Saturday, June 01, 2019

Depressing times for Giants fans

Apologies to any followers out there for the dearth of posts but there hasn't been much to write about that's positive. Last night's game was a 9-6 road loss to the Orioles -- one of the few teams that have a worse record than the Giants. It featured a 5-run top of the first, followed a 6-run bottom of the first thanks to starter Drew Pomeranz. No wonder the Bosox didn't want Pomeranz any more.

Anyhow, the Frangrafs site recently did an excellent analysis explaining how we got here. Here are some excerpts:

When we look back on this era of baseball in future times, exhorting children to get off our lawns, nobody shed tears of pity for the San Francisco Giants. After all, the Giants of this generation made the World Series four times and won three of them, a difficult, probability-crushing feat in a world where six division winners and four wild card teams make the playoffs. 

In terms of WAR, the last time the Giants had an above-average outfield was back in 2014. Hunter Pence’s last good year — though he’s been shockingly good this year — carried the bulk of the load, hitting .277/.332/.445 and posting 4.1 WAR for the season. Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan, and Michael Morse covered the rest of the cavernous outfield. The team’s outfield ranking dropped to 24th in 2015, and hasn’t reached those dizzying low heights since. Blanco’s .291/.368/.413, 2.0 WAR season in 2015 remains the top WAR season for a Giants outfielder since Pence’s 2014. If we were in 2016 or 2017, that would be troubling; in 2019, it’s a disaster for a team claiming contention.
That’s not to say the Giants did absolutely nothing; that would be an unfair charge. When the Miami Marlins, looted and pillaged more often than fifth-century Rome, opened up their gates for another round prior to the 2018 season, the Giants were in on all of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna at various times. They came away with none of those players and instead traded for Andrew McCutchen, and went the bargain route with Austin Jackson. McCutchen worked out more or less, but was an insufficient short-term fix to a long-term problem; the Giants essentially paid the Rangers Cory Gearrin and Justin Bahr just to be relieved of Jackson’s contract.
This year, looking at the last, best chance to recapture the magic of the 2012 season, San Francisco’s grand outfield plan was to sign outfielders that were highly sought-after by other teams…in 2012. None of Cameron Maybin, Gerardo Parra, or Craig Gentry made it out of March with the organization. While the Kevin Pillar trade was a reasonable one, it still left the Giants with an outfield that projected to be worth around two WAR combined for the 2019 season. Meanwhile, Pillar looks increasingly like the latest outfielder the team has picked up after their prime, rather than before or during it.

Due to years used and unexpected player declines — there are far more players expected to under-perform than over-perform — the Giants’ name-veterans only have roughly a third of the win-value remaining in their contracts. And this ignores salaries — in a world where the Giants will not pay the entire freight on any contracts they move (also known as reality), many of these contracts are underwater and near-unmovable.
The team still has a chance to get something in return for a few of their veterans. While Evan Longoria and Johnny Cueto would likely pass through waivers at this point, Madison Bumgarner is finally back to his 2016 strikeout rate, and his ERA is only inflated because of a .312 BABIP. Our erstwhile colleague Jeff Sullivan implored the Giants to trade Will Smith back in January; it’s even more of an imperative now that 2019 looks as unimpressive as was projected. Not a lot of teams need a first baseman, but Brandon Belt would improve the Indians, Astros, Nationals, and maybe the Yankees if the Grim Orthopedist pays them another visit.
San Francisco made a great effort to avoid paying the luxury tax and they’ve been successful. But instead of paying the luxury tax, they’ve spent three seasons paying the mediocrity tax, finishing well out of the playoffs with payrolls in the high hundred-million range. Since the last time San Francisco made the postseason, they’ve won four fewer games than the Marlins while spending well over $100 million a year more. The longer it takes for the Giants to acknowledge the future instead of holding onto the past, the more painful that future will be.


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