This story is taken from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, Click here. And subscribe to receive it regularly in your inbox.
It was a season of unrealized expectations for the Giants, who fell short of the playoffs after posting their first .500 result in franchise history.
After a 107-win campaign in 2021, the Giants tried to revive it with many of the same faces that fueled their stunning success. But they ultimately struggled to overcome Buster Posey’s retirement, nagging injuries to key veterans and shaky defence.
The result was an 81-81 record that left no one satisfied.
“We’re definitely at a stage as an organization where we expect to make the playoffs every year,” president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said last week. “There’s no good side to missing the playoffs now.”
The Giants and Dodgers were neck and neck in the standings last year, but the gap between the big rivals has widened considerably this season. San Francisco went just 4-15 against Los Angeles in 2022, finishing 30 games in first place in National League West.
The Giants remained in playoff position coming out of the All-Star break, but faded into the NL Wild Card race after going 3-12 to start the second half, a skid that included eight straight losses against the Dodgers.
“We were 1-13 against them in the second half,” Zaidi said. “That’s really what ended our season and our playoff hopes, that 1-13 streak and especially the 0-8 coming out of the All-Star break.”
What we learned
The resurgent veterans carried the Giants into 2021, but their aging core of positional players proved too shaky this year. Shortstop Brandon Crawford, who finished fourth in NL MVP voting last season, was beaten throughout the season and recorded an .652 OPS, compared to .895 in 21. First baseman Brandon Belt was also coming off a year at the plate, but struggled to deal with a chronic right knee problem and ultimately succumbed to season-ending surgery in September. A string of injuries has also resulted in four trips to the injured list for third baseman Evan Longoria, who has been limited to 89 games this year.
A major priority for the Giants will be to get younger and more athletic this offseason to try to avoid overburdening veterans who have endured their share of health issues this year.
“I think one of our lessons this year will be to manage the workload of these veteran players and not rely on them too much,” Zaidi said.
Thairo Estrada had a breakthrough season with the Giants, going from a complementary piece to perhaps the club’s most valuable positional player this year. The 26-year-old infielder hit .260 with a .724 OPS in 140 games and set career highs in doubles (23), homers (14), RBIs (62), walks (33) and steals (21). That equated to a 2.7 WAR, the highest among Giants position players, according to FanGraphs.
Estrada has made most of his starts at second base this season, but the Giants believe he’s capable of moving in and outfield and perhaps taking on more of a super-utility role in 2023.
The Giants have been repeatedly burned by poor defense as they ranked 28th in the Majors with -31 Outs Above Average this year. Their inability to convert enough ground balls into outs frequently undermined their talented starting rotation, which led the NL with a 3.43 FIP. With new defensive change limits for 2023, the Giants plan to target middle players with more range and athleticism this offseason to try and fix their defensive shortcomings.
On the rise
The Giants have one of the game’s best young closes in Camilo Doval, who has a 2.53 ERA with 27 saves in 68 appearances this season. Despite being backed by the heaviest workload of his career, Doval finished the year strong, shooting a 104mph throw last month that ranked as the fastest throw thrown by a Giants pitcher in the Statcast era. His power arsenal also includes a wicked slider and a ’90s top sinker, helping him earn NL Reliever of the Month honors for the second straight September.
The Giants had a huge hole to fill at the top of their rotation after allowing right-handed All-Star Kevin Gausman to leave as a free agent last year, but they managed to replace him by signing left-hander Carlos Rodón.
Rodón, 29, became San Francisco’s most dominant starter this season, earning his second straight All-Star nomination while recording a career-high 2.88 ERA of 178 innings. He led Major League starters with a 2.25 FIP and ranked third with 237 strikeouts, making him a strong contender to draw NL Cy Young Award votes this year. The question now is whether Rodón will be back for a second season in San Francisco, as he is expected to opt out of his contract with the Giants and return to free agency this offseason.