The San Francisco Giants and their black and orange faithful are closing in on three weeks of its long offseason. The Giants lost to the Cubs in the NLDS in 2016 in a heartbreaking way, leading to an offseason where the Giants were desperate for a closer. Fortunately, they got one of the most consistent closers in the last several years, Mark Melancon.
The first game of the 2017 season defined not only what Giants fans went through the previous year, but what would come for the 2017 season. Madison Bumgarner hit two home runs and pitched a gem, Melancon came in, and the San Francisco Giants, yet again, blew the lead and lost in the ninth. It may have just been one game, but to manager Bruce Bochy, it led him to think, not again.
Losing 98 of 162, one can only wonder, what happened? How can a team that has the best catcher in the game, one of the best middle infield duos, and a starting pitching staff that has Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto at the top lose 98 games? Injuries plagued the San Francisco Giants and the main core just did not play up to standards, but some bad luck came along the way as well.
Pitching Goes Down
April 20, 2017, it came out that Madison Bumgarner injured his arm in a dirt bike accident. Bumgarner is very tough and takes care of himself, but this injury cost him and the team two months without their leader. It wasn’t until July that Bumgarner returned, and by that time, the Giants were at about 60 losses and about 20 games below .500. Not only did the Giants lose out on their captain and best pitcher, but the mood in the clubhouse shifted. Ty Blach did well last season, but comparing to what Bumgarner can do, there is no comparison.
Johnny Cueto started 25 games this year, but his season just wasn’t consistent. At rare times, Cueto showed what he can do: make hitters frustrated and keep getting ground balls. However, blisters became a serious issue as Cueto hit the disabled list several times this year. Combined, Cueto and Bumgarner had 258.1 innings pitched. To put that into perspective, Jeff Samardzija had 207.2 innings pitched alone.
Mark Melancon, the closer that all the fans and players were excited for, did not live up to expectations for the 2017 season. Pitching just 30 innings and recording 11 saves, Melancon was never able to really get going. Home runs hurt him and he had some bad luck with bloop hits and ground balls that got just past the diving infielder.
Brandon Crawford is easily in the top three at shortstop, who can definitely be second to none fielding-wise, and though his batting statistics may be lower in home runs, his RBIs will be very high, especially if he is surrounded by OBP players in the lineup. Unfortunately, there was tragedy that hit in his family, as his sister-in-law died, so imagining how to be able to play from that point on is unbearable. With that said, Crawford was a little down in the numbers, but still managed to be about where his career numbers have been, .255 average, 15 homers, and about 80 RBIs. Fans would like to see the average higher, but considering how great he is on defense, everything seems to even out.
This past year, Joe Panik played in 138 out of a possible 162. Panik had been about .250 all year, but then a surge came, increasing his average to nearly .300. Most of the season wasn’t particularly great for Panik, as he looks to be more consistent next year, both in playing time and production. Panik is still a gold glover and his career average is about .270-.275, as fans would like to see him play about 10 more games in the year, roughly 150.
The corners are rough for the San Francisco Giants. Brandon Belt has been an All-Star before, but his inconsistency to stay healthy and to continually get better year after year is starting to take a toll on not only the fans, but the front office as well. His numbers are deceiving because his average is about .275-.280, but seems to always be just below 20 homers, and his RBIs are way too inconsistent. Brandon Belt is a great fielding first baseman and does have a high average, but the lack of power and inconsistency of RBIs is hurting the team. Belt goes 1-4 a lot, and when he does have multiple hits, usually it is when the Giants are already down by 5+ runs.
As for third base, this is a complete mess. In fact, it was so bad that the Giants brought back Pablo Sandoval, showing how desperate the Giants were for a hot corner player. The only hopeful bright spot is Christian Arroyo, and if he’s a hit, then that’s great, but he may need a little time.
Hunter Pence can’t seem to stay healthy and Denard Span is getting older. Left field hasn’t been decent since Barry Bonds. Hunter Pence ended with a .260, 13, 67 season, and though it’s not terrible, Pence has seen three straight very average seasons. In the last three years combined, he has only played in 292 games and only hit 35 home runs. This past year, it is easy to get very negative, but the truth of the matter is no one did that great, so we can move on and look forward to the 2018 season.
That said, Hunter Pence and Denard Span are in their mid-30s as speed and health are starting to become worse and worse. As for left field, Jarrett Parker has no more options for the minors, and every time he gets going, something happens, whether it is an injury or just bad performance. Outfield needs to be addressed as contracts become relevant. The one bright spot is minor leaguer Chris Shaw, who has shifted to outfield. The Giants hope Shaw is yet another homegrown, future all-star.
The San Francisco Giants had a freak year, and though it was a message that some people may be getting older and not starters anymore, some players just need to play better. The front office will look to make strategic moves this offseason. Stay tuned to see options the Giants may need to target to get back to the playoffs for the 2018 season.
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