederson a waste–he has an .845 OPS, 5 homers, and is second on the team in RBIs. At this point, I’m less worried about Joc than I am about the other pricey acquisitions, Michael Conforto (.180 batting average, .662 OPS) and Mitch Haniger (.192/.564). It’s fair to say that Joc’s qualifying offer was an overpay, but I guess it had to be if you actually wanted him–he would have gone elsewhere, probably for less money, without it.
As for Stripling and Manaea–yiiiiiiikes. On Wednesday, Manaea pretty much singlehandedly ensured that the Giants lost the rubber match of their home series to the lowly Washington Nationals. And last night Stripling, for reasons I’m not smart enough to grasp, came into the second inning (John Brebbia was the first-inning opener) with a 3-0 lead and after three batters (single, walk, homer) had given the lead back. Then, after a lengthy battle with a hacking Evan Longoria, Stripling couldn’t put him away, yielding another homer. In 3.1 innings, Stripling gave up four hits, four earned runs, two walks, and two homers. His already bad ERA went up to 7.14 for the season, and he co-leads the National League with 10 homers allowed in just 29 innings pitched. This outing was depressingly similar to his previous start last Sunday, in which he prevented the Giants from sweeping the series with the Brewers. Can’t put hitters away. Walks, followed almost instantly by homers. Almost identical sad postgame quotes:
“Just kind of the same story, different day for me,” said Stripling, who joined the Giants on a two-year, $25 million deal over the offseason. “It’s very frustrating. I’m not throwing strikes like I’m used to. Not putting anyone away with two strikes. Every mistake I throw gets hammered. A lot of them are going over the fence.
Thanks, Strip. We noticed.
So it’s not news to anyone that last winter’s free agent acquisitions have–how shall I put this?–underwhelmed. But at least with Haniger and Conforto, and to a certain extent Taylor Rogers, you can kind of hide them in a crowd of other hitters/relievers. It’s hard to hide a starter (or near-starter, like Stripling was last night) when he’s blowing up the game in the early innings every time out. And the Giants right now have TWO of those.
What are they going to do? There are some clues in Gabe Kapler’s postgame comments about Stripling.
Kap is confident Ross Stripling will bounce back from his early-season struggles pic.twitter.com/0I2p6bLl0I
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) May 13, 2023
As for Manaea, in Maria Guardado’s gamer for mlb.com, she said that Alex Wood will return to the rotation on Monday and “will pitch in place of fellow lefty Sean Manaea, whose role is being reevaluated after struggling to a 7.96 ERA through his first eight appearances of the year” (emphasis added). Taking these bits of information together, it sounds like the Giants are more worried about Manaea than they are about Stripling. Wood will take the rotation spot, Stripling will get more opportunities to work things out, and Manaea…TBD. The Giants have a big problem here. You can’t hide either Manaea or Stripling in the bullpen, as we saw demonstrated last night. Stripling was just as bad starting in the second inning last night as he was starting in the first inning in his previous outing. And they don’t need two starting pitchers in the bullpen anyway–they already have Jakob Junis and Tristan Beck for those bulk innings spots. If anything, they need another high-octane arm or two (Melvin Adon or Chris Wright, anyone?) for shorter, high-leverage spots since Cole Waites didn’t work out.
So yeah. It’s a problem with no easy solutions. We will see what the Giants do next.
Reviewing the Past Week
It would be nice if we could stay all glowy about Casey Schmitt’s electric debut, but the truth is that other than those two games he helped them win (with assists from Logan Webb and Alex Cobb), the Giants didn’t have a very good week. They won last Saturday’s game against the Brewers but lost Sunday’s opportunity for a sweep (Stripling). Then they had an unfortunately poor first inning from Anthony DeSclafani that they couldn’t overcome, though to Tony D’s credit, he still managed to give them seven innings. After winning the Tuesday game with Webb/Schmitt in the starring roles, well, there was Manaea in the Wednesday game. Schmitt/Cobb took over the first game against the Diamondbacks, but then there was Stripling (and others) again last night. In all, the Giants went 3-4 this past week, including that ugly series loss at home. They have fallen further behind the Dodgers and are now only 1.5 games ahead of the last-place Rockies. The fragile Austin Slater broke again, hitless Cal Stevenson went back to AAA, and as for Cole Waites…don’t need to see him again any time soon, please.
The two rotation spots are obviously the five-alarm fire, though hopefully the return of Alex Wood* will mitigate that somewhat. But they have other problems, as well. I mentioned the unimpressive contributions to date of Conforto and Haniger, but on a lesser scale, there are weak links in David Villar, Brett Wisely, and Bryce Johnson, all of whom have sub-.600 OPS, though to be fair, Wisely’s started to come around a bit and plays good defense in several positions, and maybe we should give Johnson a minute, since he’s hardly played. The rest of the hitters are doing OK, with either decent batting averages (Bart, .254, but a low OPS) or a high OPS (Joc, for example, with an OPS over .800 despite a .235 batting average). LaMonte Wade Jr., Thairo Estrada, and J.D. Davis continue to contribute well both at the top of the batting order and in the infield. The return of Brandon Crawford this weekend will likely send either Villar or Wisely back to the minors (I’m guessing Villar), with Wisely or Johnson going down when Mike Yastrzemski is back.
*Speaking of Wood, what was up with him pitching one inning late in the game so they could “save” him to start on Monday at home against the Phillies? Why not just have him start last night? Both games count in the standings. Like I said–I guess an ordinary soul like me can’t understand how the genius mind works.
On a happier topic, the Giants’ affiliates continue to play well. The River Cats have won 7 of 10 and have almost climbed to .500 (18-19) and are now tied for second place in their division. Eugene is also tied for second, and Richmond and San Jose lead their respective divisions. Now, we know that individual player development is more important in the big picture than affiliates’ won-loss records, but all else being equal, it’s better for young players to get experience of winning with their team and competing for postseason spots.
Speaking of individual players, LHP Carson Whisenhunt (with Eugene at the moment) continues to show that he’s ready to move quickly through the system. Tyler Fitzgerald is off to a strong start after his promotion to AAA (.874 OPS and 3 homers in nine games), and all of a sudden, the Giants seem pretty deep in the middle infield, especially when top prospect Marco Luciano is also still a shortstop and on the 40-man roster already. Nick Swiney, a LHP who was a compensation round pick for the Giants in 2020, was just promoted to AAA, where he’ll join North Carolina State teammates Patrick Bailey and Will Wilson. And Kyle Harrison, while he regressed a bit with walks in his latest start, also struck out 8 in 3.2 innings pitched.
TWG River Cats Outing in July!
A small group is planning to attend the River Cats game in West Sacramento on Saturday, July 15. First pitch is 6:37 p.m., and they’ll be playing Oklahoma City. There are always (really good) fireworks after Saturday night games. I’ve emailed people whose contact information I have and who are somewhat local, but if I didn’t reach out to you and you’re interested in joining us, please email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) by or before June 15. I’ll be happy to arrange tickets for our group once I know how many would like to come. These TWG get-togethers at River Cats games, which go back as far as 2015 (first year the River Cats were a Giants affiliate) have always been fun.
Giants at Diamondbacks, 5:10 p.m. at the Snake Pit
Anthony DeSclafani vs. Zac Gallen (uh oh)
Now that the Warriors have put their fans out of their misery, the Giants can have my complete undivided attention. Hopefully that will be a good thing. Lefty out.