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September report card

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Let’s take a look at the worst month in franchise history.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

This was the worst month in the 135-year history of the Giants franchise. Somehow, we’re all still here. Somehow, the Giants still exist. Somehow, they will be permitted, expected even, to play more Major League Baseball games next season, and possibly beyond.

It all began with an 11-game losing streak that set a new record for the San Francisco era. In fairness, every game of that losing streak was against a better team — the combined record of the Mets, Rockies, Brewers, and Braves is 354-296 (.545) — and the Giants were without Buster Posey, Steven Duggar, and Pablo Sandoval because of season-ending injuries and without the Brandons due to nagging injuries that sapped them of their utility.

Scratch that. It all began with the Giants waking up on September 1st with a record of 68-68, 6.5 games out of first place in the NL West — virtually eliminated from that particular race — and just a 0.2% chance to make it to the Wild Card Game. Nothing worked out for the Giants in September, but to truly feel the velocity and force of the fall, it’s important to remember the starting point. This was a .500 team, but by the end of the season, they resembled a team in Year 0 of a 10-year rebuild.

For most of the season, Brady did monthly comparisons between 2017 and 2018 and, for the most part, this season was better. But for comparison’s sake, last September, the Giants went 11-15 (their final game was on October 1st and that’s included in that total), never had a losing streak longer than four games, and were outscored 107-115. This September? 5-21 record, 11- 5- and 4-game losing streaks, outscored 69-126.

Congratulations, you dingbats. You were spectacularly bad.

The Giants also had a chance to greatly affect the Dodgers’ playoff situation by simply winning one of three games in the final weekend of the season and they failed to do so in spectacular fashion. The Dodgers scored 28 runs in 27 innings and really had a lot of fun while doing it. A 15-0 blowout in the final game of the season, on Fan Appreciation Day no less, really flushed out whatever enthusiasm people still had for the San Francisco Giants.

Beyond the losing and the talent-free roster, the Giants also fired GM Bobby Evans. That was a bit of a surprise in that the Giants never seem to want to take drastic measures, especially in drastic times. Evans’ fate was sealed when the team failed to produce any major league-quality talent in its minor league system after the Lincecum-Posey-Bumgarner-Belt run.

Or you could say it backfired when the vast majority of Evans’ moves blew up in the team’s face. Mark Melancon, Johnny Cueto, and Jeff Samardzija have all been mostly injured as Giants and mostly ineffective (Cueto mostly excepted) when on the roster. The trade for Evan Longoria immediately didn’t work out but the repercussions of it will be felt for years.

The final month of the season embodied the final nail in the Giants’ coffin. The run they had from 2009-2016 is all wrapped up, authenticated, and ready to be placed on the shelf.

Good riddance, September; but also, good grief.

How was the pitching?

Mediocre. By the traditional stats, their 4.72 ERA was 24th in MLB, but they also had one of only two shutouts in the month (congrats Chris Stratton). The team struck out 206 in 230.2 innings, which you might conclude isn’t terrible, but for comparison’s sake, the Cleveland team struck out exactly 300 (#1 in MLB) in 256 innings. The Giants’ 206 was 25th in MLB.

Rate stats paint the same picture. Their 20.7% strikeout rate was 23rd, but their 9.0% walk rate was 17th, behind the Cubs and Astros. Their 4.27 FIP was 20th, but their 121 ERA- was 4th-worst in MLB. Remember that ERA- works in reverse of wRC+: below 100 (league average) is better. The Giants, then, were 21% worse than the average ERA, adjusted for ballpark and era. Not great.

Who’s the best pitcher on the team?

Tony Watson’s 8.1 innings were good enough to make him the team’s September leader in fWAR at 0.7. He had a FIP of -0.08, which basically means that in that ridiculously small sample size of innings and based on the number of walks allowed, he was expected to have allowed zero runs — but that wasn’t the case. He allowed two earned runs in Colorado at the beginning of the month. After that, though, he struck out 14, walked 1 and allowed only 2 base hits — he was dominant.

Last month’s fWAR leader (Derek Holland at 0.7) posted a 0.2 fWAR in his final month of the season — Willie Mac Award winner Will Smith was slightly better at 0.4. Single month WAR and single month samplings are never great, but we’re also not really using these rates to project future performance — we definitely want to just know what happened. In that case, the Giants’ better pitchers all season were mostly their better pitchers in the season’s final month.

How was the hitting?

You saw the tweet above — they were worse this month than last month, and last month saw one of the lowest run totals in franchise history. 69 runs in 26 games (2.65 runs/game) is nice for the internet, but terrible for a baseball team. Just the worst. Still, maybe the Giants were a little bit unlucky?

Your quick refresher on wRC+:

wRC+ takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for important external factors -- like ballpark or era. It’s adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.

And Runs Created:

Runs Created estimates a player’s offensive contribution in terms of total runs. It combines a player’s ability to get on base with his ability to hit for extra bases. Then it divides those two by the player’s total opportunities.

The Giants were the worst team in baseball at creating runs in the month of September. The Marlins were 29th overall with a 69 wRC+. Their .248 wOBA was also last... you know what, here are all the offensive categories where the Giants were not last in September:

Games (24th)
Home runs (29th)
Stolen bases (11th)
BAbip (21st)
BsR (13th)
Def (16th)

Quick refreshers on BsR and Def:

BsR:

Base Running (BsR) is FanGraphs’ all encompassing base running statistic that turns stolen bases, caught stealings, and other base running plays (taking extra bases, being thrown out on the bases, etc) into runs above and below average.

Def:

A few other notes:

  • We can probably thank Aramis Garcia (3) and Hunter Pence (2) for the Giants not being last in home runs. They sort of came out of nowhere to provide the Giants with the modicum of power the team flashed in its final 26 games. The team’s 17 home runs were greater than their monthly totals from their July and August totals (16 and 15, respectively).
  • The Giants scored 69 runs and had only 67 RBI for the month, so that alone should work against Brian Sabean’s notion that the team needs more “players who can drive guys in”.
  • How many of those 18 stolen bases do you remember?

Who’s the best hitter on the team?

Aramis Garcia led the way in the month of September with a 0.2 fWAR in just 18 games (61 plate appearances). He also had a 100 wRC+, literally the only league average player on the roster.

We’ll never know what Ryder Jones might’ve done as he had just 4 plate appearances before blowing out his knee on a foul ball swing in Milwaukee, but I bring him up because in those 4 plate appearances (PA), he had a home run and a single and a 0.1 fWAR, tying him with Madison Bumgarner (11 PA), Nick Hundley (80 PA), Brandon Crawford (78 PA), and Chris Stratton (7 PA). However, he was the only Giant with a positive Off stat, which FanGraphs defines as:

Offense (Off) is a statistic that combines a position player’s total context-neutral value at the plate and on the bases. Off is a combination of our park adjusted batting runs above average and our base running runs above average and credits a player for the quality and quantity of their total offensive performance during a given period of time.

Ryder Jones was at 1.3 in just 4 plate appearances. No other Giant had a positive number.

What’s sustainable?

The losing. For sure. It’s hard to imagine this roster changing substantially over the course of the next five months to improve the lineup very much.

The pitching could very well take a step back, too, as some of the most moveable assets for a new GM are right there in the bullpen and Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez will have to adjust to however the league adjusts to them during the offseason. Madison Bumgarner might not even be on the team next season — but, the Giants seem to be resourceful in finding pitching talent and they have a ballpark that will help them out, so the middling pitching seems sustainable in the-near term. Certainly, far more than the deplorable offense.

What’s unsustainable?

The front office. That’s why it’s being overhauled.

Where can they improve?

The front office.

Progress report grade: F

Hate to give out Fs — injuries certainly played a part in how everything went down, but most modern teams consider injury scenarios now when they construct their rosters and draft and develop.

It’s also tough to avoid comparing the end of 2018 to the end of 2017. Being substantially worse than one of the worst teams in our lifetime is a tough thing to do, but they did it very easily. The Giants were a great team for another era, and now that they’ve been corrected out of their market, the task at hand is remaking themselves into a 21st century team.