With an overall record of 51-55 and a record of 3-12 since the All-Star break, the SF Giants are falling out of playoff contention quickly. If the dive continues, they will be playing non-competitive games in September. Can manager Gabe Kapler reverse a trend from his days with the Philadelphia Phillies?
Can SF Giants manager Gabe Kapler avoid a trend from the past?
When Kapler was announced as one of the finalists to be the Giants' next manager. There were plenty of concerns with how he managed the Phillies, especially as the season wound down.
To be fair, the Giants' struggles in 2022 extend beyond Kapler. He is merely using the players that the front office pulled together.
It has been noted often that the Giants have one of the worst defenses in baseball based on the defensive metrics. They have been worth -35 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and -31 Outs Above Average (OAA). Regardless of the metric you use, they have had the second-worst defense in baseball and the eye test confirms this as they frequently miss throwing to the cutoff man or cannot handle the routine plays.
Is this all Kapler's fault? Perhaps, he could put out a lineup that prioritizes defenses more, but this is an organization that puts a lot of emphasis on platoon matchups. So, by nature, they are okay with taking a hit on defense if it means better leveraging the lineup.
Plus, as a whole, the 40-man roster does not have many position players who are adept with the glove. They have too many first basemen, corner outfielders, and designated hitters, but not enough players at premium positions like shortstop and center field. This has left them noticeably exposed this season.
The bullpen has been another major issue as they have posted a 4.39 ERA in 2022, which ranks as the fifth-worst mark in baseball. Is that Kapler's fault? The front office bet on continuity and stability with one of the most volatile areas on the roster and that plan has backfired.
Bullpen management is very much a results-oriented evaluation when it should be more process-oriented. Kapler's handling of the bullpen has been suspect in certain situations and it feels like he should have a quicker hook when he notices that someone is struggling. At the end of the day, the relievers need to perform better and that has not been the case.
John Brebbia and Jarlin García are a couple of examples of relievers who have had nice seasons, but it feels like they have struggled, at times, to get the big out in high-leverage situations. They are not the reason for the bullpen struggles as Jake McGee, José Álvarez, and Tyler Rogers have regressed substantially relative to their 2021 roles. It has not helped one bit how much the defense has struggled, so that is a factor.
What Kapler needs to prevent is a late-season slide. It was something that happened in both seasons with the Phillies. In 2018, Philadelphia had a 72-62 record on the final day of August but limped to an 8-20 record in the final month of the season while finishing 9 games before the Colorado Rockies for the final Wild Card spot.
It was not nearly as steep, but the Phillies experienced a similar downturn in the final month of the season in 2019 as well. On the final day of August, Kapler led Philadelphia to a 69-65 record, but they posted a 12-16 record in September.
They finished eight games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the Wild Card spot, so a superb September may not have helped them. That said, when a competitive team slides like the Phillies did in September in both seasons with Kapler as the manager, it does make you question how focused they were.
It felt like the Phillies just hit a wall as the season wound down and they were never able to recover. For better or worse, this is typically a reflection of the manager.
The Giants might not have as strong of a record as the Phillies did in either season with Kapler at the helm. But, it is a trend that is still relatively fresh and one that might create more concern with the fanbase if it occurs again.
The 107-win season feels like a long time ago at this point. Fans are disappointed at how the 2022 season has transpired and that frustration will continue to mount if Kapler and the Giants do not play better baseball down the stretch.