From a macro perspective, the SF Giants roster has some quality components to it, including a solid lineup, strong bullpen, and competent defense. However, the starting rotation has been a pretty big disappointment so far in 2023.
What was the biggest disappointment from the 1st half of the season for the SF Giants?
Of course, I need to add the qualifier that this excludes Alex Cobb and Logan Webb. Cobb was an All-Star this weekend, pitching a scoreless outing in the first All-Star nod of his 12-year career. On the other hand, the case could be made that Webb was snubbed out of the All-Star game.
Regardless, they have been two of the best starters in the National League. Cobb has posted a 2.91 ERA in 16 starts, whereas Webb has 3.19 ERA in 19 starts while being the workhorse of the rotation. In fact, his 126 innings lead all pitchers and he is well on his way to his first 200-inning season of his young career.
They have been fantastic and carrying the rotation. On days they do not pitch, it has been a lot more of a challenge. In addition to Cobb and Webb, the Giants began the year with Sean Manaea, Ross Stripling, Alex Wood, and Anthony DeSclafani as experienced starters.
I thought that Webb, Cobb, and Stripling would quietly make a solid 1-2-3 in the rotation. I was two-thirds of the way there! I also thought that the starters outside of those three would be effective enough to cover injuries and regression.
I was clearly wrong about that as Stripling, Manaea, DeSclafani, and Wood have all been disappointing for various reasons. And, that group has struggled all at once.
Stripling has missed quite a bit of time with a back strain. When he has been healthy, the 33-year-old has not been sharp as he has posted a 6.37 ERA in 12 outings. One way or the other, San Francisco will lean on Stripling to see if he can rediscover the pitcher that tallied a 3.01 ERA in 32 appearances for the Toronto BlueJays just last season.
On the other hand, DeSclafani and Wood have been hit-or-miss while battling various injuries. Wood has sustained back and hamstring ailments, whereas DeSclafani is currently dealing with a bout of shoulder fatigue.
It has been a year of high volatility for Wood and a season of a steady decline for DeSclafani. Wood has a respectable 4.68 ERA in 13 appearances, but there have been a handful of outings where he has been unplayable. DeSclafani got off to a solid start, but he has struggled to the tune of a 5.96 ERA.
Lastly, Sean Manaea has produced a 5.49 ERA in 20 appearances. The Giants have struggled to find the right role for him, but the numbers suggest that he is likely a one-inning reliever at this stage in his career.
Despite these struggles, the Giants have had a positive first half of the season. They have a 49-41 record while sitting in third place in the Wild Card standings. If they are serious about making the playoffs, they almost have to add to the rotation. The struggles from the back end of the rotation have created that need.
Cobb and Webb can hold up the front end of the rotation, but in a five or seven-game series, the Giants will need another reliable starter or two. The bad news is that nearly every National League team is in the same boat and will be looking for upgrades at the deadline as well.
I expected one or two from the group above to struggle or deal with injuries. I did not expect four of them to deal with both all at once. That part was unexpected and a surprising disappointment for a team that has done well in most other facets of the game so far.