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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Is it 2018 yet?

To say this season hasn't gone according to plan would be an insult to all poor planners out there in the history of planning. The Giants season hasn't just NOT gone according to plan, it essentially was replaced by a stink bomb gag season that came wrapped in glorious wrapping paper and pretty bows but was unveiled to be what it truly was: a foul smelling piece of crap.

We are halfway through this 2017 season, the Giants have nearly 60 losses already (and about half as many wins) and the only thing that Giants fans care about right now are what aging declining veterans might get traded just to trim the fat off a roster that has monstrously underperformed. The Giants are sellers, they are a bajillion games behind the first place Dodgers, and are vying with the atrocious Phillies for the worst record in baseball. That's a pretty crazy turnaround for a team that a year ago had the best record in baseball. Granted, the very very poor 2nd half of 2016 maybe should have served as a warning sign. But the Giants still made the playoffs and gave the Cubs all they could handle so if anyone said they saw this downward spiral coming, ask them for the weekend's lottery numbers.

Are we witnessing Murphy's Law? Whatever can go wrong will go wrong? Because very little has gone right for the Giants this season. Aside from Buster Posey having another All Star season and putting together what might be his 2nd best season overall as a major leaguer, the Giants aren't seeing many positives. Let's go through the laundry list:

Madison Bumgarner made 4 starts and then severely injured himself dirt biking on an off day. Bumgarner may only pitch once every 5 days but he's a monster piece of the team in terms of swagger, attitude, and confidence. Losing him for months (hey, he's back today!) may have deflated an already seeping air Giants balloon. It was the straw that broke the Giants backs.

Brandon Crawford has struggled offensively and had a personal tragedy. Players are human and have emotions and feelings. Losing a sister-in-law unexpectedly and then having to go out and play baseball like nothing's wrong could have a toll on a man who values family so much. Crawford hasn't been the B-Craw we've gotten used to the last few seasons. Is he just having an off year, is he declining, or is he just grieving? Who knows but his offensive decline has impacted a line-up that needs its cogs to click.

The LF experiment was DOA. Look, we all know the Giants are pretty antsy about their budget and the luxury tax. They signed Melancon and decided they were done retooling the team hoping someone would be able to play LF capably at some point. Well, that plan was questionable at the start anyways and it was exposed when the rest of the line-up struggled. It has essentially been an open tryout all season long. It was solved briefly when Austin Slater came up and, unlike all the others, decided to NOT suck, but as the season has gone, he got injured and will now miss most of the 2nd half. Maybe there's a reason the Giants are being mentioned in Giancarlo Stanton talks. It'll never happen but it's fun to dream of once again having one of the best power hitters in the game playing left field.

The Mark Melancon signing had an ominous beginning and never got better. Last year's Giants bullpen was a mess and the closer role was definitely one of the culprits. So the Giants went out, signed the closer everyone thought they'd sign, and called it a day. Never mind the rest of that awful bullpen from 2016, if you gave them a leader, they'd for sure fall in line and perform. Right? Wrong. The bullpen is equally as bad this season with not one of the incumbents showing any sign of real improvement. Hunter Strickland has probably been the best reliever all said and done and he got suspended for a week for hitting Bryce Harper because Hunter Strickland never forgets. The fact that Strickland is your best reliever says all you need to know about the bullpen. Maybe we should have known this year was going to be terrible when Melancon blew his very first save opportunity on Opening Day. That should have been an ominous sign that the pen had NOT been fixed. Or that we were going to get punished for whatever reason. Regardless, the pen has been awful and Melancon was not the stress-free closer the Giants thought they were getting. He also may be damaged goods as he's now on the DL for the second time this season with no return date set.

The bench? What bench? The Giants spent the rest of the offseason after signing Melancon trying to find lightning in a bottle. They signed a bunch of veterans and probably hoped one or two would turn out to be an okay bench piece. None have. Michael Morse has been out with a concussion since Jeff Samardzija inadvertently tackled him in the Bryce Harper/Hunter Strickland title match. Jimmy Rollins never made the team. Melvin Upton Jr was probably close to getting a look-see from the minors then got his hand broken on a hit by pitch. Nick Hundley has been okay as the backup catcher but has he really been any better than Trevor Brown would have been? 2016 Postseason Would-Be Legend Conor Gillaspie has been mostly a ghost and has himself seen more DL time than playing time. The bench has no scary bats on it and is just another example of the Giants failed plan.

The rotation is pretty bad. The rotation was supposed to be NOT pretty bad. The rotation wasn't even supposed to be average or good. The rotation was supposed to be great. One of the best in the game. Two aces in Bumgarner and Cueto. A solid number 3 in Matt Moore who once had number 1 stuff who looked good down the stretch and in the playoffs in 2016. A reincarnated, reinvented Jeff Samardzija as your number 4? A 200 innings horse who could give you quality starts? And then, a blackhole in the 5th slot where Matt Cain was going to reside as a farewell tour but with hope and promise waiting in the wings in Beede, Andew Suarez, and Joan Gregorio. Well, Bumgarner got hurt, Cueto became ordinary at best, Matt Moore morphed into the worst starter in the National League, and Matt Cain, well, he's been the same Matt Cain from the past few seasons... a not very good starting pitcher. The only bright spot has been Samardzija who's peripherals look really good but who's classic stats look mediocre (E.R.A. and wins and losses). Beede has struggled in AAA, Joan Gregorio got suspended for PED's, and Andrew Suarez... well, he's actually doing okay so we might see him after the Giants trade Bumgarner (kidding!). Ty Blach actually took Bumgarner's spot when he got injured and he's actually pitched like a serviceable MLB starter so that is a positive as well. But it doesn't offset all the other rotation issues. The Giants will need to figure out what they want to do here moving forward. Cueto's opt out looms despite him having a mediocre season and now's on the DL with blister problems which probably means he doesn't get traded at the deadline. So the Giants will either watch him opt out for nothing or be stuck with him for 4 more seasons and 84M. That's not bad if he goes back to being the Cueto of old. But who knows?

Bright spots keep getting dimmed. In a season where the only thing Giants fans can really look forward to is seeing glimpses of the future, the brightest futures have already been shelved. As noted, Austin Slater is out for most of the 2nd half due to injury. And top prospect Christian Arroyo, after getting a cup of coffee for a couple weeks, went back down to the minors, got hit by a pitch that put him on the DL, then on the day he returned to the line-up got hit by a pitch again that broke his hand. He's out for most of the 2nd half now as well. What this means is that, in a lost season, the Giants lost two of their players that had the best chance of having an impact now and into the future. It's been that kind of year.

The worst of all of this is that it's not just that the Giants are boring, terrible, awful, and literally one of the worst teams in baseball. It's that the DODGERS are the exact opposite. The Dodgers are the best team in the National League and have all the makings of a true World Series contender. They're having amazing comebacks, they're having fun, they have a rookie that came out of relatively nowhere to go bonkers on the league...

It would be fitting for this crap season to end with those bums in blue winning a title. So I guess we can really only hope some other team can knock them off. The Giants won't have that opportunity this season. And yes, I'm STILL annoyed we didn't get a Dodgers/Giants NLCS in 2016 (damn you bullpen!!). So the Giants play now for 2018. What can they do and who can they take a look at to make 2018 not suck like 2017 has sucked. We'll find out in the coming weeks as the trade deadline looms. But as each Giants loss mounts, the only question is...

Is it 2018 yet?