Hey there! This is going to be a depressing article! So, before we get started, let’s just take a deep inhale from the sweet, sweet bag o’ highlights. It’s been pretty empty these days, but I think…
Ah! Here we go.
If you’re not a glutton for misery, I’d recommend you stop reading here. Just take your Denny’s breakfast special to go before the melancholia of a musty diner masquerading as a successful franchise seeps into your bones and ruins the rest of your day. Or, you can watch me struggle to find a reason to be optimistic about a team offense that has collectively batted like Kevin Pillar since 2017.
I mean, just look at these lines:
Kevin Pillar (2019; not counting today’s HR): .249/.277/.415
San Francisco Giants (2017–2019): .240/.302./.373
The Giants are (barely) walking more, but they’re batting like the baseball embodiment of a brownout. Whatever the case, it’s good for a league-worst 80 wRC+ across the last two-and-a-half seasons.
For those of you who aren’t nerds:
wRC+ takes the statistic Runs Created and adjusts that number to account for important external factors—like ballpark or era. It’s adjusted, so a wRC+ of 100 is league average and 150 would be 50 percent above league average.
In other words, the Giants are batting 20 percent below league average as a team.
And yet, even that feels like it’s underselling how bad things are. Right now, only six Giants are batting at or above league average: Alex Dickerson, Pablo Sandoval, Brandon Belt, Stephen Vogt, Mike Yastrzemski, and Aramis Garcia. Two of those players (Sandoval and Vogt) are bench players, one (Yastrzemski) probably should be a bench player, one (Garcia) isn’t even on the active roster, and one is Brandon Belt. And while I want to believe, I don’t think Dickerson’s 384 wRC+ is sustainable.
Well, at least his teammates seem to *ahem* like him.
DICK! DICK! DICK! DICK! DICK! pic.twitter.com/MH4uIyI2Ul— Kenny Kelly (@KennyKellyWords) June 22, 2019
Recently, Doug asked what the Giants have to play for, and I think the same question could be posed to the offense. Oh sure, there are personal accolades to chase. It would be nice to see Brandon Belt crack 20 home runs for the first time in his career. And it would also be nice to see Buster Posey realize he’s never lost his mojo and resume the #RaceTo200.
But for a team that presumably wants to win games in the near future, what reason does this offense have to give a feck?
Making the Highlight Reel
There’s a simple joy to highlights. Regardless of a player’s stats or talent level, it’s a chance for him to stand out in a single, glorious moment free of any larger context. Think Kelby Tomlinson hitting a grand slam for his first career home run, or Kelby Tomlinson hitting an inside-the-parker, or Kelby Tomlinson hitting a dinger off of Clayton Kershaw. Tomlinson might not be a good baseball player, but baseball gods help me if those moments don’t release shots of dopamine right into my brain.
Dickerson might get DFA’d next week, but we’ll always have Phoenix. Kevin Pillar will probably continue to swing like every pitch is a strike, but we’ll always have his grand slam.
KEVIN. PILLAR. GRAND. SLAM. pic.twitter.com/OrhejnHBuC— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) April 9, 2019
And as desultory as the churn has been, it’s given us one of my favorite first career hits ever.
(Note: MLB does not like it when people watch baseball highlights, so you’ll have to click on the link to see Yastrzemski TOOTBLAN the living daisies out of his first career hit.)
None of these moments will contribute to the Giants’ future success, but they don’t have to. They can be exactly what they are—perfect, little sparks of joy.
Play for a Better Tomorrow
To paraphrase Gandalf the White, the lineup as it’s currently composed doesn’t offer much hope—just a fool’s hope that things might get better sooner rather than later. The core of Posey, Belt, Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik, and Evan Longoria aren’t going to get better, nor will they likely be around when the Giants are a good baseball team again.
But some players on the roster have a chance to contribute in the future. Tyler Austin is striking out like he just saw the Ghost of Chris Shaw’s Past, but that power potential is real; under the right manager, he could be poised for a breakout. Garcia might make Sandoval look like Joey Votto, but he’s slugging .506 over his short career—let’s see if his power potential is real. Yastrzemski could turn into a quality bench bat, which is nothing to scoff at. Plus, there are all the youngsters waiting in the wings: Shaw, Mike Gerber, Austin Slater, Marco Luciano, Joey Bart, and of course, the second coming of Barry Bonds (AKA Heliot Ramos).
And let’s not forget the veterans who might be playing themselves onto a contending team. There’s always a market for competent backup catchers (known around these parts as the reverse Nick Hundley), and Vogt is playing himself into that field. And who knows, maybe someone will bite on Sandoval.
Godspeed, Vogt and Sandoval. Here’s hoping you land on a winner and bring back some prospects.