I admit the 2021 San Francisco Giants Baseball Reference page is bookmarked on my browser. I spend an unhealthy amount of time scrolling longingly along its team batting stats, getting lost in the game logs and players’ pitching splits.
I’m always pleasantly surprised by the lineup of team WAR leaders and how Anthony DeSclafani’s stern visage sandwiched between a cheeky Logan Webb and Buster Posey’s school boy smile.
Why the long face Disco? Your 4.0 mark is tied with Webb for 3rd on the team and 3rd among the Giants’ starting pitchers! You threw 167.2 innings with a 3.17 ERA (13th in MLB among qualified pitchers) and 3.89 xERA (24th), a 1.091 WHIP (16th), a .265 BABIP (6th).
In a lot of ways, DeSclafani’s 2021 season was greater than the sum of its parts. He was solidly above average in total performance with no single statistic standing out above the rest. He didn’t deal swing-and-miss stuff, but he didn’t hand out free bases. He did well mixing a hard slider with a swervy sinker while getting tougher on hitters the second time through lineups. Balls were hit in the air but generally stayed in the park. He stranded runners on base and handled below-.500 teams, throwing 2 complete game shutouts before the All-Star break against the Colorado Rockies (in S.F.) and Washington Nationals.
A true mid-rotation starter. Our Third Man.
But even after a career year, he’s still haunted by the thing that haunts us all: the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Through mid-May—his first 9 starts—DeSclafani had a 2.03 ERA. It was one of the many perplexing and certainly ephemeral positive qualities in those early spring months.
The Giants were good but that wouldn’t last...
DeSclafani was dominant but that wouldn’t last either…because the Dodgers.
Always because the Dodgers.
Cut to: EXT. Oracle Park - Giants-Dodgers series, May 2021. The Giants swept, and Disco pummeled for 10 runs before Kapler mercifully threw a coat over his head and escorted him hurriedly from the premises.
Before his bruised 3.54 ERA could subside, DeSclafani’s next start came...against L.A. He fared better, though did not make it out of the 5th. He gave up 2 runs on 5 hits and 4 BBs, but the Giants still claimed their first win against LA after a Tyler Rogers 3-run implosion, a Tauchman Takeaway, and some sprinkling of Late Night from LaMonte Wade Jr. against Kenley Jansen.
Disco drew the short straw in the clubhouse, facing the Dodgers 6 times in total during the regular season while Kevin Gausman, Logan Webb, and Alex Wood only faced them 3 games each. Over 27 innings pitching, DeSclafani allowed 22 runs on 33 hits. He made it through the 6th twice and was yanked before finishing the 3rd twice.
And after the Wind Game and an opportunity to clinch the division series in Game 4, DeSclafani took the mound for the 7th time against LA and was pulled with 2 outs in the 2nd.
Hate to say it—but it was kind of expected.
Since that start nothing good has happened for DeSclafani in a Giants uniform—including this screen grab.
He put together 3 brief appearances in April, exiting in the 5th in a game against the Mets with a flare up of a right ankle injury that was a minor issue for him the previous season.
The flare up lasted for 60 days. He came back in June, threw 5.2 innings across 2 games and went to the IL with right ankle inflammation again. After dealing with discomfort and pain for all of 2022, he opted to have season ending surgery in July.
Farhan Zaidi is optimistic about Disco’s rehabilitation (but I think he’s paid to say that). Even so, it feels reasonable to be hopeful. The injury is not arm-related which is always good news. Throwing only 19 innings over the last year is noteworthy, but he has shown he can rebound from a low workload (33 IP in 2020 to 167.2 IP in 2021). Nor are there any glaring self-destructive tendencies in his wind-up. His delivery isn’t Lincecum’s hip-eater nor Wood’s stork-y delivery—it’s compact, to the point. A 2000 Honda Civic would be a fair comp: durable with little fuss.
Still, his right ankle is the foundation of his wind-up. Expect a dip in velocity on his mid-range fastball, which could effect the movement he gets on his sinker. All of this will be on Kapler and Company’s radar. I’m sure they’ll ease him back into the big league waters with pitch limits and/or having him tag-team some games with lefty counterparts in Wood or Sean Manaea.
A couple weeks back I wrote about the front office hoping for a rebound from LaMonte Wade Jr. after a season frustrated by injury. Disco is in the same boat…there might be a few others on the Giants roster crowding the deck as well. Half of the roster feels like their draped in Riddler green.
With that many question marks, it’s hard to rally excitement—but of all San Francisco’s potential rebounders, DeSclafani feels like the best bet for a resurgence. It feels like a resurgence for him is defined by reasonableness. The expectation isn’t for him to replace Carlos Rodón’s strikeout totals and spearhead a rotation, it’s for him to add longevity to the staff by putting together more quality starts than not, eat innings, and stay healthy. He raises a team’s ceiling by lifting their floor.
It’s not flashy, but it is Disco.