It’s not always the case that the team you design winds up being the team you have. There’s always some combination of injury or ineffectiveness — rarely does a team meet the full measure of its expected powers; but today, the San Francisco Giants won 3-1 thanks to their grand design coming to fruition.
For the most part.
The day began with the announcement that they’d be without their would-be All-Star Thairo Estrada, who hit the 10-day IL with wrist inflammation. Estrada has been the best second baseman in the National League this season and his performance has been the main thing keeping the Giants afloat as they’ve tried to manage an early season malaise.
The big money players — Joc Pederson, Michael Conforto, Mitch Haniger, Taylor Rogers, Ross Stripling, and Sean Manaea — haven’t been playing up to their expected levels, and even Logan Webb, now holder of a $90 million extension, has not quite been the Logan Webb of recent years. That’s turning around, and games like today are a very clear signpost that the team is on the right path.
Logan Webb was the ace, Mitch Haniger had the big hit, and Michael Conforto delivered a key play with his arm. In between, Casey Schmitt and LaMonte Wade made nice plays on defense, and Patrick Bailey behind the plate continued to impress. Mixing in youthful talent with veteran consistency is what the Giants have aimed for and we saw that all on display today.
Logan Webb (5-year, $90 million extension)
Logan Webb began today’s game with a 2-0 count to Christian Yelich. He’d fall behind just 5 more times in the game, thrice to Brice Turang — and I dispute two of those three! The ball one call on the first pitch of the bottom of the 3rd inning against Bryce Turang, I mean, look at this thing:
Not as egregious but still a missed call and it was in the at bat that led to Turang’s triple in the 7th:
He had 18 swing and misses to Brewers’ ace Corbin Burnes’ 17, who didn’t look anything like what I wrote about him in the series preview:
But this is not the same Corbin Burnes of the past three seasons, who received Cy Young votes in two out of three while winning in 2021. This year, he has a 4.81 FIP in 56.2 IP and his K/9 is the lowest it has ever been (8.1). His Statcast metrics all look above average, but going a little bit deeper and it’s clear he’s lost a full mph off his cutter (94 this year vs. 95 last year), and spin off his slider. He’s been more hittable.
Burnes did not look like he lost a tick! 35% of his pitches were 95+ and he had 8 strikeouts in 7 innings. He gave the Giants everything they could handle and all Logan Webb did was calmly match him.
Edited to add: Please remember this date, the date of Casey Schmitt’s first walk. Congratulations, Casey. We knew you could do it. All the more impressive that it happened against Corbin Burnes.
Webb’s slider will be an interesting pitch for him as he ages, but he used it early to get a strikeout and even mixed in his four-seam fastball. He’s just so confident with his sinker and changeup — and so great with both pitches — that it almost seemed like he threw the other two just to make sure he didn’t get too predictable, even if he was tough to hit.
Mitch Haniger (3-year, $43.5 million with opt out after 2024)
His .667 OPS heading into today’s game wasn’t impressive or suggestive of a breakout, but there was one other factor here that had been overlooked, I think. His hard hit rate was a career-best 48.5%, and just based on the quality of his contact, Statcast indicates he’s hitting the ball on par with his career.
This is the guy who can hit 39 home runs, whose .215 ISO from 2016-2022 is 77th-best in baseball (equal to Nick Castellanos). That’s why the Giants gave him a three-year, $43.5 million contract in the offseason.
In other words, he’s been due.
So it should come as no surprise that he hit the farthest ball of the day to put the Giants in front for good:
Mitch Haniger - San Francisco Giants (4) pic.twitter.com/LJbrgagYij— MLB HR Videos (@MLBHRVideos) May 27, 2023
Except, it is a bit of a surprise because he has struggled so much at the start of the season. Maybe now it’s time for us to normalize Mitch Haniger being productive for the 2023 Giants.
Michael Conforto (2-year, $36 million, with opt out after 2023)
Despite an 0-for-3 today, he opened the scoring today with a sac fly in the top of the 1st. He’s had a great weekend and his play in the 7th inning to throw out Victor Caratini after Caratini had singled in Brice Turang to tie the game was critical.
Who knows how the rest of that inning goes if Caratini’s on second base. Gabe Kapler probably pulls Logan Webb and we get into some weirdness, or the 8th and 9th innings don’t work out as well as they did for the Giants today — and even though they did work out, the Brewers gave Tyler Rogers and Camilo Doval quite a lot to handle.
Statcast and Conforto have a complicated relationship. It loves what he did before the pandemic, with a lot of +5s and +6s at the corner outfield positions, but 2020-on he’s a -5 overall. I’m giving him a +1 for today.
I’m not going to sit here and say that Webb, Haniger, and Conforto are as good as the best three players on any other team. Webb’s status as one of the top starters in baseball is not really controversial, but Thairo Estrada remains their best position player. Haniger and Conforto are without question supposed to be a part of that core, though. Today, we saw why.
Tomorrow, the Giants will try to sweep the Brewers. The last time the Giants swept the Brewers at Miller Park/American Family Field was July 2010.