Baseball is the consummate team sport - an event in which, for better and often for worse, a player can rarely transcend the team.
Each player is a cog in the wheel. Some of the cogs are unbreakable stainless steel with fancy designs etched in them, maybe even a TV embedded in the front, but they’re all just cogs.
If you need evidence, Mike Trout - comfortably on pace to be the greatest baseball player since dinosaurs roamed the earth - has won exactly zero postseason games in his eight-year career. Compare that to the best players in other leagues and . . . well . . . you get the point.
But while individual success doesn’t automatically correlate with team success, it obviously doesn’t hurt. At worst, great players make the daily grind of watching baseball six nights a week a lot more entertaining. At best, great players are a cog in one helluva wheel.
After all, the last three World Series champs have featured that year’s MVP, even if baseball cheats a little by having two of those.
The San Francisco Giants are not a great team. But if they plan to flirt with the notion of being a good team, they’ll need a few newfangled, upper-echelon cogs in that foggy wheel of theirs.
So let’s look at the major awards, and see if anyone is in serious contention for them.
Most Valuable Player
Fangraphs recently updated their catcher WAR numbers to reflect pitch framing. Buster Posey, who frames so blissfully that he could just do pirouettes in the batter’s box during every at-bat and still be a league average catcher, was a beneficiary.
Posey’s last fully healthy season, 2016, got bumped up to 6.5 fWAR, good for third in the league.
Three years and one hip surgery later, and it seems unlikely that Posey can not only recreate his 2016, but top it. And even if he does, it’s unclear how many voters will have their opinions swayed by new Fangraph equations - Posey finished just 14th in MVP voting back in 2016, pitch framing be damned.
But Posey still has that star sheen, and if the Giants exceed expectations, he’ll be the first to receive credit, fair or not. No one else has a chance of coming close, because Brandon Belt doesn’t get much respect and . . . wait, who else is on this team again?
If Posey is in the cliched “Best Shape of His Life” that he claims, he can work his way into the top ten. But the days of serious MVP consideration for Gerald Dempsey are almost surely behind him.
Cy Young Award
It’s remarkably easy to be optimistic about Madison Bumgarner. Sure, he’s had two consecutive struggle years, but those were both due to injuries that may not be lingering, and he’s still just 29. His fastball has been closer to what it should be this spring, and I’m not one to bet against the dude.
Just . . . maybe don’t bet on him when it comes to (regular season) awards. Even at his best, Bumgarner is a second-tier ace, not quite in the realm of the Max Scherzers and (healthy) Clayton Kershaws of the world.
In his four-year prime, Bumgarner finished ninth, fourth, sixth, and fourth in Cy Young voting. Impressive outcomes to be sure, but ones that prove he’s more than just a bounceback away from taking home some individual hardware.
Bumgarner earning Cy Young votes shouldn’t be surprising. Bumgarner earning Cy Young votes in a different jersey really shouldn’t be surprising.
But he won’t win it, and no other pitcher on the roster deserves mention here.
Rookie of the Year
Oh boy. Well, let’s start at the end, which is a very good place to start. The Giants will not have a player win this award.
What they can have is a repeat of Dereck Rodriguez’s 2018, wherein a surprise player puts together an impressive season and is at least on the periphery of the radar of the award.
The frontrunner to be that guy ds Connor Joe, who slashed .294/.385/.494 in AAA last year while in the Los Angeles Dodgers system. Joe has the versatility to play nightly, and right now it appears that he’s firmly leapfrogged Mac Williamson in internal valuations, so he’ll almost surely get an opportunity this year.
Ultimately no Giants player is likely to make any serious noise for the award, so please just sit down and wait for Joey Bart.
Manager of the Year
Well, the Giants only have one candidate here. Bochy is unlikely to be in contention because the Giants are unlikely to be good - which means that if they are good, he’ll almost surely get mentioned here.
It would be fitting for Bochy to win the award in his final year, and that narrative would possibly propel voters to cast their ballots for him - a lifetime achievement of sorts - if the Giants overachieve and dabble with a winning record.
But also, I wouldn’t exactly count on that.
In conclusion, your 2019 San Francisco Giants: Probably Not Good Enough Individually, and Probably Not Good Enough Collectively.