Tha Sports Junkies 101

Even Year Curse? Giants Facing Failure in 2016

Jacob T. Meltzer/ Via


In a few years, the Giants may look back on 2016 as the start of a curse rather than even year magic.

One of the biggest stories going into the 2016 season was how successful the San Francisco Giants had been in even years since 2010.  In 2010, 2012, and 2014 the Giants captured World Series championships.  Many people believed that their even year success was bound to continue in 2016.  In an offseason where they signed Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, the Giants looked primed to bring the Commissioner’s Trophy back to the bay area.

At the all-star break, San Francisco boasted a 57-33 record, the best in baseball.  Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto had dominated opposing hitters in the first half of the season.  Bumgarner’s 1.94 ERA was the second best in baseball among starters, trailing only Dodgers’ southpaw Clayton Kershaw.  In 18 starts prior to the all-star game, Cueto had amassed 13 wins while posting a 2.47 earned run average.  Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford, and Brandon Belt were all having productive seasons on offense.  Bruce Bochy‘s squad looked extremely impressive early on, but the tables have turned down the stretch.

Since the midsummer classic, San Francisco has gone 25-40.  The Giants have had numerous flaws in the second half.  As the Giants record plummeted, so did Belt‘s production.  In 87 games prior to the break, Belt hit .302 with 10 home runs while reaching base over forty percent of the time.  His .928 OPS led the team, but Belt couldn’t stay hot during the summer.  In his last 62 games, Belt has only managed to hit at a .224 clip with a .741 OPS.  The Giants’ first baseman finally appeared to be breaking out this year, but his numbers are pretty average thanks to his second half skid.

Madison Bumgarner also failed to pitch in dominant fashion as he did during the first three months of the season.  MadBum has a .381 ERA in just under 90 innings since the all-star break.  As the baseball world saw in 2014, Bumgarner has the rare ability to carry a team in the most high-stress situations.  But as the numbers show this year, the Giants are doomed when he doesn’t pitch like the ace that he is.

Without a doubt, the most prominent reason for the Giants’ struggles has been the bullpen.  They lead Major League Baseball in blown saves with 29.  They have blown eight saves in September alone, which is a very unsettling sight as San Francisco looks to play in October.  When the club won the World Series in 2010 and 2012, respective closers Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo were lights out in the 9th inning.  Bruce Bochy is lacking that go-to-guy in the 9th this year, and its definitely shown in how bad the Giants have been at finishing games.

As of now, the Giants are tied for the second wild card spot with the St. Louis Cardinals.  The New York Mets hold a one game lead over both San Francisco and St. Louis for the first wild card spot.  The Giants have invested so much in 2016, though, that a playoff birth simply will not suffice.  This team is facing World Series or bust, and the latter seems much more realistic at this point.  After all of the trade deadline moves that the Giants chose to make, an early elimination in the postseason may turn the even year championship trend into a curse that cripples the franchise for years.

No matter what happens this season, the Giants are still primed to compete next year with their core.  Buster Posey, Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford and Hunter Pence all are very dependable players who can bring the Giants back to October in 2017.  But by putting so many eggs in the proverbial 2016 basket, the team has weakened their farm system and potentially damaged the franchise’s long term potential.

At the trade deadline, the Giants made multiple moves in an attempt to improve their pitching.  Their first move was to acquire reliever Will Smith from the Milwaukee Brewers.  Smith was effective in relief for the Brewers, and he was great at neutralizing left-handed batters late in games.  However, Smith wasn’t really viewed as a high priced commodity going into the deadline.  Nevertheless, the Giants sent top prospect Phil Bickford to Milwaukee for the southpaw.  In 22 starts across A and High-A ball, the 21 year-old pitched to the tune of a 2.92 ERA with a 10.1 K/9 ratio.  Bickford is highly regarded as a high-upside pitcher with potential to become a number two starter.  Although prospects are always riskier than established big league veterans, the Giants clearly overpaid for Smith by trading Bickford.

General Manager Bobby Evans wouldn’t stop there.  The Giants also traded for Rays’ starter Matt Moore at the trade deadline.  In 10 starts since joining the Giants, Moore has failed to be a difference maker.  Moore’s lack of control is apparent when looking at his 5.1 BB/9 rate.  He has a 4.96 ERA since joining the Giants.  In return for the Rays’ lefty, Tampa Bay received a package of players including 25 year-old infielder Matt Duffy.  A fan favorite with Giants’ fans, Duffy impressed in his rookie 2015 campaign.  The third baseman batted .295 while hitting 12 home runs and driving in 77 runs.  Duffy is also a very proficient defender at the hot corner.  He finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting to Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs.  Duffy has missed some time in 2016 due to injury, but he still could be a significant piece of the Rays’ future moving forward.

The Rays also acquired prospect Lucius Fox from the Giants.  The 19 year-old middle infielder currently ranks as the Rays 7th overall prospect according to  Fox isn’t considered a top prospect, but he definitely has some upside.  In his first professional season, he played in Single A as an 18 year-old.  Once more, the Giants traded away a potential valuable asset for maybe a minor upgrade at most.

Quite frankly, the Giants may have panicked when they did not need to at all this year.  After there torrid start, the team began to slump immediately after the all-star break, but that should not lead to an all-in mentality.  I’m all for making moves to go for a championship that is in sight, but the moves that the Giants made were out of desperation.  Such minor acquisitions like Will Smith and Matt Moore can ensure you make the postseason, not win a World Series.  While it is unlikely, the Giants could be in position to regress in the coming years, and 2016 may be the year where the magic ends and the curse begins.