The San Francisco Giants depth, or lack thereof, has been a talking point the last few years.
It’s understandable, because it’s frequently on display.
Since 2016, Brandon Crawford has run the spikes off his cleats because the Giants have no one else they feel comfortable putting at shortstop for nine measly innings. He’s literally running around on sawed off shoes.
The roster has been subject to numerous starts from players who, quite frankly, shouldn’t be starting, because they didn’t game plan for the fact that maybe someone will get hurt over the course of 162 athletic challenges.
Madison Bumgarner has made numerous pinch hit appearances, because who else on the bench is supposed to provide an offensive spark?
But don’t let the bad bench distract you from the bad starters.
I know, I know: It wasn’t. You’re aware of the limitations of the 2019 Giants. It’s abundantly clear that they possess an alarming number of not-good players.
But what’s even more startling is the amount of not-great players they possess. 25 of them, on any given day, give or take zero.
Sometimes I forget that the Giants don’t have great players. You can forgive my brain for its flatulence.
Buster Posey once hit .336/.408/.549, in a pitcher’s park, with A++ defense, en route to an MVP award. Bumgarner once turned in one of the greatest and most memorable postseason runs in MLB history. Pablo Sandoval smacked a trio of dingers in a World Series game. Johnny Cueto, when on, is unstoppable. I’ve argued about Brandon Belt so many times that I sometimes forget he’s merely “quite good” and not a world-beater.
But yesterday I was hit by a painful reality, as happens to people watching Giants games. I found myself eagerly awaiting Sandoval’s at-bats the way I imagine an Angels fan awaits Mike Trout’s at-bats: Thinking, “He’ll be up fourth, there’s a chance they’ll score this inning.”
I love Sandoval, but that’s not a compliment to him. It’s an indictment of the team.
So here’s a highly arbitrary but still telling collection of data. Here are all 30 MLB teams, separated by how many players on their roster have been worth at least one win above replacement, per Fangraphs.
8 players worth 1+ WAR: Astros, Rays, Red Sox
7 players worth 1+ WAR: Cubs, Diamondbacks, Twins
6 players worth 1+ WAR: Dodgers, Mets, Yankees
5 players worth 1+ WAR: Reds
4 players worth 1+ WAR: Angels, Mariners, Nationals, Padres, Phillies, Rangers, Royals, White Sox
3 players worth 1+ WAR: Athletics, Atlanta, Brewers, Cardinals, Pirates, Rockies
2 players worth 1+ WAR: Blue Jays, Cleveland, Tigers
1 player worth 1+ WAR: Marlins, Orioles
0 players worth 1+ WAR: Giants
Now, is this a hilariously flawed way of looking at things? Of course. 1.0 WAR is a highly arbitrary cutoff that I only chose because A) as a member of society I’m trained to value round numbers, and B) it happens to be the lowest figure that still excludes the Giants.
Had Buster Posey not been injured, he would have surpassed the benchmark. Had I counted Madison Bumgarner the pitcher and Madison Bumgarner the hitter as one player, he, too, would have surpassed the benchmark.
There’s a lot of shenanigans in here, but don’t let it distract from the point. It’s kind of like using $5,364,262.89 as the benchmark for whether or not a person is rich. It’s arbitrary. It’s imperfect. And yet, everyone above that figure is, indeed, rich.
The Giants have played 42 games, and don’t have a single player worth 1.0 wins above replacement. Not even the lowly Miami Marlins can say that.
If you prefer another way of looking at futility, here you go:
7 players with more home runs than any Giant: Mariners
6 players with more home runs than any Giant: Twins
5 players with more home runs than any Giant: Astros, Red Sox
4 players with more home runs than any Giant: Angels, Brewers, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Padres, Rays, Reds
3 players with more home runs than any Giant: Phillies, Atlanta, Cardinals, Orioles, Phillies, Rangers, Rockies, Royals, White Sox, Yankees
2 players with more home runs than any Giant: Athletics, Mets
1 player with more home runs than any Giant: Blue Jays, Nationals, Pirates
0 players with more home runs than any Giant: Cleveland, Marlins, Tigers
Equally arbitrary, equally futile.
You can see why Farhan Zaidi pushed pushed all his chips onto the table during the high stakes game of Bryce Harper Hold ‘Em. The rebuilding of the farm, and the shuffling of overlooked players who may actually be good will likely make the Giants relevant sooner rather than later.
But whether through those means or other ones, this team is in dire need of some star talent.