Sunday, September 28, 2014

Recapping 2014 and your 87-74 SF Giants

MC O'Connor at Raising (Matt) Cain does a fine job of explaining what went right and wrong. I agree with his conclusion that Brandon Belt being out for two-thirds of the year was the biggest single factor in the Giants not being able to win the NL West and being stuck with a one-game play-in game on Wednesday.

I 'm one who'd have taken the over on 90 wins. That was predicated on Matt Cain being a 3-WAR pitcher (32 starts, 200 innings, 120 ERA+). It was also predicated on Tim Lincecum finding some consistency and delivering more quality starts. The first assumption was reasonable, the second hopeful, neither came to pass. It was also predicated on Brandon Belt being healthy for a full season and running out a 2013-like line (.289/.360/.481). That's a 4-WAR player. You add seven wins from Cain and Belt and that's the top of the heap or damn near. Ryan Vogelsong is a 1-WAR pitcher, I thought Timmy could do at least that well. That's eight more wins. I know it's not that simple--Peavy and Petit combined for 3 WAR and neither would have made those contributions if Matt and Tim were Matt and Tim. Even so, they club would have been a least a few games better. I believe the loss of Belt in the lineup was the single biggest thing that hurt the offense. I know about the Angel Pagan Effect, but I think Belt's a better hitter and certainly has more power. He's managed to contribute 1 WAR despite only playing in about a third of the season. Pagan is credited with 1.4 WAR for his 96 games--imagine the impact he would have made over a full season.
That being said, the Giants came up short. And they came up short because they played some damn poor baseball for long stretches of the season. Slumps are part of the game, I know that. From June 9th to July 18th they went 10-21, for example. That's .323 ball. That's not a slump, that's a nosedive. The team did not win the games they could have (and should have) won with the people they had. Every team has injuries. On the other hand, considering the decimation of the roster, the team still managed to make the post-season. You have to acknowledge that. It's been a confusing and frustrating season. "Who are these guys?" was my favorite refrain. When they were smoking hot in April and May and when they were icy cold in June and July the same question applied.

The Dodgers, the West champs, did not have a losing month. If the Giants lose today, they'll have three (if they win, two). That's how you win a division--being consistent. The Giants have been very good and very bad but they've ultimately lacked consistency. That's what makes this post-season chance so difficult to evaluate. Yeah, we know anything can happen in one game or one series or one month. But this team is hard to get a handle on--which one will show up next Wednesday? At least we know that Madison Bumgarner will get the start, and he has been terrific all season. If the team has any kind of chance it will be because they have their best guy on the hill. I can get excited about that.

Rookie Chris Heston makes his debut today. That's cool--maybe he'll get a shot to crack the rotation next year. After all there is a good chance Ryan Vogelsong will not be back and there's no guarantee Jake Peavy will be, either. And what they'll do with Tim Lincecum is anybody's guess. So show us what you got, kid.

GO GIANTS!

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