Monday, October 15, 2018

Elegy for the 2018 Giants

The Dodgers were thoroughly beaten tonight 4-0 by the Brewers in the third game of the NLCS. That's about it for good news if you're a Giants fan.

Fangraphs took a long look at the Giants and didn't like what it saw.

The main point is that the Giants front office has been trying but not succeeding. Here's part --

Having aggressively spent after the 2015 season, signing Johnny Cueto and Samardzija in free agency just a week apart, the Giants can’t be blamed for lack of effort. The $251 million invested in the team that offseason was third in baseball. And it paid off, too, with Cueto and Samardzija combining for over 400 innings and 8.1 WAR, in addition to Madison Bumgarner, who had yet to start suffering a freak injury at the start of consecutive seasons.
In the weaker post-2016 free-agent market, the Giants didn’t stand pat either, risking $64 million on Mark Melancon as the Santiago Casilla era wound down.
But a disastrous 2017 campaign exposed the cracks in the organization. While the early parts of the Giants run were initially driven by an impressive crop of homegrown talent — including Bumgarner, Brandon Belt, Matt Cain, Brandon Crawford, Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey, and Pablo Sandoval — that pipeline largely dried up. After a few offseasons, a few injuries, and a few players aging quite suddenly, that lack of flexibility to patch holes on the fly proved deadly.
While a few players from more recent drafts (Heliot Ramos most notably) might have something to saw about it, the last position player drafted by the Giants who has also had a significant long-term role with the club is Joe Panik in 2011. Giants outfielders combined for 0.6 WAR in 2017, the worst in baseball, and though it takes a lot of ingredients to lose 98 games, the outfield with its toxic blend of has-beens and never-weres was one of the key problems, along with the starting rotation.
And to their credit, the Giants again weren’t negligent in approaching these issues after the 2017 season. At various times in the offseason they pursued the entire Marlin outfield, with Derek Jeter and crew looking to deal Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, and Christian Yelich. The team was just a hair from closing on Stanton, with Miami’s slugger putting the kibosh on the possibility only with an eleventh-hour invocation of his no-trade clause. 
San Francisco also was one of the seven finalists for Shohei Ohtani, a fit for the Giants as both a starting pitcher and in the outfield, two of the gaping holes on the roster. Again, they were unable to close the deal, with Shohei-mania heading instead to Anaheim.
In the end, the Giants had to make their larger improvements via trade, first banking on a bounceback season from Evan Longoria and then betting Andrew McCutchen could maintain his 2017 resurgence for another year and hold his value better in a corner spot.
San Francisco’s signings in the 2017-18 offseason — Derek Holland, Austin Jackson, and Tony Watson — were less exciting, thanks in large part to a payroll that was approaching the luxury-tax threshold. While GM Bobby Evans never explicitly said there was a mandate to get the team below the threshold in 2018, it was a secret to precisely zero people that the team wanted to finish under it and reset the penalty to 20% from 50%.
This gamble — and whether or not it represented enough to squeeze another playoff run from the current core — would define the 2018 Giants.

The Projection

ZiPS saw a playoff run as plausible, projecting the team at 83-79 going into the season. But the projections also saw a club with a significant downside, reflecting a fairly thin roster that didn’t receive as many improvements in the outfield and rotation as would have been ideal — and not a lot of plausible Plan Bs for things that went wrong.

The Results

San Francisco fell out of first for good by the end of the first series of the season but managed to stay around the edge of the playoff race for most of the year. For a long time, it looked like the team would be able to finish .500, not enough to make the playoffs, but a more than respectable 17-win improvement from 2017.
In fact, for a period from late June to around the All-Star break, there were actual reasons for optimism. An 18-10 June got the team into a second-place tie with the Dodgers, only 2.5 games behind Arizona. Bumgarner’s 2018 season finally started in June and both Cueto and Samardzija were finishing up their rehab stints.
It wasn’t meant to be. Cueto was back on the disabled list by the end of July and had his 2018 and 2019 end prematurely with Tommy John surgery in early August. Samardzija’s return consisted of two lackluster starts, with fastballs just peeking into the low 90s, before he was shut down for his shoulder, a respite that lasted the rest of the season.
By the trade deadline, the Giants had dropped off into fourth place, but they were still just five games back and above .500, with a possible-if-difficult path to an NL West victory. But the team was plagued by the twin problems of a luxury-tax threshold under which they desired to remeain and a weak farm system made even weaker with the loss of the players from the Longoria and McCutchen trades.
Where the Dodgers added Manny Machado and the Diamondbacks added depth, the Giants did precisely nothing. There would be no reinforcements, as it turned out that teams with valuable players to trade were total misers and wanted something in return for the players they were offering. With the team likely not good enough under any circumstance to justify trading off Ramos, that was that.
The Giants spent August slowly fading out of contention, the team finally trading McCutchen at the end of the month. Only in September did the Giants go into a full tailspin, winning just five games the rest of the year. They proved to be an equal-opportunity spoiler, getting swept by four of the five NL playoff teams (they finished with the Cubs in July) and the near-playoff Cardinals.
The season wasn’t a total loss, however. The Giants showed they can still assemble an above-average bullpen relatively cheaply, the very-expensive Melancon pitching decently but feeling redundant and never regaining the closing job. Dereck Rodriguez’s 2.81 ERA was likely a bit over his head, but there’s a decent chance he’ll at least be a dependable midrotation starter, something they can absolutely use. Alen Hanson also showed enough to hang around as a utility player.

What Comes Next?

The Giants fired Evans after the end of the season, but it shouldn’t be taken as a sign of a drastic change in direction for the franchise. Team vice president Brian Sabean has been clear that the team isn’t interested in a total rebuild, and while he’s not expected to be hands-on with the eventual hire, I don’t think the team will bring in someone with a dramatically different vision from what they intend.
While I don’t think it was absolutely necessary to start and rebuild the past few years, I think we’re getting to the point where enough of the core has disintegrated that it’s difficult to avoid doing so.
San Francisco needs to plan on adding 20 wins from 2017 to 2018 — there’s not a lot of upside on the roster, so they can’t just target an 85-win year and hope for lightning in a bottle — to make avoiding a rebuild worthwhile, and unless the team goes absolutely insane in free agency, I can’t see where they find these wins. Individual hitters will have better seasons, but almost the entire veteran offensive core is on the wrong side of 30 (Panik is the main exception), making it far more likely than not they decline as a group.
The team literally needs a whole outfield, and I don’t think Steven Duggar or Chris Shaw are actually all that likely to be league average. Cueto is guaranteed gone, and given the difficulty resolving the shoulder issues, I don’t think you can be all that confident in Samardzija in 2019. Adding an extra win to all of Belt, Crawford, Longoria, Panik, and Posey next year still leaves you finding another 15. Somehow adding Machado and Bryce Harper doesn’t get you to 15, and I’m quite certain the Giants aren’t signing Machado and Harper this winter.
At this point, I’m not optimistic about the 2019 Giants, and I think they’ll come to regret not starting to rebuild this year. Too many players are too far from their best years, and I don’t believe they’ll be able to add enough to the current roster. I could be wrong, but remember, it’s an odd year.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Clayton Kershaw is a big fat loser

Don't believe me? Read the AP story

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Clayton Kershaw pounded his glove over and over, yelling “Let’s go!” as he walked off the mound.
Pretty soon, he was gone.
Kershaw was hit hard in the shortest start of his spotty playoff career, and the shaky Los Angeles Dodgers lost 6-5 to the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series on Friday night.
“Got to do a better of keeping the score close for our guys to have a chance there at the end,” Kershaw said.
Los Angeles committed four errors, including two by catcher Yasmani Grandal in Milwaukee’s two-run third inning. But another playoff flop for its ace left-hander might be its biggest concern as it tries to cool off streaking Milwaukee.
“He’s been in the playoffs for a really long time,” Grandal said. “He knows what he needs to do to win games and that’s all that matters. Game 5 comes around, then he’ll be the guy on the mound and he’ll be the guy who will get us a win.”
Game 2 is Saturday afternoon at Miller Park.
Kershaw holds the team records for playoff wins (eight), starts (21), innings (133) and strikeouts (144), but is just 8-8 with a 4.26 ERA in 26 career postseason appearances. The Dodgers dropped to 13-13 when the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner takes the mound in the playoffs.
The 30-year-old Kershaw quieted some of those October questions when the Dodgers won the NL pennant last year for the first time since 1988, going 3-0 with a 3.82 ERA in six appearances. He pitched six sparkling innings in the NLCS-clinching victory at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, and worked four scoreless innings in relief in Los Angeles’ Game 7 loss to Houston in the World Series.
After he was passed over for Los Angeles’ Game 1 start in the NL Division Series this year, the 2014 NL MVP responded with eight innings of two-hit ball in a 3-0 victory over Atlanta.
The victory against the Baby Braves was one of his best playoff performances. The loss against the Brewers was one of his worst.
“It was a tough one,” he said. “Obviously you don’t want to get your team off to that start.”
The night started to get away from Kershaw and the Dodgers when Brandon Woodruff led off the third inning with a massive drive to right-center , becoming the third reliever in major league history to homer in a postseason game.
Kershaw glanced back with an incredulous look as Woodruff’s ball soared over the wall, tying it at 1 and sending a charge through the sellout crowd of 43,615.
It was the first time in postseason history that a lefty-batting pitcher went deep off a left-hander. Woodruff joined the Cubs’ Travis Wood (2016 NLDS) and the New York Giants’ Rosy Ryan (1924 World Series) as relievers to homer in the postseason.
“I knew he could swing the bat a little bit, for sure,” Kershaw said. “I didn’t know he could do that, but I knew he could hit a little bit.”
A passed ball and an interference call on Grandal helped set up Hernan Perez’s sacrifice fly. Kershaw minimized the damage by striking out Mike Moustakas, stranding two runners in scoring position and leading to his emotional display as he headed toward the dugout.
Whatever he was trying to do, it didn’t work.
Los Angeles went down in order in the fourth and Milwaukee’s first three batters reached in the bottom half, chasing Kershaw and producing two more runs on Domingo Santana’s pinch-hit single. Santana swiped second and scored on Ryan Braun’s two-out single against Ryan Madson.
Braun’s clutch swing closed the book on Kershaw, who was charged with five runs, four earned, and six hits. He dropped to 2-5 with a 5.24 ERA in 11 career NLCS games.
Kershaw’s shortest playoff start before the loss to Milwaukee was four-plus innings in a 9-0 loss at St. Louis in Game 6 of the 2013 NLCS, ending Los Angeles’ season.




Sunday, October 07, 2018

Dodgers finally lose

They lost game 3 of the division series, 6-5

They had two on and no out in the ninth before gagging, per the LA Times. 

The ninth inning encapsulated the frustration. Joc Pederson finished a 10-pitch leadoff at-bat by roping a hellacious single off Braves closer Arodys Vizcaino. Turner followed with a walk. Vizcaino threw three straight balls to Muncy, as the fearful fans sat on their giveaway props and murmured.
They would rise to their feet moments later. Vizcaino overpowered Muncy with a trio of fastballs. He fooled Machado with an 88-mph slider. Brian Dozier had no chance picking up the final wipeout slider of the evening, and the opportunity went for naught.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Will Smith Wins Willie Mac Award

So little has gone right for the guys, who are now 5-18 for September. So will post about Will Smith instead.


Here's Chris Haft's story --

SAN FRANCISCO -- Will Smith's steady ascent toward winning the Giants' 2018 Willie Mac Award actually began one year earlier.
Smith, 29, spent that year recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery, which he underwent March 30, 2017. The dignity and diligence that Smith maintained during his recovery and ultimate return to San Francisco's bullpen gained the respect of teammates and coaches, who cast the most significant votes for the award that represents the franchise's highest honor.
The award is named for Willie McCovey, the Hall of Fame first baseman whose determination and competitive spirit inspired teammates throughout his 22 Major League seasons (1959-80) -- most of which were spent with the Giants.
Smith thanked his teammates in brief remarks during a pregame ceremony.
"I love those guys to death," the left-hander said.
Smith replaced Hunter Strickland as San Francisco's closer in late June and entered Friday night's series opener against the Los Angeles Dodgers with 14 saves in 18 opportunities.
Statistically, Smith has experienced broad success. His 1.90 ERA ranked second among National League relievers, trailing only Milwaukee's Jeremy Jeffress (1.33). His strikeout rate of 12.12 per nine innings and .179 opponents' batting average were seventh-best in the league in both categories.
"When he went about his rehab last year, he was always around and always positive," Giants left-hander Ty Blach said. "He worked his butt off to get back here. He wanted to come back and help the team, and that's what he did."
Previous winners who attended the Willie Mac festivities included Jack Clark (the inaugural winner in 1980), Darrell Evans (1983), emcee Mike Krukow (1985-86), Chris Speier (1987), Dave Dravecky (1989), Mike Felder (1992) and Ellis Burks (2000). Active players and coaches present and in uniform were Hunter Pence (2013), Madison Bumgarner (2014), Brandon Crawford (2016) and Nick Hundley (2017). Buster Posey (2012), sidelined by hip surgery, was introduced but did not appear on the field.

Monday, September 24, 2018

4-17 for September

The Giants front office fired the GM Bobby Evans and the team then went out and lost 5-0 to San Diego as if to prove the ownership's point. Did this guy make a single deal that worked out?

The guys went to the playoffs in 2016. They had a mathematical shot at that scenario as recently as late August and now they've now gone 4-17 in September.

Here's a post from Raising Matt Cain.

Takin' one for the Team

SD 5  SF 0
That's Bobby Evans, former minor league administrative assistant and now former General Manager. It was quite a ride and it came to an end after twenty-four years. This is the Giants which means they will keep him around--assuming he wants to stay--and find another job for him. But an new GM is on the agenda for Larry Baer and Brian Sabean. Sabes wants to stay upstairs, his late night poker games are a thing of the past. BobbyE was supposed to do that part of the job but it didn't work out. Brian's a family man, and made the mistake of hiring another like himself. The Giants probably need an outsider who will clash with senior management and ownership now and again just to keep the water in the hot tub fresh. We'll see if they can pull it off. I don't expect anything splashy, like luring Kim Ng away from the Commisioner's Office, but some new blood seems likely.

In the meantime the Giants got shut out by the Padres, at home no less. On the bright side that's only the eighth time they've failed to score at least a run this season. They drop to 4-17 for September, a brisk .190 clip.

Chris Stratton tomorrow night.

--M.C.

Friday, September 21, 2018

72-82

The Giants guaranteed themselves a losing season tonight with a discouraging 5-3 to the Cards as Madison Bumgarner allowed 3 runs and the Marc Melancon-Tony Watson tandem gagged away the game in the 8th.

Here's the top of MLB's story --

ST. LOUIS -- It's been a hot-and-cold season for southpaw Madison Bumgarner and the Giants. He opened September giving up a flurry of runs in a pair of starts, and the runs have been sparse for an offense that saw first baseman Brandon Belt undergo season-ending knee surgery Friday morning prior to the Giants' 5-3 loss that evening to the Cardinals at Busch Stadium.
With a team that has been eliminated from the postseason and continues to struggle, manager Bruce Bochy was still pleased with the Giants' performance. Bumgarner didn't deliver an ace performance, but he kept the Giants within striking distance, allowing three runs in six innings off eight hits. What Bochy wasn't happy about, however, was the Giants' misfortune.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

11-game losing streak