It was the bullpen all along


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.

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