Your work week might involve reports on the floor, chopping okra, or teaching kids to divide fractions. My working week consists of speaking, writing and thinking about the Giants. Everything was (literally) fun and fun last year, but this year was a bit more difficult. My podcasts are grittier. My articles reflect a growing exasperation. And if it’s not so fun to create, it can’t be so fun to consume.
So let’s enjoy a palate cleanser. This is a space for positivity and good vibes. The 2022 Giants aren’t the worst team I’ve ever seen. They’re not the worst Giants team you’ve seen in the last three years. They scored about a point for every point they allowed, and it can get a lot harder to watch than that. Don’t tempt the baseball gods. Please.
With that said, let’s look at the positive developments for the 2022 Giants.
No, please come back. I’m serious.
It’s worth talking about, if only because complaining gets old. So very old. Here are some of the positives from a disproportionately negative Giants season.
Logan Webb: Always a guy
It wasn’t easy, although we’re all used to Webb by now. We’re a little over a year into the idea that he’s a pitcher who belongs at the top of a rotation, someone who can pitch against any team, any time, and put you in trust. Twelve months, and that’s not hyperbole! Imagine heading into the offseason next year like, “Well, obviously Tristan Beck will be the No. 2 starter, but who can the Giants put behind him?
Webb’s strikeout rate isn’t as stellar as it was last year, but he’s still effective without it. He’s an ace anachronism, with a lead approach in the fastball era, and he’s proven he can a) limit free baserunners and b) keep the ball in the park. If the Giants are heading back to the playoffs soon, this is probably one of the most important reasons.
Logan Webb, Dirty Changeups. 👌👌 pic.twitter.com/gNHpnR8J6S
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 24, 2022
They kept Carlos Rodón healthy and efficient
The Giants front office may never sign a pitcher to a nine-figure contract again. Maybe if Webb keeps this going for a few more years the general affability and hometown ties will force their hand, but it sure seems like it’s not a front office that cares about style contracts Jeff Samardzija or Johnny Cueto at All-Star. -not-Cy-Young pitchers. They want short-term contracts. They want high ceilings, but they don’t want low floors that get lower and lower every season. They want more Kevin Gausman and Carlos Rodón, but they don’t want to keep them once they get expensive.
And if so, they have another page for the glossy brochure that they hand out to potential free agents. They helped Rodón stay healthy and efficient. They didn’t pamper him, but neither did they grind him to dust. They worked with his strengths and made him rich. Won’t you consider yourself the San Francisco Giants Get Rich Plan, talented and mercurial pitcher?
They’ve also done it with Alex Cobb to some degree, even though he scribbles things like “BEWARE OF DEFENSE, SEEKING ADVENTURER” on the back of the pamphlets. But if it’s an organizational plan – and it seems to be working, even in a disappointing season like this – they haven’t screwed up one of the more high-profile examples.
Also, it was pretty cool to watch Rodón’s pitch. They can’t take that away from you.
Carlos Rodón, dirty 88 mph slider… and sword. ⚔️ pic.twitter.com/sSQouvPCbA
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) August 24, 2022
They turned Darin Ruf into JD Davis
One of the most deft transactional sleight of hand I can remember. Davis had a .384 OBP and .820 OPS Last year. In his last full season, he hit .307 with 22 homers. He got lost on the Mets, who had a busy and busy offseason, and the Giants were happy to give him a chance. He’s only 29 and his defense in the third isn’t as abysmal as I was told to expect. He’s been hitting well since joining, and he looks like a good fit for the roster the Giants will return to next year.
That doesn’t mean he’ll be an All-Star or a cleanup hitter for the next two years. But before the trade deadline, the Giants had a right-handed hitter who was unlikely to improve on their future rosters. After the deadline, they did. They also received a pair of pitchers with a chance to stay in the majors, but it’s Davis who is expected to play a big role on the 2023 Giants.
JD Davis. 437 ft. DEAD CENTER. 🎯 pic.twitter.com/IV1MQj4GuT
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) August 7, 2022
The rebirth of Joey Bart, former and future receiver
When Bart was returned to Triple-A Sacramento on June 5, he was hitting .156/.296/.300, and it’s hard to believe he was hitting that well. A .156 average means he was getting a hit 16 out of 100 at bat, which seems incredibly high. He only outed seven times out of 10, which sounds like gaslighting. He was as automatic as he could get, and when he was demoted I might have given Yermín Mercedes a better chance of being matchday one receiver in 2023.
After his recall, Bart hit .283/.325/.478, and it’s important to stay realistic. If he ever did that well over a full season, he’d be an All-Star, but he’s not. have hit well to be valuable. A little power, a strong arm and a stable defense behind the plate. That’s all he needs. His current .710 OPS and 99 OPS+ is perfectly fine, even though he took a circuitous route to get there. If he does just that for the next six years, he’ll be one of the best receivers since the team moved to San Francisco, and that’s not hyperbole. It’s hard to find catchers that aren’t automatic takedowns.
A few months ago, Bart was an automatic out. Now he looks like a player who can help a team be better than other teams, which is sort of the goal of roster building. If you only have room in your dark, hissing heart for one piece of optimism, let it be this one. It’s a big problem.
Stay warm, Joey Bart 🔥 pic.twitter.com/AALGoMau6d
— SF Giants on NBCS (@NBCSGiants) August 16, 2022
There are several feel-good stories in the minor leagues this year. Grant McCray has just been promoted. Vaun Brown’s weird quads are getting closer and closer to the major leagues, unless the seriousness of his quads gets the major leagues closer and closer to him.
But if you’re looking for something that could make a difference next year, and if you’re looking for the kind of development that gets Giants fans greedy, a better pitcher that chews up minor league hitters will do it. The Giants have won championships with the top 20 local pitching prospects. They won them with high school southpaws who impressed everyone they faced. There’s a story here, and Harrison matches it.
Kyle Harrison stoked 7 in his five-inning start in Sunday’s game against Akron pic.twitter.com/c7ojF2uKyr
— SFGProspects (@SFGProspects) August 30, 2022
It is not a finished product. He needs to improve his command and control. He can probably get some major league hitters out right now, but he’d have to work really hard to get there. Harrison won’t be called up until the season, and he might not be called up until the end of next season.
Soon, however. If he keeps throwing like that, he will soon be called back. He’s become the best pitching prospect for the Giants since Madison Bumgarner, and it’s hard not to be excited.
The front office was humiliated in front of a strong class of free agents
Humbled might be a bit too harsh. Despite what #FireFarhan hashtaggers believe, the Giants didn’t go into the offseason thinking they’d cracked the secrets of baseball and had it all figured out. They assessed each transaction based on the information available to them. They signed or re-signed players because they were looking to make the best 26-man roster, not because they were convinced they were the smartest guys in the room.
But they certainly had some contested assumptions. They can’t just assume they’ll find a player like LaMonte Wade, Jr. to deliver wins and versatility. They can’t assume they’ll make veteran hitters even better, and they can’t assume their collection of bullpen weapons will continue to be effective.
Above all, they can’t assume Giants fans will be happy with short-term roster rotation as the Dodgers and Padres come in star after star after star. There’s beauty in being practical and smart, but there’s a thrill that comes with kicking down the door of free agency and yelling “Come with me if you want to win” in an Austrian accent.
Carlos Correa will most likely be available, and he could be worth the long-term commitment.
Trea Turner may not escape the Dodgers, but he’s a brilliant player who could excite Giants fans.
Xander Bogaerts can retire, and he’s a four-time All-Star who’s been incredibly consistent over the past five seasons.
I don’t know if you’re aware, but Aaron Judge will be a free agent after the World Series.
None of this matters if the relative austerity of the front office is an ownership directive, but that’s not my reading on that. Here’s what I wrote last season:
So my working theory is this: The Giants don’t just believe that whatever hitter and pitcher they eventually sign will be better on a dollars-per-war basis. They think they’ll get better, period. I’m going to use Carlos Rodón as an example, although I don’t know if the Giants like him as a free agent. In this hypothesis, they not only believe that Rodón would offer much of the effectiveness of Robbie Ray at a lower price; they believe that Rodón will be more effective, end of sentence.
This verifies. And I think a lot of their reluctance as a free agent comes from the belief that they can get that same production in a way that doesn’t tie them up for future seasons. A season like this, however, challenges that idea.
A season like this also makes future seasons less urgent. I don’t know who’s going to have to clean up after Marcus Semien’s contract for Rangers, but it won’t be Jon Daniels. And a season like this should make the Giants think that not all production needs to be mined, sluice-gate, smelted, and poured into bullion. Sometimes you can just buy the dangerous metals at market prices.
When that kind of achievement happens for a front office, sometimes the best free agents are Barry Zito or Aaron Rowand. The Giants should do a little better than that, and it was about time.
(Photo by Webb: Rich Schultz/Getty Images)