The Giants’ final 21 games might not reveal any surprises, but it is the last chance in 2018 for players to hit a baseball and have it count towards their record. If guys want to fill out the back of their baseball card, they have precious little time remaining.
Earlier, we looked at the worst finishes in team history. Here, let’s look at the best individual performances down the stretch, regardless of team performance. I’ve limited the search to go back to just 2007, which is significant because it was Barry Bonds’ final month in a Giants uniform and he barely played half that month.
I’ll use wRC+ because it contextualizes it for league/era and will help convey more easily the relative value of the performance. Also, I am listing only those players who came close to 100 plate appearances and posted a wRC+ of greater than 130, because I think those are both solid qualifications in this case.
And one more thing: FanGraphs combines September/October stats, so this post will include those numbers, unlike the previous post, which just looked at September records.
Best Septembers, 2007-2017
Carlos Beltran basically wins because 99 plate appearances is close enough to the arbitrary threshold I established. So, there you go. The argument is settled: Beltran wasn’t overrated, he was the best.
But let’s take this one step further just to pad out the word count and bring in readers who side-eye wRC+, even though wRC+ (and OPS+) mean you no harm and just want your love. What’s wrong with trying to distill offensive value down to a single number? That’s a quest to make life easier for you, the busy baseball fan. I digress.
Buster Posey - 179 wRC+ (2012)
.364 / .415 / .607 | 5 HR 21 RBI 4 GIDP | 1.307 WPA
September/October record: 20-10. Buster Posey was a huge reason why the Giants were able to close out a playoff spot and his September certainly helped secure him the National League MVP award.
Hunter Pence - 197 wRC+ (2013)
.293 / .393 /.667 | 11 HR 32 RBI 5 GIDP | .910 WPA
The Giants went 16-11 in September 2013 and you can thank Hunter Pence for that. It ended a disappointing season on a hopeful note and gave everyone perhaps a modicum of optimism heading into 2014.
Buster Posey - 197 wRC+ (2014)
.393 /.436 / .607 | 4 home runs, 18 RBI 2 Ground Into Double Play | 0.949 WPA
Where would the fading second-half Giants wound up without the Herculean play of Buster Posey down the stretch?
Carlos Beltran - 216 wRC+ (2011)
Beltran missed 13 games in August, which were enough to get the fanbase on board the hatewagon for a Hall of Fame player. But his September was stellar:
.378 / .434 / .700 | 6 HR, 14 RBI 3 GIDP | 0.976 WPA
Unfortunately, the Giants went only 14-11 in September 2011, winning only 4 of their final 10 games. But look at the amount of win probability his “overrated” performance added to a scuffling team!
Pablo Sandoval - 222 wRC+ (2011)
.378 / .415 / .784 | 7 HR, 19 RBI 1 GIDP | 0.274 Win Probability Added. What’s amazing here is that Pablo Sandoval didn’t start every game and still had an amazing performance when he did. Still! Still... look at that win probability added. His numbers didn’t move the needle very much when it came to improving the Giants’ odds of winning a given game, and that’s fairly remarkable, considering that the Giants don’t really feature a lot of offense in general, so you’d assume that anything that moved the needle would increase those odds. Not the case!
You’ll notice that the best Septembers in recent history have come from players who were already great ending strong. That reduces the Giants’ list of suspects down to just three: Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Evan Longoria. Do you think it’ll be one of those three to have the best showing or will there be a surprise in there?