Posted September 12, 2013

Wait ‘Til Next Year: San Francisco Giants

San Francisco Giants, Wait 'Til Next Year
Tim Lincecum, Giants

Tim Lincecum’s July 13 no-hitter was the closest the Giants got to a championship-style celebration in 2013. (Andy Hayt/Getty Images)

While so much of our day-to-day attention in this space is devoted to the teams still battling for playoff spots, we feel as though it’s only fitting to acknowledge the teams that have been mathematically eliminated from contention, giving them a brief sendoff that should suffice until Hot Stove season. Thus, the Wait ‘Til Next Year series.

Current record: 66-80 (.452, 5th place in NL West)

Mathematically eliminated: Sept. 11

What went right in 2013: More than you’d think for a team that went from winning the World Series to spending much of the second half in last place. Hunter Pence has experienced a nice walk-year spike, turning in a season that rivaled his career best. Buster Posey has gotten off to a nice start toward validating his nine-year extension by largely replicating his career rates. First baseman Brandon Belt has continued to mature at the plate, hitting for more power than in either of his first two seasons. Marco Scutaro is having one of his best offensive seasons. As a team, the Giants have posted the same OPS+ as the Cardinals (102), tying them for second in the NL in that category, an impressive offensive performance masked by San Francisco’s extremely pitching-friendly home ballpark.

On the mound, Madison Bumgarner has turned in another strong season, posting a career-low ERA and making his first All-Star team. Sergio Romo had a good showing in his first full season as closer, with 33 saves and a 2.56 ERA. The team has also gotten unexpectedly strong fill-in work from Chad Gaudin (5-1, 2.60 ERA in his first 11 of 12 starts on the season) and Yusmiero Petit (3-0, 2.53 ERA in four starts and one five-inning relief appearance, including a near perfect game on Sept. 6). The highlight of the season, meanwhile, was Tim Lincecum’s dramatic 148-pitch no-hitter.

What went wrong in 2013: Just about everything else, but the most unexpected was Matt Cain suffering a Lincecum-like collapse by posting a 5.45 ERA through June 1 and a 77 ERA+ to this point in the season. No-hitter aside, Lincecum did not bounce back from his awful 2012, going 9-13 with a 4.40 ERA (76 ERA+). Barry Zito did not build on his postseason success, posting a career-worst 57 ERA+ and twice losing his spot in the rotation. Ryan Vogelsong posted a 7.19 ERA in nine starts before breaking a finger on his pitching hand on a bunt attempt and missing more than two months. Altogether, the collapse of the starting rotation behind Bumgarner was the biggest reason for the Giants’ struggles this season. Cain’s 77 ERA+ stands as the highest of the other four men from the team’s Opening Day rotation, and those performances are the bulk of the reason that San Francisco is dead last in the majors with a team ERA+ of 83.

Elsewhere, Angel Pagan missed more than half the season due to a hamstring tear. Pablo Sandoval saw his production drop off for the second straight season, hitting for less power than even his miserable 2010 campaign. Lefty reliever Jeremy Affeldt, who like Pagan and Scutaro was re-signed after the World Series win, missed more than one-third of the season due to a pair of injuries. Adding insult to those injuries, on July 2, the Giants were no-hit by Homer Bailey.

Overall outlook: San Francisco can rebound in 2014. It’s a particularly encouraging sign that its best players this season were its youngest: Bumgarner (23), Belt (25), Posey (26), and, primarily for his fielding, shortstop Brandon Crawford (26). Cain, who is 28, has posted a 3.46 ERA over his last 15 starts, 11 of which were quality. Pagan has been productive when healthy, even if his power dropped off, giving the team a solid up-the-middle quartet with Posey, Crawford and the ageless and perpetually underrated Scutaro. Add in Romo as the bullpen anchor, and the core is still there. Sandoval remains a project, and Pence will be a free agent.

Lincecum, Zito and Vogelsong are also likely to hit the market (the last two have options that probably won’t be picked up). If the Giants spend the savings well on big bats for the outfield corners and starting pitching (which means not re-signing fan favorites Pence and Lincecum), they could be right back in the mix in 2014.

4 comments
roundhouse_c
roundhouse_c

Don't get the assessment on Pence as not being worth signing, but this writer seems to have a certain bias like the 'lunatic fringe' in the Bay Area.  The assumption goes that we need a couple of big bats at the corners and apparently what Pence is doing this year isn't BIG enough.  The idea that we will find another big bat better then Pence, let alone two big bats, is really a reach.  I agree one more big bat would be great but Pence is a step towards adding and supporting needed production at the corners not a step backwards.  Also, I think Sandoval's off-season will be one of the biggest wild cards for 2014 and whether we really need to find another bat.  If he really gets to be more disciplined in the off-season, ie diet and fitness, then I think the team is in much better shape than the pundits like to make us think.

dalethompson
dalethompson

Letting Lincecum walk would be a huge mistake. If anything, keep him in the starting rotation for the start of 2014 and if he struggles, put him in middle relief. He's always had trouble in the early innings anyway, having to take over for a starter is probably the best thing for him, he's past the early pressure of the early innings which seems to be his achilles heel for some reason.

Plus, he's still young, signing his to an extension isn't a bad thing. He's a fan favourite anyways, he put people in the seats, so it's not like he's costing the team that much really.

RayIsBipolar
RayIsBipolar

The Giants should be back in the mix for a playoff spot next year. Minor league help probably isn't coming till late next year or the following year due to the top prospects being in high A ball. Sabean needs to address the holes in left field and rotation via free agency. Resigning Pence and Lincecum should be priorities because of the lack of talent in the free agent market. The team feeds off the energy and positive influence that Pence along with Pagan provide.

 If Belt can continue to produce at the plate like he has since Aug 1( some drop off is to be expected) then the lineup is stronger already.

 Vogelsong and Zito are not worth bringing back as they have ran out of magic. Petit has at least bought himself a shot at the rotation in Scottsdale. That would leave one rotation spot available ( With Lincecum resigning) for either a Gaudin resigning or possible another veteran starter to bridge the gap to Kyle Crick or one of the other young arms in the minors.

Overall, this roster is in great shape to add a couple pieces to go with the young core that could have the Giants right back in the thick of things next year unlike an aging Phillies squad whose clock has ran out.

dalethompson
dalethompson

@RayIsBipolar 

totally agree, they are a few pieces away from contending again, Bochy and Sabean just have to shuffle things again but it looks like the pieces are there. Besides, it's what they do best... they reload talent and the team, not tear it down and reconstruct it again.