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Should the San Francisco Giants blow it up?

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JUNE 29, 2017

The San Francisco Giants are in the midst of their worst season in the Bruce Bochy era. As their record sits at 29-51, good for a winning percentage of .363, an astronomically worse total than the 2007 figure of .438 in Bochy’s first season as skipper, the Giants are on pace to win 57 games and record the worst season since the team moved from New York.

Save for Buster Posey, who has exceeded the expectations which come with a catcher turning 30 and is putting up numbers comparable to his 2012 MVP campaign, this Giants team has universally underachieved.

Brandon Crawford, Joe Panik and Brandon Belt, San Francisco’s homegrown trio of All-Stars, haven’t produced offensively at an All-Star level. While Panik and Belt have, at minimum, been league average hitters, Crawford has fallen off the map and currently sports a slash line of .238/.281/.379 with a wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) of 71, meaning the shortstop has been 29 percent worse than the league average hitter.

San Francisco’s reliever core has left much to be desired. Mark Melancon, the team’s shiny new closer who was lured to the Bay Area on a four-year, $62 million deal, has posted an ERA of 4.35 and a FIP (fielding independent pitching) of 3.62 over 20.2 inning and has already blown four saves, which matches his total from last season. Derek Law, who the Giants expected to fulfill a seventh- or eighth-inning role, resembles nothing of his 2016 self and was demoted.

The team’s starting rotation hasn’t been any better. With ace Madison Bumgarner on the disabled list, San Francisco’s starting rotation has been nothing short of atrocious. Johnny Cueto regressed from a Cy Young-level pitcher to a replacement-level pitcher, Matt Moore’s control has somehow managed to get even worse and Matt Cain continues to look like a shell of his former self.

The Giants were expected by many to compete with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the National League West, if not a wild-card spot. Instead, this team currently has the second-worst record in baseball and the playoffs are nowhere in sight and all this underachieving has raised an interesting question.

Should the front office blow it up?

In retrospect, under Bochy, the franchise has been successful beyond its wildest dreams. When Bochy inherited the Giants, they were a bottom-feeder in the West and the team was plagued with the Barry Bonds fiasco. But from 2009-16, the Giants posted a combined winning percentage of .536 in the regular season and consistently won in the face of elimination en route to winning three championships in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

Even if everyone on the ballclub was completely healthy and meeting expectations, there is reasonable doubt as to whether this ballclub would advance deep into October.

The Dodgers continued their annual tradition of a superstar rookie into the mix, this time in the form of Cody Bellinger, who has the second-most home runs in the league with 24 despite playing 14 less games than the league’s current leader, Aaron Judge. Throw in the unexpected leaps that both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have taken this season and the Giants, barring a historic collapse by the NL West’s top dogs in the second half of the season, have no chance of sniffing a playoff berth.

For the tire fire that has been this season, this isn’t the first time the Giants have been in this situation during Bochy’s reign as manager. In 2013, fresh off a second championship in three seasons, San Francisco fully embodied the concept of the World Series hangover, winning only 76 games, 18 less than the previous season, to finish third in the West.

By the All-Star break of that 2013 season, the Giants were 43-51 and sitting in fourth place. San Francisco’s starting rotation, with the exception of Bumgarner, struggled, Ángel Pagán missed half the season due to injury and the offense couldn’t manufacture runs despite its individual pieces excelling.

San Francisco’s front office could have overreacted turned into sellers at the trade deadline, but it decided to remain idle and endure the year. The Giants’ patience with their core immediately paid off the following season as the team won 88 games in the regular season and captured their third World Series title.

The Giants find themselves in a somewhat similar situation this season. While they’ve been flat-out horrible this season, the ballclub has a solid homegrown core composed of multiple All-Stars which has proven it can not only make the postseason, but win it all.

As much as $31.26 million could come off the books this offseason for the Giants should Cueto opt out of his contract and the team let Eduardo Núñez, Nick Hundley and Aaron Hill walk in free agency, money they can use to retool with a focus on depth instead of going after one big player a la Melancon.

2017 has been a throwaway, but based on the team’s track record of success, this season is more of an outlier than the norm and should be chalked up to having one universally bad year.

Justice delos Santos is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]
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JUNE 29, 2017