The post-All Star Break 2016 Giants, if you’ll recall, were quite bad. After coming into the break with the best record in baseball, the team then decided it would be fun to switch it up and very nearly had the worst record in baseball after the break, beating out only the Twins. Then the team came into 2017 with pretty much the same roster and were still bad. A canny observer might note that not fundamentally changing a team that had spent two months being awful could easily lead to that same team continuing to be awful. But is that fair? Could the second half performance of the 2016 Giants really be used to predict the poor performance of the 2017 Giants? Let’s break it down!
In the second half of 2016, Giants starting pitchers had a 4.03 ERA, a 4.03 FIP, and a 3.99 xFIP, coming in 14th in the league in fWAR. The 2017 starting staff is currently rocking a 4.93 ERA, which is extremely bad. Underlying that is a 4.31 FIP and a 4.43 xFIP, so you could say they’ve been unlucky and it would have been hard to predict this is how things would go. After all, they’re still 16th in fWAR this year. That’s not too much worse, really!
However, according to Baseball Prospectus’s DRA stat, which I can’t really use for this article because I don’t have a way to break it down for the first and second halves of 2016, the Giants pitching staff as a whole has actually been lucky and should have allowed more runs. So instead of answering the question “Could we have seen it coming that the starters would be so bad?” with “They’ve been more unlucky than bad,” you can just say no. It isn’t necessarily bad luck, Fangraphs’s model of basing pitcher value off FIP could be inaccurate in this case, and we couldn’t have really seen this coming from them.
The bullpen last year was bad. You can quibble with that if you want and say it was bad luck because their second half stats were, on the whole, pretty middle of the road. You could say that the problem wasn’t necessarily the talent in the bullpen but the way Bochy used them. You could say that if only they hadn’t had Santiago Casilla in such high leverage situations all year, we’d think differently about that bullpen.
You’d be wrong.
The 2016 Giants bullpen was cursed and horrifying and no stat will ever convince people that it wasn’t. There were several pitchers who had good years, but as it turns out, building the ninth inning on top of an ancient Dodger burial ground was a super bad idea, and no one could close games because of that.
Anyway, they’re a lot worse this year too by any stat you look at.
While on the whole they’re worse, there are a few improvements to be found here. Buster Posey is having a great year, of course, which is buoying the numbers at catcher. Joe Panik, not currently concussed, has rebounded a little, so second base has gotten a bit better. First base and center field, while hitting worse than they did in the second half last year, are not abject disasters, and should be commended for that.
All of the other positions have fallen off a cliff, though. The issue is just half the position players on the field at any given time, so that’s easy to deal with. Shortstop’s been an issue because Brandon Crawford has just completely stopped hitting, third base largely because Eduardo Nuñez had an early slump and then the team called up Christian Arroyo, who had a lot of trouble at the plate, right field because Hunter Pence has fallen off the face of the Earth, and left field because every left fielder on the team made a blood oath to not do better than Chris Marrero this year, which it turns out was not a good idea.
“Is there better news about the defense?” the McCovey Chronicles reader asked, eyes shining and full of hope. No. No, there’s not.
The conclusion here is that everyone on the Giants is performing much, much worse than they did even in the second half of last year, when they couldn’t win a game. Is there an extent to which you can say that last year’s poor second half performance predicted this year? Maybe, but the team was much better last year than it is this year. Even in the second half, the Giants still outscored their opponents by 11 runs, because they weren’t an inherently awful team, but just an extremely frustrating one. This year, they have, uh, not done that (They have been outscored by 112 runs so far this year, for the record).
Coming into the year, it wasn’t unreasonable to assume that last year’s second half record was a fluke. Obviously, with nearly every position on the field taking a step back, that hasn’t been borne out by results, but to just look at a bad second half record in 2016 and say that’s why you should have expected the team to be bad this year doesn’t make a lot of sense. Just like the Giants! Just like the dumb Giants.