There was always going to be a bit of a comedown from a 107-win season for the San Francisco Giants. Unless you’re operating on a higher plane both organizationally and financially like the Dodgers, all the things that have to go right for a team to win that many games one season are not going to do so the next one just because. That’s how baseball works, unless you can somehow break the sport like the above-mentioned Dodgers.
Buster Posey retiring was a blow, but not one you can do much about. Kris Bryant leaving for more moneyed pastures… that happens too. Losing Kevin Guasman in free agency, well now it’s starting to pile up. But as the Giants watch the Padres and Dodgers disappear over the horizon in the NL West, it won’t necessarily be the players that aren’t there that they can blame. It’ll be the fact that they play defense like they’re playing in Strawberry Fields instead of Oracle Park.
Their weekend sweep at the hands of the White Sox was a glistening example of all the things they can’t do. Friday night’s opener was a tight affair as Alex Cobb and three relievers kept the Sox scoreless through eight, but the Giants’ currently scratchy lineup couldn’t dent Lance Lynn and crew either. Come the ninth, the Giants opened the door when Brandon Belt and Camilo Doval did their best Baker Mayfield impression.
Gavin Sheet would later come around to score the game’s only run. Saturday, in the 4th inning with the bases loaded, Joc Pederson pulled off a play we’ve all seen from someone in the outfield in Little League or even high school (if I was manning the outfield for your high school team) judging a liner right at you by rushing in to provide just enough room for it to zoom over your head (this wasn’t an error, but…)
The Giants made two actual errors in that game as well. One of those scored on Sheets’ “double” thanks to Brandon Belt. They got walloped on Sunday 13-4, but that also included Donovan Walton throwing a ball to Santa Clara. Switching venues yesterday to Phoenix didn’t work out much better, as the Giants lost 8-3 while making a further two errors.
Over the full season, the Giants are tied for the worst defense in the league in Outs Above Average, with a -31 according to StatCast. In Runs Prevented, they are dead-ass last by themselves. FanGraphs has them also the wooden spooner in Defensive Runs Saves, four runs adrift of the 29th placed team.
The Giants have been equally wretched in both the infield and in the outfield, ranking 29th in Outs Above Average in the former and 27th in the latter. Pederson has been a true goofus in left, with a -6.0 Defensive Runs Saved. Brandon Crawford’s injury hasn’t helped as Walton has really struggled, but Crawford wasn’t his usual defensive whiz himself either so far this season (tends to happen when you have 400,000 miles on the odometer as Crawford does).
It’s doubly tough on the Giants, because only Carlos Rodon in the rotation strikes out a lot of hitters and takes his wayward and bumbling fielders out of the equation a lot. Alex Cobb has been especially hung out to dry by his defense, as his ERA is nearly a run and a half higher than his FIP. His expected ERA is two runs lower than his actual ERA! Alex Wood has been similarly jobbed.
And the Giants haven’t been able to hit their way out of their own ass-handedness in the field, as they rank 27th in runs over the past month. They’ve been striking out a ton (24.6 percent) and don’t hit for a ton of power (27 homers the past 30 days, .368 slugging). It’s left them two games over .500 and 9.5 games behind the Dodgers in the West, though only two games behind the Cardinals for the last get-out-of-jail wildcard spot in Rob Manfred’s Everyone’s A Winner Baby World.
It’s not ever wise to count the Giants out considering the pedigree, but the pedigree is getting a bit small in the rearview. Even when Crawford returns they’re ridiculously old on the left side of the infield with Evan Longoria, and there doesn’t seem to be a natural center fielder to be found anywhere. And as we know, Oracle Park’s greeneries are roomy indeed. If the Giants are going to get into the playoffs, they’re going to have to find a way to stop turning into a fish-slapping dance in the field.