Sep 6, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy (15) in the sixth inning against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field. The Giants defeated the Rockies 7-4. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
As lead singer of Journey, Steve Perry, would preach, “Don’t Stop Believing.” Well, this cliché can only last for so long, and it may be time for the San Francisco Giants to throw in the towel.
As I said in a previous article, the Giants would have to take three of the four games against the Colorado Rockies for my hopes to be lifted once more. Unfortunately, the series ended in a split (2-2) and the Giants are currently 8.5 games behind the first place Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West and 8.5 games back of the second Wild Card spot owned by the Chicago Cubs. With just 22 games remaining in the season, the odds are not looking pretty and it would take a miracle for San Francisco to even have a shot to play deep into October.
At the end of July, San Francisco was sitting at 56-46, just 1.5 games behind the Dodgers in the NL West and owned the second Wild Card spot. So, what the heck happened? Not executing has definitely been part of it as San Francisco has posted just a 16-21 record since August 1st, while increasing their team ERA from 3.64 to 3.73 and lowering their runs per game from 4.33 to 4.25.
To pinpoint what exactly went wrong for the Giants would be near impossible as they have been so up and down all year long. Nevertheless, there have been certain match-ups, situations, and players that have been huge disappointments throughout the second half of the season.
Had these problems been minimized, perhaps San Francisco would be fighting for a playoff spot, rather than trying to survive.
1. Brandon Crawford
Arguably the biggest disappointment of the second half has been shortstop Brandon Crawford. Leading to his first career All Star selection, the former UCLA Bruin was clutch in the first half of the season by clubbing 12 home runs (surpassing his former career high of 10), slashing .262/.331/.465, and adding 52 RBIs.
Aug 31, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford (35) is checked after being hit by a pitch against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Since the Giants began its downfall in August, Crawford has slashed just .215/.263/.402, while contributing just 13 RBIs and 3 home runs. In fact, Crawford cannot seem to crack the 20 home run mark as he has been stuck on 19 home runs for 23 games and 86 at-bats! At the start of August, Crawford was in the top-5 in the MLB in RBIs with 64, but calf and oblique injuries have taken a toll, forcing Crawford to miss 9 games in the past two months.
To his credit, B-Craw has not allowed his offensive struggles to effect his defensive abilities as he has been stellar all season long. Nevertheless, if Crawford had maintained his career year and given the San Francisco lineup the pop they needed, their NL West deficit might be a whole lot less than 8.5 games.
2. San Francisco Giants Swept by the Chicago Cubs in a 4-Game Series:
Going into a battle for the NL Wild Card, the San Francisco Giants were sitting high and mighty with a 59-48 record and in possession of the second Wild Card spot, as well as being just two games back of the Dodgers in the West. However, just three days before the crucial series, All Star second baseman Joe Panik was placed on the 15-day DL with back inflammation. Sure enough, four games later in the Windy City and the tides had completely turned, as the Chicago Cubs swept the Giants in a four game set and took over the second Wild Card spot for the first time all season.
Aug 9, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; San Francisco Giants left fielder Nori Aoki (center) leaves the game after being hit by pitch with the trainer (left) and manager Bruce Bochy (right) against the Chicago Cubs during the third inning at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
Throughout the series, the Giants were over-matched, ego-shocked, and outplayed from Game 1. In the four games, San Francisco was outscored 13-22, had a combined .216 batting average, and had an astronomical 6.19 team ERA. As if their poor play wasn’t enough, Nori Aoki was clocked in the helmet with a wild pitch, putting him on the 7-day concussion DL.
Beat up and tormented, San Francisco left Chicago being 3.5 games behind the Cubs for the second Wild Card spot and 3 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West. This series was detrimental to the Giant’s confidence and destroyed any sort of momentum they had allocated throughout the season.
3. Hunter Pence
Injuries are always tough and no player should be blamed for sustaining one. On the other hand, injuries can absolutely be devastating when that certain player is a key component to a team’s success. Ergo, Hunter Pence. It all started with a broken ulna in Spring Training, which by no means was Pence’s fault as a wild pitch did not allow him any time to get out of the way. Nonetheless, Pence had spent much of his season on the DL, but was finally starting to retain his confidence and hitting abilities throughout July and into August.
“Whether it was the leadership, reliability, or emotional dependency, losing Joe Panik was the most disappointing event of the season, demonstrated by the Giants atrocious play since his injury. “
Then came the dredged series against the Cubs, and a little over a week after losing Aoki, Pence wound up back on the DL for the third time this season; this time, with an oblique injury. Again, generally, injuries occur spontaneously and are uncontrollable, but needing Pence in the lineup and relying on his leadership and talent was too tough to overcome.
4. San Francisco Giants Swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers to fall 6.5 games back in the NL West:
Sep 1, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers second baseman Jose Peraza (18) celebrates with left fielder Justin Gurriano (27) and center fielder Joc Pederson (31) after scoring in the third inning as San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner (left) watches at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers defeated the Giants 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
This rivalry series was just about the last real opportunity the Giants had in taking the NL West crown. With the Giants just 3.5 games back of the Dodgers, it was time to do what San Francisco always does in key situations and come up big in a huge series.
Although the Cubs series was crucial, this one against their rival, one who they had dominated all year, was set up for another Giants moment. Instead, San Francisco was swept and lost all three games by a combined 3 runs. The two-headed monster of Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw was too much for San Francisco to handle as Greinke tossed 7 1/3 innings giving up just one run, while Kershaw went the distance to wrap up the sweep on a depressing Wednesday night.
By no means did San Francisco play bad baseball, instead, the Dodgers were just the better team.
5. San Francisco Giants front-office (GM Bobby Evans, VP Brian Sabean, etc.)
Of course, now is the time when analysts can start critiquing mid-season trades, waiver decisions, among others. Therefore, I have no hesitation when I say that the front-office of the Giants organization did not pull the trigger on the trades that they needed to make. Although it is impossible for me to say that San Francisco would be in playoff contention had they acquired Player X, I do believe that the moves that were completed were done too late and were the wrong decisions. I will say that I am not a General Manager and I do not know entirely what goes on behind the scenes, but…
Aug 31, 2015; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Marlon Byrd (6) hits an RBI double during the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
a.) Marlon Byrd was acquired much too late. It’s easy to say this now because he has panned out so well thus far, but why did it take the front-office so long for the trade to be made? Why wasn’t Byrd in the discussions that sent Mike Leake over to the Bay Area? With Pence or without him, it was obvious that San Francisco needed bench depth, and they waited too long to meet this need.
b.) They did not acquire a bullpen arm. The Giants bullpen has not been the reason for the downfall, but the addition of an arm, such as Addison Reed, Oliver Perez, or possibly a dominant closer in Aroldis Chapman takes immense amount of pressure off of the older and much weaker starting rotation.
c.) Why did we acquire Alejandro de Aza? So, we needed another outfielder, and you waited till the last day in August to acquire one? The saying “better late than never” does not fit this situation because San Francisco gave up a prospect (granted, it was not a very high projected one) for a player that will play maybe 20 games on a non-playoff team. Yes, at the time the Giants were playing the Dodgers and were hoping to gain some leverage back in the NL West, but by the end of August, it is much too late to be scrambling for an obvious team need.
6. Joe Panik sent to the Disabled List on August 3rd:
Very similar to Hunter Pence, it is hard to fault Joe Panik for his back issues, so we are not going to necessarily blame him for his injury. But, this is not a piece on who to blame for the horrific second half of the season, it is about what the biggest disappointments were.
More from Around the Foghorn
- SF Giants: 2021 team is approaching franchise milestone
- SF Giants: Brandon Belt is a qualifying offer candidate
- SF Giants: Outfielder Ka’ai Tom signed to minors deal
- SF Giants: Reliever Reyes Moronta clears outright waivers
- SF Giants sign veteran 1B John Nogowski to minor league deal
With that being said, when Panik’s back began to flair up while San Francisco was playing a series against the Texas Rangers, they were just 1/2 game back of the Dodgers in the NL West and was in possession of the second Wild Card spot. Since Panik played in his last game before hitting the DL on August 1st, as mentioned before, the Giants began their turn for the dumps as they posted a record of just 15-21.
The absence of Panik at second base led to a snowball effect. Soon enough, Aoki went on the DL with a concussion, then Pence joined him with an oblique injury, and finally, Panik’s middle infield partner Crawford went on to miss nine games of his own. It is as if once Panik went down, the wheels came right off the playoff train.
Whether it was the leadership, reliability, or emotional dependency, losing Joe Panik was the most disappointing event of the season, demonstrated by the Giants atrocious play since his injury.
Jun 10, 2015; New York City, NY, USA; New York Mets right fielder Curtis Granderson (3) is out as San Francisco Giants second baseman Joe Panik (12) completes the double play during the third inning at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
If the world was a perfect place, Pence and Panik would have been healthy throughout the season, the front-office would have been more demanding and active during the trade deadline, and the Giants would have been healthier and in better shape to play their most crucial series against the Dodgers and Cubs.
Unfortunately for Giants fans, the world isn’t a perfect place, and we will have to live with the consequences and accept the fact that it isn’t an even year.