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San Francisco Giants Have Crucial Weeks for MLB Season

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As of today, the San Francisco Giants are 44-42 and sit two games behind the St. Louis Cardinals (As of 7/13/22)for the third and final wild-card position. The Philadelphia Phillies also sit one game ahead of the Giants in the standings. The season is by no means over, but the next ten or so games will determine the fate of their season.

The Season So Far

The Giants started the first 64 games of the season going 37-27. Through these games, the giants held the second Wild Card position and were only three games back of the Dodgers for first place in the National League West. This was after the Giants defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-5 on June 18th. On June 19th, Jack Suwinski hit three home runs including a walk-off home run to defeat the Giants 4-3. Since that game, the Giants have gone 7-15.

Today, I feel safe saying the Dodgers will run away with the National League West. They are seven and a half games ahead of the Padres and 12 ahead of the Giants. The Giants’ route to the playoffs is through the Wild Card. Can the Giants manage to beat out the Phillies and Cardinals for the last wild card spot?

Strength of Schedule

According to Tankathon, the Giants have the 10th hardest schedule for the remainder of the season. The Phillies have the 27th hardest schedule and the Cardinals have the 30th hardest schedule. That is not good for San Francisco. The Giants have three games remaining against Phillidalphia starting September 2nd. The Cardinals and Giants do not have any remaining head-to-head games this year. From these stats alone, the odds are against San Francisco. The Giants have a tough schedule and do not have many opportunities to face the teams that they are chasing. Although the odds are stacked against the Giants, making up two games is not a crazy thought. Crazier things have happened. We just saw the Seattle Mariners make up eight games in twenty days. Anything is possible

Buyers or Fire Sale?

The next couple of weeks will determine if the Giants’ front office will try to add new pieces, or will try to retool for the coming seasons. Before the All-Star break, the Giants will face the Diamondbacks one more time and will conclude the first half by facing the Brewers in a four-game series at home. After the break, the Giants open in Los Angeles to face the Dodgers in a four-game series, then they go to Arizona to face the Diamondbacks for three games. The series against the Diamondbacks wraps up on July 27th. The Trade Deadline is on August 2nd so they will need to decide if they are buyers or sellers around the time the Diamondbacks series ends.

My guess is this; If the Giants lose any more ground in the wild-card race before July 27th, they will sell. If they can stay within a game or two of a playoff spot, they will try to buy. When I say “buy”, I don’t mean going and trading all of their top prospects for a one-year rental. The additions would be either minor trades or trades for guys that can help them in the coming years.

The Giants are one of the teams in baseball that are caught in a weird place. They are too close to the playoffs to sell, and not nearly close enough to put all of their chips in. That is why the next ten or so games are so crucial in the front office’s path to approaching the trade deadline.

Where to Add?

If the Giants are going to try to add for this season, they will be looking for help in the bullpen and help in the field. They need major upgrades in the bullpen. As of July 12th, they are 21st in bullpen ERA. FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is a stat that takes defense out of the equation and measures a pitcher’s ability to limit contact, limit walks, and limit home runs. FIP is by no means the best tool to measure a pitcher but in this situation, FIP shows a major hole in the Giants’ team construction. The Giants relievers have a combined FIP of 3.79 which is the 11th best in the major leagues. What this tells me is that the Giants’ bullpen struggles are partially due to poor defense. So although the bullpen may be an issue, there is an even bigger issue at hand.

As of 7/12/22, the Giants are currently last in the majors in OAA (Outs Above Average), with -34 OAA. That is bad, not just bad, but absolutely abysmal. Where is the defense bad? They are 28th in outfield OAA, 27th in first base OAA, 27th in second base OAA, and 27th in shortstop OAA. Catching and third base metrics aren’t great but also aren’t nearly as bad as the other positions mentioned.

The Giants have an issue on defense. They can not address every single defensive issue during this trade deadline. But they can look for small pieces that can help. Defensive replacements that can help them late in games. A player the Giants should look into is Michael A. Taylor. He is a defense-first type center fielder who is on the Royals, who will probably be looking to trade him. He is under contract through 2023. He may acquire a decent-sized haul because he has been an above-average hitter this year to go along with his elite glove. A cheaper option would be outfielder Jake Marisnick. Marisnick is currently on the Pirates and will be a free agent at the end of the season. He won’t offer much value at the plate but does have stellar defensive numbers this season. These are just a couple of outfielders that will be on the market that the Giants could target.

Along the infield, the Giants have established players who have been good fielders in the past. Most notably Evan Longoria, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt. The Giants are stuck with rolling these guys out there and hoping they do well in the field. They may just have to live with that or potentially search somewhere for a cheap backup infielder.

What Could Be Sold?

The Giants may be very tempted to sell pieces off at the deadline. With the extra playoff spot, more teams are trying to add, which raises the value to guys on the trade block. Listed below are the Giants that will be free agents at the end of the year.

Carlos Rodon (Player Option if pitches 110 Innings, currently at 100)
Brandon Belt
Evan Longoria
Joc Pederson
Matt Boyd
Wilmer Flores
Curt Casali
Dominic Leone
Jose Alvarez

From this list, I think the least likely to get traded is Brandon Belt. Belt is a lifelong Giant and a very big part of the clubhouse, I don’t see the Giants parting ways with him. The two most intriguing players are Carlos Rodon and Joc Pederson. Rodon will easily surpass the threshold to reach his player option. He would likely opt out of his contract because of the amazing season he is having. He would bring in a huge package of players if he was traded. Joc Pederson is also an all-star who would likely be traded. He was traded last trade deadline and went on to be a postseason hero for the Atlanta Braves.

If the Giants choose to go further than selling players who will be free agents after this season, they could look to trade starting pitchers Alex Cobb, Alex Wood, and Anthony Desclafani. I doubt they would trade all of their starting rotation, but they could go that route.

As a Giants fan, you probably don’t want to think about your team selling off noteworthy players, but that’s the position the recent struggles have put the Giants in. The next couple of weeks will be crucial. Right now is make or break time in the Bay Area.

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