Giants hopeful for future after postseason elimination
SAN FRANCISCO -- It’s been clear for several weeks now that the Giants would miss the playoffs, but their fate became official on Saturday.
With an 8-4 loss to the D-backs at Oracle Park, the Giants were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention, a disappointing result for a club that entered the season with high expectations after winning a franchise-record 107 games in 2021.
An 18-10 run in September technically kept San Francisco alive into the final weekend of the regular season, but it only served to delay the inevitable. At 79-79, the Giants are back at .500 with four games left to play. They’ll need to break even the rest of the way to avoid becoming only the seventh team in Major League history to post a losing record following a 100-win season.
“The fight that this team has shown, particularly in September, is really, really impressive,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Today was disappointing. We didn’t play our best baseball. I think that was pretty clear. But I think even in a game that wasn’t a quality game for us, we were still fighting at the end of that game.”
The Giants weren’t favored to defend their National League West title this year, but they were confident they could continue to surprise by running a playbook similar to the one that led to their smashing success in 2021.
Buster Posey’s decision to retire at the end of last season left a significant void on their roster, though the club felt it could remain competitive by continuing to lean on veterans like Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria, all of whom were coming off resurgent seasons. But the trio of infielders struggled to match their previous levels of production after being hampered by injuries and enduring lengthy stints on the injured list this year.
“I think it started with some of the key contributors that we had last year just not being very healthy this year,” Kapler said recently. “There’s a cascading effect to those things. Brandon [Belt] and [Brandon Crawford] had arguably their best seasons last year, so I think in order for us to repeat the kind of season that we had last year, we would have to have a lot of those things come together again, and they didn’t.”
Saturday’s loss also highlighted two other issues for the 2022 Giants: shaky defense and a spotty bullpen. Jason Vosler and Joc Pederson both made costly misplays in left field, and the D-backs blew the game open with a five-run seventh inning against lefty Jarlín García, who was reinstated from the paternity list prior to the game.
Still, the season was not without some positive developments. Newcomers Carlos Rodón and Pederson delivered All-Star campaigns in their first seasons in San Francisco, but they’re both expected to re-enter the free-agent market this winter, so it’s unclear if they’ll be back in the fold in 2023.
“I think this team is really good,” Pederson said earlier this week. “They won 107 games last year. They dealt with some injuries. They dealt with some other things that were tough. But this is for sure a playoff team. I think it was more of a fluke year.”
The emergence of closer Camilo Doval and infielder Thairo Estrada -- who nabbed his 20th and 21st stolen base of the year on Saturday to become the first Giant to swipe 20 since Hunter Pence in 2013 -- also gives the club two promising pieces to build around heading into next year. Another cause for optimism centers on San Francisco’s talented rotation, which is headlined by homegrown ace Logan Webb, who will be shut down for the rest of the season now that the Giants have been officially eliminated from contention.
Webb, 25, logged a 2.90 ERA over a career-high 192 1/3 innings this year, but the Giants felt it was best to protect his arm and limit his workload down the stretch.
“Personally, I wish I did a little bit better,” Webb said. “I had some other goals that I kind of wanted to get to, but it’s also probably why I think it’s a good idea to shut it down. Those goals are important for the coming years also, not just this year.”
While the Giants fell short of their goal of making the playoffs for the second consecutive year, Webb said the club’s recent roll shows that they’re capable of performing better in 2023.
“I think everyone in here believes that we should be a playoff team,” Webb said. “We’ll come back next year and try to prove people wrong. I think we did that last year and maybe didn’t keep the foot on the gas [this year]. It’s something that we need to bring from the start next year. But I think we’re doing that right now, which is awesome. We’ve just got to build off of it.”