The 2018 season saw our favorite team be competitive for a few months before injury, age, and talent caught up with them and escorted us all from a championship run into a new era of franchise history: big losing. This relative stinkery almost doesn’t compare to the 98-loss 2017 season that’s already in the history books, mainly because that season is over and has already been quantified — there are fifteen games remaining this season and anything can happen, right?
The Giants have lost 11 games in a row for the first time in San Francisco Giants history. Every major player had extremely down seasons for various reasons and will be one year older next season. Whether or not the Giants lose their remaining games, there’s a case to be made that this season might actually be worst than last season. But you decide.
98 losses are 98 losses, man. That’s almost 100. The Giants were tied for the worst record in baseball (with the Tigers) — they were the worst team in the National League, and that’s when you consider there were four teams actively “tanking” to rebuild (the Braves, Phillies, Reds, and Padres). They were trying their absolute hardest and everything fell in on them.
Madison Bumgarner suffered a catastrophic shoulder injury because of a dirt bike accident, and that followed soon after a season opening implosion by the Giants’ extremely pricey offseason acquisition, Mark Melancon. Although Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, and Joe Panik all had above average seasons at the plate, nobody else did.
Johnny Cueto suffered recurring blisters due to MLB’s new baseballs designed to amp up offense — an effect that completely passed the Giants by — and Jeff Samardzija wound up leading the pitching staff in innings pitched (207.2), posting a 97 ERA+ (three percent worse than league average).
Matt Cain was bad and retired, George Kontos was bad and traded, Matt Moore was bad and traded, Conor Gillaspie was bad and retired, Aaron Hill played six games in left field, and Michael Morse was concussed and retired.
The “highlight” of the season was on Memorial Day, when Hunter Strickland threw at Bryce Harper to avenge the home runs Harper hit off of him back in 2014. That led to an off-field fight that caused the aforementioned concussion. Strickland received only tepid support and it was the first true sign that the Giants weren’t all that into one of their teammates and weren’t really a cohesive group.
They, uh, they also lost 98 games.
That felt like the culmination of a terrible run since the second half of the 2016 season, when the Giants were an MLB-worst 30-42. Their 94-140 mark from the second half of 2016 through 2017 was also the worst mark in MLB.
The team was able to spin some crap into gold when they traded Eduardo Nunez for what looks like a pretty solid pitching prospect (Shaun Anderson), their waiver acquisition of cast-off Sam Dyson mostly worked out and was a fairly pleasant surprise; and, all that losing compelled them to shake up the front office and coaching staff.
A new mindset and a core that would be both returning from injury (Bumgarner and Cueto) and still at the tail end of their primes (Posey, Belt, Crawford, etc.) certainly suggested that a bounce back of some sort was possible and that, ultimately, we’d look back upon this season and recognize it for the fluke that it was.
They planted their flag by trading for Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria: they would be better, they would be competitive. The Longoria trade sort of compounded the Matt Duffy trade by casting off his would-be replacement, Christian Arroyo, for an over-30 veteran and, similarly, the move for McCutchen meant losing cheap talent to gain pricier veteran talent.
But the year began with the Giants gaining Andrew McCutchen, which is a fantastic, positive start. And they nabbed Tony Watson on a really cheap deal just before Spring Training. Sure, the move to get Austin Jackson was a head-scratcher, but the Giants have no minor league depth or talent — they made a move commensurate with that gap.
And then the Giants started the year off with a pair of wins in Los Angeles thanks to a pair of solo home runs and raised their record to 19-15 after sweeping the hottest team in baseball on the road. The season felt better than the previous one right away and we rode that high for at least a few months.
Then the season-ending injuries began (I’ll get the order wrong, but Sandoval, Cueto, Posey, and Duggar), the declines bunched together, the minor league talent failed to pan out to provide league average replacements, and the losing wouldn’t stop.
The Giants might not end the year on a 26-game losing streak, but there’s a very strong chance it will feel like they did. Can you imagine a final record that won’t feel completely terrible and absent of hope? This team won’t win seven in a row and even if they did, there’s no guarantee they’d win any more than seven games. Would a seven-game winning streak to end the season be enough to make you think that that all the bad stuff that’s happened in the season’s final month doesn’t matter?
2017 didn’t end with many reasons for hope or optimism and 2018 will be ending with less.
- Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria, and Buster Posey will all be a year older and clearly in their decline phases. Three of those four will be coming off of surgeries.
- Austin Slater, Chris Shaw, Gorkys Hernandez, Alen Hanson, and Joe Panik proved themselves to be either overmatched, roster filler, or expendable.
- Madison Bumgarner confirmed our worst fears about his post-accident career, setting up a day of reckoning for the Giants this offseason.
- Sub-note to the Bumgarner point: the Giants became Baseball’s #1 Police Force this season. Cool with you?
- The team’s offensive woes are built into the DNA of the organization. The only way they can fix it is with a complete overhaul of their approach to hitting.
The changes made before the season were more cosmetic than substantial and another year of kicking the can down the road seems to have led them into a cul-de-sac.
Can the Giants be better next year than this year? Maybe that’s not your measure for hope or optimism. Maybe it’s all about how you perceive their ability to adapt and develop. Whatever your parameters...
Which season was worse?
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