At the end of the 2022 season, SF Giants president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi stated that the goal in the offseason would be to get younger and more athletic. One of the benefits of getting more athletic is having better and faster baserunners. Anyone who watched the 2023 Giants knows that they were anything but fast.
SF Giants failed miserably at stated goal from end of 2022 season
It should come as no surprise as they returned much of the same lineup while adding a pair of veterans in Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger. No one looked at this roster and thought that they would be the fleetest of foot.
However, overlooking this quality proved to a huge misstep as baseball adjusted the rules to create a more favorable system for baserunners. This included increasing the size of the bases and limiting the number of pitcher disengagements to two.
These rules led to a massive spike in stolen bases around the league. In fact, steals were up by 39.7 percent in 2023 compared to just last season. 20 teams swiped at least 100 bases this year compared to just eight teams in 2022. Every team benefitted from the new rules. That is, except for the Giants.
They were aware of the new rules well in advance of the season and did not take advantage of the opportunity. However, Ronald Acuña Jr. just put together one of the more unique seasons in baseball history by slamming 41 home runs and stealing 73 bases. He is the first 40-70 player ever. His previous career high in steals was 37 in 2019 and he came close to doubling that mark.
How did the Giants do? Well, Acuña Jr. stole more bases by himself than two teams this tear. If you guessed one of those teams to be the Giants, you should give yourself a nice pat on the back. The other team was the Los Angeles Angels (71). It is never a good position to be compared with the Angels.
The Giants only stole 57 bases this year, which was actually down from 64 bases in 2022. They actually got worse in that category. Thairo Estrada was the only player on the club to reach double digits in stolen bases.
Incredibly, if you tripled the Giants' number of stolen bases, they would still be 18 steals behind the Cincinnati Reds for the league lead.
Maybe, stolen bases are not the best measurement for a team's speed. Luckily, Baseball Savant can measure sprint speed at the individual and team-wide level. The Giants tallied an average sprint speed of 26.8 feet per second, which was the third-worst mark in baseball this season. Only the Chicago White Sox (26.7 feet per second) and New York Yankees (26.6 feet per second) had a slower team.
In fairness to the Giants, they did slightly improve from 26.5 feet per second in 2022, so they can hang their sluggish cleats on that. It did not translate to more stolen bases, however.
And, that is one area where the Giants really hurt themselves this year. The lineup was a below-average unit as they posted a 93 wRC+ this year. They struggled, especially at hitting with runners in scoring position. Though, that issue was exacerbated by a roster that was unable to go from first base to third base or score from second base on a hit to the outfield.
Rarely did you see the Giants take an extra base or stretch a single into a double. These things add up and the Giants just did not have a lineup that could put pressure on the defense. Now, it will be another stated goal this winter. If the Giants do not show improvement in all facets of the game, it will probably be the last time we hear it from this regime.