Over at FanGraphs last week, Jeff Sullivan wrote about the different makeups of teams around baseball. The Cardinals have a lot of players in the middle of successful seasons, but they don’t have anyone threatening to win the MVP. The Angels have Mike Trout, who is somehow getting better, but they don’t have a lot of support behind him.
To do this, Sullivan looked at three categories:
- The five best players on every team, by WAR
- The next five best players, by WAR
- The rest of the players after those top 10
The results were helpful when it came to explaining the relative successes and failures of some teams. But they were absolutely essential in explaining the failures of the 2017 Giants.
The Giants’ five best players are worse than almost every other team’s five best players, and they’ve fallen off drastically compared to last year
The Giants’ top five players, according to FanGraphs’ WAR: Jeff Samardzija (3.9), Buster Posey (3.7), Brandon Belt (2.3), Joe Panik (1.9), and Brandon Crawford (1.7). Only the Padres, A’s, and White Sox have a quintet that’s less productive.
Note that gaudy number for Samardzija is based on his stellar FIP. If FanGraphs used his ERA to calculate his WAR, the Giants would fare even worse. Their best players haven’t been as good as the best players around the rest of the league.
Oh, and here’s the best part: The Giants have fallen more in this category than any other team in baseball. Last year, they ranked fifth in this category, which means they dropped 22 spots. They had some of the best players around last year. Everything was better last year. Do you remember when we were so mad at last year? I miss last year.
The Giants’ best players after their top five are worse than almost every other team’s best players after their top five, and they’ve fallen off drastically compared to last year
The next five players have been even worse for the Giants. Those would be Madison Bumgarner (1.6), Ty Blach (1.2), Eduardo Nuñez (1.1), Denard Span (1.1), and Matt Moore (1.0).
Yes, the second tier of the most valuable Giants includes a) a pitcher who missed half the season, b) a pitcher out of the rotation, c) a hitter who was traded over a month ago, d) a center fielder who can’t field and is propped up in these rankings because of defensive metrics that defy belief, and e) the pitcher with the worst ERA in the National League.
The good news is that other teams have dropped off even more in this category. It’s why the Cubs aren’t as dominant this year, and it’s why the Rockies are clawing for the wild card, even though they’re enjoying MVP performances from several players. But the Giants have still dropped off, losing 14 spots from last year.
The Giants’ players after their top 10 are worse than almost every other team’s players after their top 10, and they’ve fallen off drastically compared to last year
This is a group that includes everyone from Johnny Cueto to Drew Stubbs. The Giants have used 14 hitters this year who racked up negative WAR. Just two of the 22 pitchers they’ve used have a negative WAR (Steven Okert and Josh Osich), but 16 of them are in limbo, somewhere between 0.0 and 0.9.
Or, to put it simply: The middle to bottom of the Giants’ roster has been atrocious. Except they rank 26th in baseball here, which is their best showing out of the three categories. Which means the Aaron Hills and Bryan Morrises have been their clearest competitive advantage. Which ... dammit, Giants.
The Giants have dropped 22 spots in this ranking, which is the biggest drop by far. Considering the Giants, as a team, have dropped more than any other, including the White Sox, who traded their very best players, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
The Giants aren’t just worse because of disappointing seasons at the top. They’re not worse because of disappointing seasons right behind the top. They’re not worse because of the role players and lesser-knowns. They’re worse because of all of it. It’s been a total team effort. The commitment is impressive.
If you want to end on a rosy note, I’ll suggest that this seems fluky and historically anomalous, and that teams shouldn’t expect to collapse this thoroughly when they’re expecting to contend. But it’s happening now. And it sure is stunning just how complete and total the disappointment has been.