STAT LINE: 105 PAs, .213/.295/.383, 4 HRs, 11 RBIs
As you may have heard repeatedly at the beginning of the season, Mac Williamson overhauled his swing last offseason and had a great Spring Training. There are dozens of guys like that every spring and the stories about them have become cliches: “Oh, he’s in the best shape of his life,” we’ll say, rolling our eyes. “Oh, he hired a swing coach. That’ll definitely make him good,” we’ll mutter, and then forget all about it when the nice results in Arizona or Florida inevitably don’t translate to the regular season.
Except Williamson’s results did translate. He crushed the ball for the first couple weeks in Sacramento, got called up to San Francisco, and spent 5 games continuing to crush the ball. The offense was scuffling when he got called up, to the extent that Williamson had to declare that he wasn’t a savior, and then he spent a week being a savior.
Then he hit a wall, and oh boy, do I wish I meant that metaphorically.
On April 24, while chasing a Bryce Harper foul ball, Williamson tripped over the bullpen mounds and slammed his head into the wall down the left field line. He briefly stayed in the game long enough to hit the game-winning home run, and it took until the 28th of April for him to officially go on the DL (Classic Giants!), but he suffered a concussion on that play, and was out for almost a month.
When he came back, Williamson wasn’t the same player. Concussions are tricky to detect and hard to deal with; they subtly linger long after their effects are apparent, and symptoms can come roaring back months later. So it was for Williamson, who didn’t regain his form in either San Francisco or Sacramento, and eventually had to see a concussion specialist again in August, after which he was shut down for the year.
ROLE ON THE 2018 TEAM: In 2018, Mac Williamson was a living monument to the fact that the Giants offense just Was Not Allowed To Have Nice Things. Promising hitter, here to fill the Giants’ desperate need for power, living up to all his potential? Injured. Came back from a tough rehab to help out the offense? Still secretly injured. Working in the minors to try to ... look, I’m just gonna say injured again. I hope you’ve figured that out by now.
This year, Williamson showed a lot of promise, had surprisingly good early results, suffered a catastrophic injury, played through it even though it was seriously negatively affecting him, and eventually he and the team had to admit it just wasn’t working. He basically was the 2018 Giants.
ROLE ON THE 2019 TEAM: He’ll have a chance in Spring Training to show that he might be April Mac again. If that goes well, he’ll have the opportunity to get playing time at the beginning of the year. Williamson is out of options now, so the new regime won’t be able to just stick him in AAA and see what happens. He won’t necessarily be in San Francisco because the incoming GM might not be a believer, but it would be pretty surprising if someone with his tools isn’t given a chance in 2019 when he showed so much promise at the beginning of 2018.
Is it a cop out to give Williamson an incomplete? Maybe. But if you’re evaluating a player with a concussion, what are you really doing? What does that actually tell you about who he’s likely to be in the future? On the other hand, if you’re evaluating someone based on a couple great weeks in the minors and 5 fantastic games in the majors, again, what are you really doing?
We never got to see the league adjust to Mac and how he adjusted back. We never got to see who he was long term, for good or bad. What other grade is there? Incomplete it is.