We’re about a third through the revised MLB regular season, and the Giants are sitting at a not-so-great 9 wins and 16 losses, good enough for the 25th best record in the league. While this is around where the Giants were expected to be, they haven’t looked like a team competing for the lottery. Being in one of the toughest divisions certainly has not helped them. So let’s take a look at what the Giants are doing well and what areas need desperate improvement.
Pitching has been a serious area of issue for the Giants this year. They are second to last in the National League with a Wins Above Average (WAA) of -4.3, and have the worst ERA with 5.76. While some relievers, like Tony Watson and Sam Selman, have been solid, others have imploded. Trevor Gott holds a 1-2 record with an 14.73 ERA, though that may be due to an overabundance of trust by Gabe Kapler. Gott allowed back-to-back ninth inning comebacks to the A’s, one covering a five-run deficit and the other a three-run deficit. He also allowed a walk-off two-run homer to the Angels in a one-run save situation. This overusage could be a sign of depth issues and bullpen mismanagement, as not many other pitchers have been impressive.
The Giants have given up the most runs in the NL, and the rotation can share the blame for that one as well. Jeff Samardzija has been abysmal this year, sporting an ERA of 9.88 in 13.2 innings pitched and an FIP of 9.32. Johnny Cueto has been solid and Kevin Gausman has been showing improvement, but without a great bullpen to back them up, strong showings don’t often translate into wins. An example of this is Gausman throwing a gem against the Dodgers, only to be pulled early to see Rogers give up the lead only a few batters later.
Batting has been the only area where the Giants have looked pretty good across the board. Mike Yastrzemski has been excellent, with an average of .310 and a WAR of 1.5. Donovan Solano has been exceptional at the plate, with an average over .400 and a 16-game hitting streak which recently ended. Those two are major contributors to a Giants offense that is doing better than expected, being in the top half of the National League in most categories. Austin Slater is also tied for second in stolen bases with 5, getting into scoring position more often. Of course there are still issues with grounding into double plays and leaving runners on base, but the offense has looked much better overall than in previous, more lackluster years.
The most atrocious part of the Giants game has been the defense behind the pitcher. San Francisco leads the MLB in errors with 21, and it has cost them a few games, whether it’s double plays not being turned or throws home being off the mark. For example, in the first game of the series at Houston, Solano fielded a ground ball and made a throw that would have beat the runner by plenty had it not hit the runner and bounced away. That play was just a microcosm for the Giants’ bad fielding, not to mention that they own the worst fielding percentage in the league.
The worst part of the whole debacle is the catcher’s interferences. The Giants have had four this year, while all 29 other teams have combined for five. Buster Posey, who opted out of playing this year due to COVID-19 concerns, has had three over his entire career. Those would-be outs that turn into free bases only hurt the pitchers, so Kapler needs to work with his catchers on sitting further back behind the plate, and not sticking their gloves into the zone too often.
Overall, the Giants are looking like that scrappy team that could steal an eighth seed in the new playoff format. If the hitting stays hot and the pitching and fielding improve from rock bottom, San Francisco has a chance to catch fire in the playoffs and maybe upset a few teams. Farhan Zaidi’s rebuild looks to be on track, and the Giants might be able to seriously compete in a few years.
Statistics: Baseball Reference
Catcher’s interference: Andrew Baggarly
Featured Photo: San Francisco Giants, Twitter