MLB

It was the bullpen all along

bruce-bochy-javier-lopez

The Giants’ offense isn’t built for the regular season. There’s a school of thought, one I subscribed to for much of this season, that the offense was the team’s biggest problem because it gave their beleaguered bullpen so little margin for error. But in the postseason, their offense plays … most of the time.

The Giants’ farm system isn’t built for trades. Fans who think the Giants should’ve been the ones to land Aroldis Chapman either don’t remember or never heard the reports that the Yankees weren’t interested in discussing trades with the Giants for either Chapman or Andrew Miller.

The Giants’ bullpen isn’t built for anything, really. That was the story as they set a franchise record for blown saves during the season, and this set of relievers drove Bruce Bochy insane as the year wore on. The breaking point came at the end, when he manically changed pitchers as the results spiraled out of control.

The correct response to tonight’s collapse, a 6-5 loss after Matt Moore’s brilliance tugged the Giants into the ninth inning with a 5-2 lead, is probably something like this: “Fucking believable.”

We knew it would end like this, right? Other good teams get tougher when their starters leave with a lead. Their opponents collectively go “Uh oh, we’re going to have to face a whirlwind of flamethrowers hurling strikes with their left and right arms.” The Giants’ greatest strength this year was their rotation, and when their starters left it gave other teams confidence. The Cubs Curse was no match for Javier Lopez’s penchant for walking guys in what could be the last year of his stellar career and Sergio Romo’s one-trick arsenal that had very little chance of success after two innings and a knee-tweak the night before.

Bochy stuck with his incumbents until he couldn’t anymore. I figured Will Smith, who can pitch to righties and lefties and was coming off of 19 straight scoreless appearances, was the best choice to start and possibly finish the ninth. I was surprised Bochy went with Law, who wasn’t on the DL that long ago and pitched two innings (35 pitches) yesterday, and he was lifted after serving up a 2-1 cookie to Kris Bryant, who hit a 25-hopper past Brandon Crawford. Lopez strikes out Anthony Rizzo a year or two ago, but not this year. Romo, as I just mentioned, was on fumes. Smith was the fourth pitcher of the inning, and he gave up two weak grounders up the middle, before giving way to Hunter Strickland, who threw a dumb fastball to new Giants killer Javier Baez.

This was a deeply flawed team. The bullpen was the most glaring problem, but Brandon Belt was this team’s home run leader with 17, in a season when the ball was obviously juiced (after the All-Star Break at the very least, and, perhaps not coincidentally, that’s when the Giants’ weaknesses were on display two out of every three days). Can’t hit, can’t finish, can’t win. It’s amazing that they got as far as they did this year with a team like this (big props to Conor Gillaspie).

Extra BASGs

— The Cubs were easily the better team. The Giants’ surge last night to knock out Chapman, then Panik’s walk-off, then the way they built their lead tonight, were all intoxicating. That’s what makes this meltdown, which in reality was so inevitable it was almost comical, so heartbreaking. The second half was unbearably dreary, but the Giants pulled us back in with Madison Bumgarner’s shutout in New York and last night’s classic victory, their last of the season.

— Cueto would’ve beaten Lester in Game 5. I’ll always believe that.

— The bullpen problems were to be expected, but Crawford’s defense was startling.

— It’s going to be weird when pitchers and catchers report in February and Lopez, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo aren’t there. Alright, maybe one of those guys gets an invite back, but I doubt it. Not after what happened tonight. Romo seems like the likeliest candidate due to age and his desire to be in San Francisco, but his habit of openly laughing when Bochy removed him from games — along with how he pitched over the last 24 hours of the season — probably means he’s a goner, too.

— I would seriously consider moving Hunter Pence, who went from ironman to injury-prone pretty quickly in his early-30s, to left field. He’s a half-decent right fielder at this stage of his career, but his range isn’t what it once was and his arm is no great shakes either. He’s also the most powerful hitter on the team, so an easier outfield position than right field at AT&T could lessen his load physically and possibly even allow him to be a 20+ homer slugger. Remember, he only stole one base this year, three years after going 22-for-25 on steals. Moving Pence to left would mean the Giants would have to locate a better defensive right fielder, preferably one who hits for power. Is the Mac Williamson/Jarrett Parker combo enough? Probably not, but the Giants don’t do well when it comes to luring power-hitting free agents. And what do they have to trade? I don’t envy Bobby Evans and Brian Sabean, but at least their rotation is already set one-through-five.

— Yoenis Cespedes is a nice pipe dream, but the Giants would have to overpay by a ton to get him. I don’t see it, but I didn’t see them signing Cueto either.

— If the Giants sign Jonathan Papelbon, you might see even fewer regular season Giants posts on this website than you did in 2016.

— One of the worst things about tonight is the outcome made Chapman and Damon Bruce so happy. There is no such thing as karma.

— I’m rooting for Dusty Baker the rest of the way, because I’m a National League fan through and through. I have nothing against the Nationals and future Giant Bryce Harper, the Dodgers are the Dodgers, and I enjoy the Cubs’ curse. It fuels me. I thought the Giants would ride those crazy goat vibes to what could’ve been an amazing Game 5, but they lost in the most 2016 Giants way possible. Sometimes you can predict baseball.

14 Comments
17 comments
Luckyeli
Luckyeli

I share your disdain for Bruce. 

Eric
Eric

That was brutal, but the last few weeks were a good run of baseball, to wash away at least part of the second half free fall. In the end, the pen flailing away the series was a predictable end to the year. Evans' poor moves...which often seemed to come from some nervous pugatory between frugality, and actually chasing impact players...hamstrung Bochy all year.  The moves he didn't make were equally glaring, leaving gaping holes on the bench, at the plate, and in the pen as the season progressed. 

The Giants need to upgrade around the core, which often seemed to lack the fire of the 2010-2014 teams. Maybe 3 titles has drained the mojo, but aside from Crawford there was a drop off. Posey, Belt (especially), and Bum all seemed to lack the octane of previous years all through the second half.  I like Belt, but man....WAY too streaky. Not saying trade him, but we gotta get more out of 1B's bat. 

-This off season the Giants should immediately say goodbye to Roberto Kelly.

-Gillespe probably earned the starting 3B job, while winning fans over as a hero. Arroyo is coming, but where does he play, and how far away is he? Hard to see the Giants starting 17' with Gillespe at 3B without other bats added to the line up

- All the ownership mouths that feed from the revenue stream need to suck it up and buy out Cain, as well as swallow part of Samardzija's salary to trade him like the Pads did with Shields. Neither of them are getting better, and their contracts are albatrosses. Blach and Heston or Beede should be starters in 17'.  Two more veteran arms are needed in the pen to go along with Smith.

-Stop trying to shove Williamson, Parker, and Adrianza down our throats. Just stop, they suck... The Giants need to find 2 guys for the OF that can play good D, hit for some power AND bat over .280, with good OPB. Thats not necessarily players of Cespedes' calibur, but its sure not guys like Span, Williamson, Parker, and the current version of Pagan. 


coredump
coredump

I think the state of the bullpen was Sabean (who probably still has his hands in everything), Evans, and Bochey trying to get "1 more year" out of the bullpen veterans.  The Giants have historically had a tendency to hang on to guys a year too long rather than trading them a year too early, and this was probably the former for some of the bullpen.

That can (and has) work out OK if you find that young guy from the farm who fills an immediate need really well (Duffy) or a role player lights it up at the right time (Cody Ross, Scutaro, Panik, Gillaspie), but it's hard to smooth over an aging bullpen without clear incumbent young guys, especially when the rotation regularly had a rough time of it too.

The pitching staff really is a team within the team, and if there isn't a clear and solid handoff from starters to relief to closer pretty consistently, you'll likely have the kind of season the Giants had.

Speaking of closers, I'm not going to pick on Casilla, and I'm still fine with the giants not getting Chapman, but I can't help thinking if the Giants could have brought in The Closer[tm] last night, they'd be on their way back to Chicago.  That's pretty obvious in retrospect, and I think this is another instance where management was hoping to get "1 more year" while also hoping somebody from the farm would establish himself as the next guy, and it's clear neither thing really happened.

Giants49ersLove
Giants49ersLove

Can we get rid of 0-5, .133 postseason average Belt too?????

Otis Byrd III
Otis Byrd III

and just like that, in less than 24 hrs after the Giants had one of the most exciting wins of this season, the Giants somewhat disappointing 2016 season has come to a disappointing and frustrating end. 

This game will probably hurt for a while, as we all know the Giants should've been playing on Thursday, but at the same time, you have to give credit to the Cubs. They're a tough team to beat, and they have history on their side. It was going to be a tough series to win.

But yes, man, hard to believe the Giants season is over. It was great they made the playoffs despite it looking like they would probably miss the playoffs a couple of weeks ago, but it sucks they lost and are out of the playoffs in this way.

Angry Giants Fan
Angry Giants Fan

Can somebody explain why Giants fans aren't all over Romo? The guy blew it in two key playoff games within 24 hours and he's smiling? Seriously want to punch that guy in his smirking mouth.

Lime
Lime

The A's own the Bay Area baseball scene...always have always will! 89 SWEEP!

cardshark
cardshark

Looking back, the excessive celebration by the Giants for simply achieving a "play-in" game now seems like an unspoken acknowledgment that this was to be their only one of the year.  A flawed team that ran out of steam the last two months met an inevitable fate tonight.

Desmond1battle
Desmond1battle

@BASportsGuy just a coincidence that the teams with the upcoming top 3 closers in free agency and team that traded for miller still alive?

robertsoohoo
robertsoohoo

@BASportsGuy The pen was definitely the problem but I didn't see Craw's errors coming. Lead directly to 2 runs with one being the gw.

Otis Byrd III
Otis Byrd III

@benjaminhgau @robertsoohoo @BASportsGuy Yeah, it was kind of hard to really enjoy this season. Yes, the 1st half was great, but the 2nd half failures, the bullpen blowing a number of games, and the Giants losing in the NLDS, turned this into a season like 2011, 2013, and even last year. Not quite the season us Giants fans were expecting.

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