San Francisco Giants-7 reasons not to worry about win/loss record
With the San Francisco Giants now assured of their first losing spring since 2008, how worried should we be that the regular 2015 season will follow suit? How likely is it that the Giants will replace the Boston Red Sox as the latest team to go from best in their league, to worst?
With the 2014 World Series trophy still making the circuit, it’s absurd to be entertaining this line of reasoning, but nonetheless it is occurring on Giants sites down in the comments sections. Here unhappiness appears to abound, due in part to that win/loss spring record which has dipped to 6-19, the worst by a couple of games so far in both Florida and Arizona.
Countless studies have been conducted to determine if there is any correlation between spring training records and the final season standings, and the answer is that you can find anything you want to substantiate your beliefs, if you are willing to look long enough. I’m not.
I would, however, like to list seven reasons why the Giants will not collapse, and no, I can’t just say it’s because of Buster Posey. One guy can carry a team for a short while, but more than just a few believe that Posey’s quiet postseason in 2014 was due to his having had to do too much of that shouldering of the load to get the Giants there in the first place, and it took its toll.
Sep 21, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Buster Posey (28) squats on the field during the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
First, the Giants will not experience a mid-season, team-wide breakdown the way it did last year, with the club seeing a swing of more than fifteen games in the standings, and not in a good direction. They went 20-36 from June 9th to August 12th, going from as many as nine-and-a-half games in front of the Dodgers, to six back by the end of the season.
The dive stopped being a “swoon” once we were well into July, and the euphoria of blasting out to MLB’s best record, at 43-21, by June 7th, had fizzled as we watched a Dodgers team charge ahead, more than happy to capitalize on its unexpected luck.
It ceased being a June Swoon when July staggered along and nothing changed.
The Giants had begun the year by winning seven of its first ten games against LA, and so the switch in the standings had a special sting to it.
The strategy all along had been to dominate their own division, and do what they could against the rest. They went 19-13 against the NL West in that pre-June 7th surge, but finished with losing records against LA (9-10), San Diego (9-10) and-gulp-Colorado (9-10), while taking only the series against the D-backs, 13-6.
How could the Giants have lost the season series against the Rockies, who only won 66 games? I can at least answer that question by pointing to the colossal bullpen implosion which took place at AT&T Park, the weekend of June 13-15. Sergio Romo blew two saves himself as the Giants dropped all three games in their own yard, when the bullpen couldn’t save a single game.
Jun 8, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants pitcher Sergio Romo (54) reacts after recording the final out of the ninth inning against the New York Mets at AT&T Park. The Giants defeated the Mets 6-4. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Simply preserve those three games intact, without the drama, and the Giants finish out the year 91-71, twenty games above .500 and 12-7 against the Rockies. Of course, you can go through the schedule and focus on other anomalies, but to find such a glaring example of failure in the most sure-handed of units, is rare.
Secondly, there will be no lengthy shutdown because this year’s version of the Orange and Black is constructed differently than last year’s team. What power game there might have been in place, has now been replaced with an emphasis on National League play, what some elect to call small-ball.
I object to the term because it denigrates a style of play that glorifies in the art of advancing runners in ways that don’t involve hitting home runs. In spacious AT&T Park, it behooves a team to not only learn the fundamentals of team-offense, but to utilize them. Hustling at all times, walks, reaching first after a passed ball/strike three incident, stealing bases, advancing on fly ball/ground ball outs, and attaining the extra base on a ball in play, are all examples of this brand of ball.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a prodigious, three-run blast, except that it could be harmful to your health, to hold your breath waiting for one when the Giants come to bat. More runs will score this season via alternative methods, than by means of the home run. With Nori Aoki (1 HR in 2014) and Casey McGehee (4 HR) replacing Michael Morse (16 HR)and Pablo Sandoval (16 HR), that much is guaranteed.
Unless, of course, Brandon Belt (12 HR) steps up big-time and does what his start to last year’s season seemed to promise: hit thirty-five home runs, thus replacing most of the combined total of 44 big flies the trio combined to hit last year. Belt is my third reason why the Giants will not fall apart at the seams this year.
His calm demeanor at first base, and his defensive skills in bailing his teammates out on bad throws, do a lot to boost team morale, often at crucial times. Therefore, if he were able to follow through on last season’s early success with a full year of productivity, it would have a huge impact on a team wanting to rest once and for all, the notion that it cannot win in an odd year.
Both of Belt’s injuries last season were cases of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. His broken thumb was the result of being hit by a pitch, and his concussion occurred when he was struck by an errant throw during practice before a game. His injuries were not due to a breakdown of his body.
Another factor in Belt’s favor is his athleticism. Not only is he a Gold-Glove caliber first baseman, he is more than capable of filling in at left field. Being able to and being willing to are not the same, but Belt made it clear earlier this week, that he would do anything he could to help the team, and that included playing in left field.
Jul 10, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (9) looks on during the sixth inning of the game against the Oakland Athletics at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
The advantage of this is that Buster Posey could then get a break from behind the plate, but the team would not lose his bat. Just as Morse was willing to do the same last season, in that he was happy to play either left or first, so Belt is willing to do now. On a team known for selflessness, it’s to be expected, but still you can’t take it for granted.
Fourth, Matt Cain is back after a forgettable 2014 season, during which he recorded only two victories. It remains inconceivable to me that the Giants won it all last season without this player who had such a huge impact on the first of the three world championships, in 2010. Moreover, even though he has been a full-time Giant since 2005, ten years, he is still only thirty years old.
The Horse has been a leader by example for a decade, and will be fresher than the rest because he took the second half of last year off. The idea of last year’s World Series MVP Bumgarner, teaming up with 2010’s World Series hero, for a full season together again, is tantalizing. Look for Cain to reestablish his credentials on this veteran pitching staff.
Fifth, no single Giants player had a particularly stellar season in 2014; no career years were to be seen, and yet the Orange and Black won their third title in five years. What if a couple of guys did so, such as Brandon Crawford and Casey McGehee? Players who play their positions over the course of time are bound to record seasons in which everything went well, so why not a couple of guys who could make a pivotal difference in in close division race?
There has been so much palaver about the rebuilt Los Angeles and San Diego teams, but it remains to be seen how they gel as a defensive unit. Games are as likely to be won consistently on a timely defensive play that robs the opposition of either runs or an opportunity to score, as by offensive fireworks.
Jun 17, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Gregor Blanco (7) tries to catch Chicago White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham (not pictured) 2-run home run in the third inning against the San Francisco Giants at U.S Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports
For the left side of the infield, both NorCal kids while growing up, to have a stellar year would not be the weirdest thing to ever happen. Guys feed off of one another when it comes to getting hot. A team that can get guys hot simultaneously, can do a lot of damage in a short period of time, especially if they are fortunate to go up against not-so-good teams at the same time.
Sixth is the mindset the Giants organization brings to the table and instills in its players. This starts with the Humm Baby Attitude, but extends beyond to include a fixation on defense. The Giants play half of their games in a park that can be one of the toughest that opponents will have to deal with, so they have learned how to stock their team accordingly.
Opponents who go all out for the big bat certainly benefit much of the time, but also pay the piper when it comes to balancing the ledger. He who gains for his team via the bat, is often enough likely to give away via his glove. I’m not thinking of Michael Morse here, because he did not make many errors and his willingness to play where the Giants needed him was huge.
What I am thinking is that the entire Giants outfield does a stellar defensive job, but that either Gregor Blanco or Juan Perez do so much better of a defensive job as backups, than most visiting opponents, that the discrepancy in what they can accomplish with their bats becomes less significant. This is not a coincidence.
The bigger the game, the bigger the impact a glove makes. Just ask Joe Panik about his mitt-tossed, double play starting, flip to B-Craw in the third inning of Game Seven of the recently-completed World Series. In a game decided by one run, 3-2, that play looms mighty prominent.
The Giants are going to be playing a lot of 3-2 ball games this year, and they’re going to need to win just about all of them.
Finally, seventh is the most valuable commodity of all-experience. You can say the Giants collapsed for two months of last season and you would be correct, but they also recovered and went on to record another improbable World Series win. You can’t take that away from them and you can’t discount the 47 accumulated world series rings among this group, most of them acquired as a unit.
If the Giants team with three titles in the last five years were the Yankees or the Cardinals, or even the Dodgers, they would be favored again this year, but they’re not. Once again, being down at number seventeen, the Giants are not getting the respect they deserve. I bet they might just be pissed off about it.
Anther tragedy, say Giants fans happily!