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Thursday, July 26, 2018

Constant injuries too much for SF to overcome

It's been a very tough year, injury wise, for the San Francisco Giants in 2018, probably more so than any other season in recent memory. Still, they've managed to stay relatively in the mix in the NL West but with just over a month left and the waiver trade deadline approaching, they once again have some decisions to make as they look towards 2019.

While they've played .500 baseball for most of the year, they've done it without ever really having the 25-man roster they envisioned having when they arrived in Scottsdale in February. Starting off the year without Madison Bumgarner, Jeff Samardzija, Will Smith and Mark Melancon, to then losing Brandon Belt, Johnny Cueto (multiple times), Joe Panik, Hunter Strickland and Evan Longoria, all for significant amounts of time in-season never allowed them to really come together as a full unit. When they would start to get momentum and start getting guys back from injury, someone else would go down. The biggest losses, obviously, were Bumgarner for the first 2+ months and then Cueto. If Bum starts the season healthy, the Giants would have been in a much better positioning through the season's first 2 months and maybe would have had a cushion to help overcome the nagging injuries that followed. Cueto, who started out April looking like he was in for another 2016-type campaign. However, after making multiple stints to the DL after that hot start, the Giants number 2 starter went down for good with a blown out right elbow that required Tommy John surgery. That was a gut punch to not only this years chances but will also hurt the team next season as well as the Giants probably won't be counting on anything from Cueto in 2019 and certainly not before, possibly, the very end of the season.

Then, there were the next two being the loss of Brandon Belt and third basemen Evan Longoria. Now I know Belt only ended up missing a few weeks, but what really hurt is that before the injury, Belt was clearly having his best season of his career and was looking like he was finally in for that 30+ HR season that we've been waiting for, as well as a very solid OPS and a .300 average. Unfortunately though, after his comeback, he hasn't quite been that same impact bat that he was prior to the injury. As far as Longoria, he wasn't having the best of seasons before fracturing his hand being hit by a pitch, but he was an anchor in the middle of the Giants lineup and was producing runs despite a less than stellar average in the .240's. Had Belt and Longo not hit the DL this season, I think that would have certainly impacted where the team currently sits. Now, add that scenario to the one in which Bum and Cueto didn't get hurt and miss months of baseball, then I'd be willing to bet that the Giants would be right up there with the Dodgers and D-Backs, possibly even above them.

The reason why I think that is because even when they were dropping like flies with injuries, and all that they've had to overcome, they're still a .500 ball club and still have a very, very long shot at making a final 6 week push to try and overcome the 8.5 games that separate them from the top of the NL West.

The one positive that you can take away from all the injuries though, is that the Giant found
themselves some nice talented young pieces that should certainly be huge influences on next years club and are the reason why the Giants feel optimistic that they still won't need a full on makeover this winter. They have solid young pieces in place, most notably on the pitching staff. Dereck Rodriguez has been one of the best rookie pitchers in baseball this year, and has looked like a top end of the rotation starter. Now even he suffered an injury last week when the Giants and Dodgers had an on-field scuffle in a game that D-Rod wasn't even playing in. Luckily for the Giants, Rodriguez will be making his return this week and will have the opportunity to further improve on what's been a terrific rookie season. He's been the most consistent starter on the Giants ever since he joined the rotation and will be a key part of it going forward.

Another couple of guys who've broken through in 2018 are starter Andrew Suarez, reliever Reyes Moronta and utility man, Alen Hanson. Suarez hasn't quite been as impressive as fellow rookie Rodriguez and if you look at his numbers at the moment they don't do him proper justice as to how well he was throwing from late May to late July when he and D-Rod were basically holding the staff down in June and July with Cueto and Samardzija both out and Bumgarner a little rusty upon his return.

In the pen, Moronta has arguably been the Giants best reliever, not named Will Smith, throughout the season. His one and only flaw that once he improves, will make him one of the best set-up men, and possibly future closer in baseball, and that's to cut down a bit on the walks. The guy is extremely tough to hit though. allowing just 27 knocks in 56+ IP (less than a hit per each 2 innings of work), good for a BAA of .136.

Then on the field, Alen Hanson has been the breakout Giants rookie with the stick. While he's cooled off considerably from his first 100 at-bats, he still is second on the team in batting average, third on the team in OPS and 2nd in stolen bases, despite having about half the at-bats of an average starting position player on the team. His solid play and ability to play all over the diamond, including 2nd and 3rd base, shortstop and even LF in a pinch have made him a key player heading into 2019 and beyond. So much so that I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the Giants shopped Joe Panik this offseason to open up 2nd base for Hanson everyday. That's a long shot though, as the Giants really like Panik, despite his off-year, and probably wouldn't get a whole lot in return for him after what's been a hugely disappointing year. I mean, take away that brilliant first few games of the season where he looked like he was locked in for a huge season, and the 27 year-old is having the worst season of his career to this point.

Hunter Strickland's injury mid-season after punching a wall in anger after a blown save, certainly wasn't a positive, but it didn't hurt the team as much as some anticipated, thanks to Will Smith providing an even better closing option that Strick since then. Mark Melancon is another one who missed a lot of time to start the season and was brought back extremely slowly. However, he's now back and has clearly pitched his best baseball as a Giant since his return. He still hasn't reclaimed the closer spot though, and it should be interesting to see what Boch does in September as he tries to get an idea of what kind of bullpen roles will be penciled in for 2019. Will Melancon take back over as the closer? Will Melancon be dealt and it's going to be Will Smith and potentially Reyes Moronta's job going forward? I think we have to see Melancon get a few save opps before the season's done as I believe it would be best for the team if he can retake that role in 2019. The Giants need to be able to flexibly use Smith as he's their ace left-handed reliever, and the same can be said for Moronta as far as being the main RH set-up man.

While the chances of a Giants playoff push is dim, there is still plenty to watch and assess for next season. Beside from figuring out the bullpen roles, they'll be losing Andrew McCutchen and Hunter Pence from their outfield and will likely be looking at filling both the corner spots somehow. Then of course you have the pitching staff, with Cueto likely missing all of next season and Samardzija's future an unknown at this point. They'll have Bumgarner, Rodriguez and Suarez as the only ones guaranteed rotation spots heading into 2019.

We'll talk a lot more about that stuff though later on and after the season. Right now, as I said, the Giants aren't mathematically out of the NL West and a good couple of weeks to close out August/open up September, could move them up under 5 games out by early September and we've seen a lot crazier things happen. If they can't gain any ground between now and the August 31st non-waiver deadline, then we could see them try and get something for McCutchen as they aren't about to offer him the qualifying offer of $15M+ with their payroll situation, so they may try and get a prospect or two for him rather than letting him walk in free agency. Granted, if he can finish up halfway decent, I don't think Cutch would take the offer and should still get multi-year offers in the $15M/year range. They could also subject Hunter Strickland to waivers as well as I think a lot of Giants management and players have had enough with his antics.

No, it hasn't been a great season for the Giants, but it's been much better than 2017 was and the development of some young guys and performance from guys who've missed significant time with injury are giving fans some optimism moving forward.
The Giants Baseball Blog


  • At 1:35 AM, Anonymous Giants guy in Carlsbad said…

    Now I'm super worried about BUster. His hip surgery is going to take 6+ months for recovery I think is what I read. That's scary cause Posey seems to be breaking down the last 2 seasons and it could take him longer to get back in baseball form.

    So they really need to do that surgery now so it gives him enough time to hopefully be ready by spring training or opening day.

    Good article though, I haven't really thought about what the team would loook like today if they didn't have all their key players didn't miss so much damn time. It's frustrating so badly because I think we coulda been in first in the NL west for sure. What's even harder pill to swallow is they were all doing so well before getting hurt. Cueto was off to the great start and Belt was having career year. Even Evan longoria was looking better at the dish before his fractured hand.

    They had enough talent with this team, IMO, and in a healthy season I think they woulda been better than we anticipated coming in.

  • At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Jason Billingsley said…

    It's time for the Giants to really rebuild. I know the fans hate that word and thinks that it will take at least 5 years to properly rebuild and re-tool but the Giants have some decent young guys who broke onto the scene this year and it should give them some hope for the rebuilding process.

    Im really going to be curious about what next years team looks like. Im hella stocked on Suarez and D-Rod for next year. Wnats up with Beede though? He was like their top prospect for a couple years now and this guy had a terrible season.

    I still would throw him out there. Let Ryder Jones and Slater and any guy who they think could have a shot at making the big league roster in '19 get there feet wet and see what we have. This is why I hope they deal Andrew Mccutchen and Nick Hundley and any veteran who will detour Bochy from going with younger guys. I know the Giants don't have a ton of young talent by any stretch, but look at what Hanson and Rodriguez each did this year when given a chance. You never know about players until you let them play so they should let some other guys get a shot.


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