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Checking in on Farhan Zaidi’s tenure as President of Baseball Operations

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It’s never too early to declare the new guy in charge a huge success/bust.

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

When the San Francisco Giants announced Farhan Zaidi as their new President of Baseball Operations, it was more than just filling a previously vacant position. It was a statement that the Giants were finally going to embrace—

Oh, excuse me, not sure how that got in there. Anyway, it was a statement that the team was taking a big, bold step forward—

Uh, I don’t know how that’s even rele—

SHUT UP, EVERYONE!

Okay, so a lot of his moves haven’t exactly been what we would call popular. But much like Captain Edward Jellico of the USS Cairo, Zaidi isn’t here to make popular decisions; he’s here to make effective ones, and to alleviate a potential diplomatic crisis with the Cardassians—er, to help the Giants become a competitive team again through the power of advanced metrics.

Still, like others on this site and *gestures at the internet* out there, I think it’s understandable to be skeptical about the early returns of the new front office’s methodology. After all, the Giants have now employed 38 39 different players this season, and so far, none of Zaidi’s acquisitions have turned into the Max Muncy we were promised.

To be clear, I am under no illusions that the Giants would be good this season—Zaidi’s an incredibly qualified baseball executive, not a miracle worker. And to be even clearer, I don’t think it’s fair yet to compare Zaidi’s time with the Los Angeles Dodgers to his performance so far with the Giants. Players like Muncy and Chris Taylor have turned into savvy gets, and Zaidi certainly deserves credit for them, but contrary to popular belief, neither of those players just showed up overnight in Los Angeles and started raking. Muncy spent a year and nine games with the Dodgers’ AAA affiliate, while Taylor toiled away in Oklahoma City for 88 games before he got called up. Expecting Zaidi’s recent additions to perform instantly is unreasonable.

But as my mom always says, life isn’t fair, which is why Zaidi is making millions DFA’ing players from your favorite team while I’m scraping by writing articles for my worthless wonderful adoptive son, so let’s evaluate just how well the new PBO’s acquisitions like Connor Joe Gerardo Parra Pat Venditte Aaron Altherr okay you get the joke by now let’s move on.

The Pitchers: Drew Pomeranz, Nick Vincent, Travis Bergen, Trevor Gott

Mein Gott, it’s full of…not-stars. Drew Pomeranz hasn’t lived up to the hope of a bounce-back season, thanks to an unsightly 5.66 ERA that’s actually outperforming his FIP of 5.77. He’s helped out by the fact that the Giants need someone to throw multiple innings once every five days, but it seems clear that Pomeranz is not long for this team.

Meanwhile, Nick Vincent and Rule 5 draft pick Travis Bergen have been extremely okay. Vincent has been racking up plenty of strikeouts (good!) and long balls (bad!), but the latter is buoyed by a (probably) unsustainable HR/FB ratio of nearly 15 percent—which isn’t great for any pitcher, but especially awful for a reliever who only induces ground balls about a third of the time. Bergen, who just landed on the IL for a shoulder strain, got off to a nice start before the Washington Nationals decided to pay homage to the glory days of NASA by launching a couple of moonshots against him. However, with the exception of his outing against the Cincinnati Reds, Bergen has pitched well ever since, albeit in blowouts. Nevertheless, the verdict on both pitchers is solidly TBD.

But where these pitchers have underwhelmed, Trevor Gott has quietly excelled. He’s in the top 30 among all relievers for both strikeout-to-walk and HR/9 rates to go along with an above-average 2.43 FIP. The cherry on top is that the Nationals essentially just gave Gott away for practically nothing. Even Faust got a better deal out of selling his soul to the devil.

If there is a clear leader in the Max Muncy Sweepstakes, it’s got to be Gott.

The Hitters: Kevin Pillar, Stephen Vogt, Tyler Austin

If the pitchers Zaidi has acquired have been mediocre, then the batters have been downright offensive hur hur hur.

But seriously, the majority of Zaidi’s additions have had better luck hitting the road than hitting baseballs. And in this sad farce of a Batoru Rowaiaru showdown, we are now left with three competitors: Kevin Pillar, Stephen Vogt, and Tyler Austin.

As Brady pointed out last month, Pillar has been pretty ba—

WATCH THE GAME, NERDS!

Seriously, watch the games. Despite the home runs, Pillar is sporting a miserable line of .204/.232/.353, good for -0.4 bWAR. He doesn’t hit, he doesn’t get on base, and when he does hit, he doesn’t hit for much power. Trading for Pillar might be Zaidi’s most perplexing move yet, as the 30-year-old centerfielder didn’t offer much upside at the time of his arrival, and he offers even less now.

As for Stephen Vogt, well…

I BELIEVE IN STEPHEN VOGT! I BELIEVE IN STEPHEN VOGT! I BELIEVE IN STEPHEN VOGT! I BELIEVE IN STEPHEN VOGT! I BELIEVE IN STEPHEN VOGT! I BELIEVE IN STEPHEN VOGT! I BELIEVE IN STEPHEN VOGT! I BELIEVE IN STEPHEN VOGT! I BELIEVE IN STEPHEN VOGT!

Vogt only has 35 plate appearances this year, so it’s far too early to say much of anything, but he’s been fine. He’s put up an even-steven 100 OPS+, which is arguably great for a backup catcher. But, again, only 35 plate appearances.

And then there’s Tyler Austin. His highlights aren’t nearly as dramatic—though his two-homer game against the Colorado Rockies was nice—but he’s easily the best hitter that Zaidi has acquired so far. Like Vogt, Austin hasn’t had many opportunities, but when he’s gotten a chance to play, he’s made it count—at least, more so than Pillar. Or Mac Williamson. Or Steven Duggar.

My point is, Austin should be playing more. Is he the next Max Muncy? Probably not. Is he better than Pillar? Definitely. And splits aside, it’s getting harder every day to justify giving Pillar at bats against RHP over Austin.

So there you have it—the fruits of Zaidi’s tenure! It’s…well…fine, I guess? I mean, it’s only 40-some games into the season, there’s no reason to overrea—

Siiiiiiiiiiiigh.