2016 SF Giants – End Of The Road

2016 SF Giants

The 2016 SF Giants have come to the end of the road.

This feels flat out weird. It’s an even year. The Giants are in the playoffs. And they didn’t win the World Series.

Since 2010, all Giants fans knew is that every other year they were going to run through the playoffs. But prior to that, all Giants fans knew was heartbreak. Their previous World Series victory was in 1954 and the team wasn’t even in San Francisco yet. They made the World Series three times while in San Francisco (1962, 1989, and 2002) and in two of those years, lost in seven games. We don’t have to talk about 1989. In fact, I’m not even sure why I brought it up.

I’m not even sure how to feel about losing in the divisional series after winning it all the last three times I’ve watched the Giants in the playoffs. How do you rate the feeling of losing in the round that isn’t even the round before the World Series?

The frustration from losing to the best team in baseball will go away shortly. The Giants shouldn’t have been in this series. And they played their hearts out, losing the way they usually lost during the regular season – bullpen implosion.

Here’s some food for thought:

The Cubs, as a team, gave up less runs than the Giants, and scored nearly 100 more runs. Statistically, this Cubs team is excellent and should win the whole shebang.

Knowing that makes it better, but it still sucks.

For most of game four, it was going so well. They scored first for the first time all series. Denard Span doubled and Buster Posey eventually scored him with a sacrifice fly. The Cubs matched them in the 3rd with a David Ross home run. But then the Giants did something they hadn’t done all series long. They took a commanding lead. They scored two runs in the fourth thanks to starting pitcher Matt Moore’s base hit with the bases loaded and a Span fielder’s choice. The Cubs got one back in the fifth, before the Giants got another two in the bottom half thanks to a near Brandon Crawford home run and clutch hits Conor “Babe” Gillaspie and Joey Panik and they led 5-2.

Moore pitched a terrific ballgame, going eight innings and only giving up two runs (one earned) and striking out ten Cubs. He left the game after throwing his 120th pitch, which was a strike three to Dexter Fowler. Bochy had no intention of having him come out for the ninth. He turned it over to the worst part of the Giants team, the bullpen.

It didn’t take long for the Giants to show that October even year magic couldn’t save their bullpen.

Bochy said after Monday night’s victory that we would know who would close the game in the ninth inning. Well, that was better than saying what he really meant which was bullpen by committee.

He threw Derek Law out there for one batter, which was Kris Bryant. Of course, Bryant got a hit. He then brought Javier Lopez in to face Anthony Rizzo. Lopez pitched scared, walking him on five pitches. That brought Bochy back out to bring in Sergio Romo. The Giants might be the only team to have two late inning relievers who can only throw 85. Like clockwork, Ben Zobrist greeted Romo with a double and it was 5-3.

Bochy brought in Will Smith to face pinch-hitter Chris Coghlan, but Joe Maddon replaced him with Willson Contreras and he hit a ball up the middle that had eyes. That plated two runners and it was now tied. The Giants had yet to get an out.

Brandon Crawford, who had a throwing error in the 5th which led to the Cubs second run, was also partially to blame for the go ahead run. Jason Heyweard bunted the ball right back to Smith and he wheeled to Crawford for the force. Crawford’s throw was way wide and went into the dugout. Heyward was on second thanks to the error. Hunter Strickland entered the game and Javy Baez (who I keep calling Danny Baez) singled up the middle to bring in the fourth run of the inning. The Cubs had come all the way back from a 5-2 deficit and now led 6-5.

Aroldis Chapman mowed down Gorkys Hernandez, Span, and Belt effortlessly to clinch the series for the Cubs.

Now what?

This loss might’ve been a blessing in disguise for the Giants. It means that the Giants brass can’t pretend that there aren’t pretty big holes on the roster. There’s no standout arm in the bullpen. They don’t have a lockdown closer. And they have too many guys who can’t get strikeouts. That’s a recipe for late inning disaster.

Offensively, in a year in which more guys hit 20 home runs in a single MLB season than any season prior, the Giants didn’t have anyone with more than 17 home runs in their lineup. Their best player, Buster Posey, hit just 14, his lowest total for a full season in his career – even less than he hit in his rookie year when he had 150 less at bats. Denard Span seems like a great guy, but he doesn’t get on base enough and isn’t a base stealer. Hunter Pence has been injured for large parts of the last two seasons.

They need to find offense and it probably starts in left field.

Bobby Evans has his work cut out for him. If Matt Moore improves next season, they have 3/5th of an excellent rotation. Jeff Samardzija can be a solid fourth, but I don’t think he’ll ever be as consistent as people want him to be. And you can throw anyone in that fifth spot.

But unless they can hit for power every once in a while and find the right arms to help them close out the great starts, they’re going to struggle just like they did this season. Now, with this team, struggling is a winning record and making the playoffs. Barely. To go further than that, the roster needs improvement.

Does that mean it’s the end of favorites like Romo, Lopez, and Santiago Casilla, who have been stalwarts in the organization? Probably. It also means Bochy can’t go to them in key situations because he trusts them so much. Evans may need to protect him from his own over usage just by replacing them.

Writing all of that doesn’t make it any less weird to not have Giants baseball go throughout the month of October in an even year.

Although we’ve come
To the end of the road
Still I can’t let go
It’s unnatural

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