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Celebrating the Giants' depth

In which we walk down memory lane, see Casey McGehee there, and avoid eye contact

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants shouldn't have been this good, you know.

Now, Grant wrote yesterday about how unlucky the Giants have been, and that's also true. Good work, boss! You're very good at writing and smart and not short. But when you consider all the injuries and adversity that the team has gone through, they're lucky to be above .500. Let's look at how the season has gone, position by position, except for first base, because Brandon Belt has spent all year avoiding the Flying Piano of Death that has whacked so many of his teammates.

At catcher, Andrew Susac could not get healthy this year. No, the backup catcher is not the most important position on the team, but having a good one is what allows the starter (Buster Posey – he's very good) to rest often enough so that he can stay fresh. But Susac is done for the year, as is third-stringer Hector Sanchez, so the Giants had to call up Jackson Williams. Jacks! Hi Jacks! It's good to see you, even though your presence on the team indicates disaster.

Moving on to second base, Joe Panik has started three games since the trading deadline, so let's plug in Kelby Tomlinson, who can hit .295/351/.410. Pay no attention to the BABIP behind the curtain, but so far, he's been good. There was nothing in Tomlinson's minor league career before 2015 that suggested he could contribute at the AAA level, much less in the majors, but here he is, starting (presumably) until the end of the year, without anyone complaining about him. Maybe next year, he'll go Full Descalso and regress pretty badly, but for now, he's been a lifesaver.

Brandon Crawford's left oblique, trying to look cool in oblique circles, has spent a few weeks blowing cigarette smoke into his ribcage, mouthing off to his liver, and just generally acting like a total asshole. Coming into the season, the backup plan was Joaquin Arias, with Matt Duffy possibly getting a couple starts here and there as a super-utility guy. When one of them turned out to be the starting third baseman, and the other turned out to be Joaquin Arias (try to guess which is which!), the Giants turned to their Plan D, who had passed through waivers at the end of Spring Training. And Adrianza hasn't been good, which is a story I'm breaking here, today. But, even taking his notable screw-ups into account, his defense has been excellent at shortstop, bringing his fWAR total up to 0. A replacement player is not a disaster. A better example of a disaster would be . . .

Casey McGehee, who was on the team at the beginning of the year. Remember that? Sorry I made you remember that. His starting spot has been taken by a Rookie of the Year candidate. That worked out! Think about that instead of Casey McGehee. Your brain will thank you. Specifically, it'll thank the memory part of you, so it will basically just thank itself.

The outfield spent the entire year being a tribute to depth. In February, it looked like the Giants would have four starting quality outfielders, which was an impressive feat of roster construction. But then Hunter Pence got hurt, and Angel Pagan played hurt, and Gregor Blanco got hurt, and Hunter Pence got hurt again, and Nori Aoki got hurt, and Hunter Pence got hurt again, and Nori Aoki got hurt again, and Gregor Blanco got hurt again, and the Giants traded for two more outfielders, and somehow Justin Maxwell ended up with more plate appearances than Pence. But the only reason the Giants were able to piece together a major league outfield for most of the year was the depth they had on their roster.

And, of course, there are the starting pitchers. Matt Cain's arm imploded, then Jake Peavy's back imploded, then Tim Lincecum imploded, then Tim Hudson imploded, then the Giants traded for Mike Leake, who promptly got injured, and then Matt Cain imploded. The Giants had to use their contingency plans, and their assistant contingency plans, and even their assistant to the contingency plans (Leake, Chris Heston, and Ryan Vogelsong, respectively). If those options seem terrible to you, remember that they had Kevin Correia in AAA this year, and he was pitching decently, and they didn't have to call him up. Don't be sad that the starters were mediocre. Be thankful that they weren't worse .

To sum up, here is a table showing some guys who have gotten significant playing time this year, and where on the depth chart they were when the season started:

Position Player Location on depth chart
C Andrew Susac Second! A backup who played around the correct number of games. Though with his injury and Hector's injury, Jackson Williams made the roster. He'd be fifth, behind Guillermo Quiroz.
1B Brandon Belt First! Way to start all year, Brandon!
2B Kelby Tomlinson Fifth, if you include Brandon Hicks in Sacramento
3B Matt Duffy Second
SS Ehire Adrianza Fourth
OF Alejandro De Aza Seventh. Maybe sixth if you put "second outfield trade" ahead of Justin Maxwell. Maybe eighth, depending on your opinion of Jarrett Parker.
SP Ryan Vogelsong Seventh, I guess, since the Giants decided Yusmeiro Petit is Not A Starter. Eighth, though, if you put him behind "Deadline deal for starter"

Jonah Keri, in his Grantland article yesterday, included this chart about big injuries affecting teams:


The Giants, Cardinals, Reds, and Rangers have been hit with the most injuries to their most talented players. The Cardinals have just conjured new ones from dust, hops, and self-righteousness, the Rangers have been (unsustainably, by their Pythagorean record) good enough to make a run at the playoffs, the Giants have been decent, and the Reds have been a disaster. The fact that the Giants aren't living in Redsland is a testament to their depth. It feels like this team's not good enough to make the playoffs right now, which they're probably not. But that's not a product of bad design. It's bad luck, and it could have been so much worse.