It’s a long season and the San Francisco Giants have played just 16.67% of it. They’re 11-16, though, and that’s not good. Does that mean they’re not a good team? Better question: does that mean they don’t have the potential to be? Let’s see if we can figure that out by looking at the things they’ve done well and those things they haven’t.
The Giants have the fifth-best lineup in Baseball. Their 5.0 fWAR is tied with the Angels, and ahead of the Blue Jays, Dodgers, Mets, Braves, Orioles, and Diamondbacks. There are some division leaders in that group! And it’s not just the hitting — although their 46 home runs as a team is 3rd in MLB — their +1.9 in Defensive Runs makes them one of only nine teams in the league with positive run values on defense.
The best Giant going right now is Thairo Estrada, with 1.4 fWAR on a line of .346/.393/.529. That’s good enough, including his +0.3 in Defensive Runs and +2.0 in Baserunning Runs, to make him the 10th-best player in baseball on May 1st. His weighted runs created+ (which averages him against the rest of the league) is 153, good for #20, ahead of Vlad Guerrero Jr., Matt Olson, Corbin Carroll, and Shohei Ohtani.
He is the best second baseman in baseball — on offense, anyway — in the game of baseball.
Update: dropping this image in from Monday night’s telecast:
The team’s top 10 (minimum 50 PA) doesn’t excite, but it’s interesting. By fWAR:
Thairo Estrada, 1.4
J.D. Davis, 1.0
LaMonte Wade Jr., 0.9
Mike Yastrzemski, 0.8
Blake Sabol, 0.3
Wilmer Flores, 0.2
Joc Pederson, 0.2
David Villar, 0.1
Michael Conforto, 0.1
Brandon Crawford, -0.1
Villar’s value comes from his defense (+1.6 Defensive Runs), while J.D. Davis has an eyepopping +3.3 Defensive Runs — by FanGraphs’ measure, he’s the second-best third baseman on defense in baseball (Pittsburgh’s Ke’Bryan Hayes is #1 with +3.7), and he’s half a run better than #3 on the list: Eugenio Suarez. He’s also a full run better than Nolan Arenado. Shocking stuff!
Less shocking — actually, not even surprising — has been Alex Cobb’s relative dominance. He’s the 10th-best pitcher in the NL through his first six starts (33.1 IP) with a +0.8 fWAR. He and Anthony DeSclafani are the top two pitchers in the NL — with Logan Webb at #6 — in terms of fewest walks per nine innings (0.90, 1.08, and 1.21, respectively). Cobb and DeSclafani are 9th and 11th in ERA, too (2.43, 2.70). And, of course, Alex Cobb is #1 in ground ball rate (60.8%). Despite his home run troubles, Logan Webb has the third best rate at 59.6%. DeSclafani checks in at #10 with 52.9%.
Now, trying to square all that with the rest of the staff is where it gets tough. The Giants’ staff does have the second-best xFIP — 3.80 — but they’re betrayed by their actual ERA of 4.75. The staff’s 9.35 K/9 is 12th in the game and their team BB/9 of 2.77 is third-best in MLB, too. The starting rotation’s 2.00 BB/9 is #1! They also lead the sport in groundball rate (49.6%), topping 2nd place Tampa Bay’s rate by 1.3%. Neat!
Their 18.9% home run rate is #1 with a bullet, though. In addition to their 4.75 team ERA, the actual FIP is 4.58, both in the bottom third of the league. They have just three relievers with positive fWAR — Brebbia (0.2), Camilo Doval (0.2), and Tyler Rogers (0.1). These three also represent the only pitchers Statcast views as being in the upper echelon of pitchers, as the quality of contact against them is so poor that it makes their stuff elite.
The Giants’ starting staff is tied with the Oakland A’s for 2nd-fewest innings (135.1) from a starting rotation. #1 throws off this being in the bad section of course — Tampa Bay has the fewest starting innings pitched at 134.1; however, the Giants’ goal this season was not to put together a staff like the Rays do. It was to get innings from their starters. Sean Manaea and Ross Stripling are two of the worst pitchers in the game.
Meanwhile, no lineup strikes out at a greater rate than the San Francisco Giants (27.5%).
- Giants pitchers have lost almost a full run thanks to pitch clock violations? How can that be? FanGraphs has the calculations. The Giants have the worst pitching staff when it comes to violating the pitch clock.
- They’ve also stolen just 17 bases in a high stolen base environment.
- Logan Webb hasn’t pitched like an ace, but he’s still at an elite level of strikeouts compared to his history (10.37 K/9 in 2023). His 2.71 xFIP suggests that the shift limits and juiced ball could be really hurting him. That’s not necessarily a doom and gloom situation, though. There’s every chance he can adjust his pitch sequencing and selection and make the adjustment.
After the first week of the season, I wrote that the Giants were more or less playing within the zone of performance you’d expect from the roster they were able to put together during the offseason. The Giants have mostly stumbled out of the gates, though, and they feel like they’re playing toward the lower end of their projections which could very well take them out of the running for a September playoff chase.
But the farm system actually seems to be developing some prospects for once, and even if it’s not Patrick Bailey in two months or Kyle Harrison next month, there’s still the possibility that a combination of the current players on the roster improving and some guys from Triple-A being promoted in a few months could help the Giants improve significantly in-season, a feat we’ve rarely seen.
It all depends on the goals, though. If you’re watching because you want to see championship baseball, then maybe this year’s team isn’t for you. If you’re hoping for an entertaining product, it’s easy to argue that they have already been that at times this season. If your goal is to see something consistently good, great, or excellent, that’s a tougher one to achieve, I think.
Consistent is a tough state to maintain in the game of baseball, and the Giants, who have to say that they want to compete for the playoffs every year — if they’ve ever said their goal is to be in the playoffs, then forgive me, I laugh that thought out of my mind as soon as I hear it because it’s just marketing — will try their best to put together the best team they can in hopes of coming close to realizing that. So, for me, the goal is to see if they can realize their own internal plan.
Did they nail their projections? Do they have multiple dialogue branches in their coaching communication with players? Does the model allow for significant in-season adjustments? Right now, it’s feeling a lot like watching a show or movie and not totally getting what it’s going for, but then reading an interview afterwards with the showrunner or director where they explain some of it and you think back and go, “Oh, yeah, I guess I kinda see that.”
But it’s only been a month and the amount of good seems almost equal to the bad. Maybe the Giants didn’t fully appreciate the impact the shift limitations would have on their groundballers. Then again, Alex Cobb and Anthony DeSclafani are doing pretty great. Maybe the Giants just haven’t quite figured out what needs to be figured out or maybe it’s not a matter of figuring anything out. They just have to execute the way they expect to; and, look, if they can make J.D. Davis into an above average defender, even for a month, I have to believe anything is possible.
Is an 11-16 month as bad as it gets for the 2023 Giants?
This poll is closed
Maybe so, but who cares, this is year 2 of a 5-year rebuild. Trust the process!