The San Francisco Giants entered 2022 with high expectations. Nobody said they were guaranteed to win 107 games again but there was a certain level of competitiveness expected. After the lofty heights of 2021, surely the Giants would be back in the postseason and pushing toward a deep playoff run.
Ultimately, fans were left disappointed and underwhelmed, as the Giants faltered to an 81-81 record (for the first time in their 140-year history). There were definitely bright moments, and a strong finish to the year helped smooth over some of the bad vibes following a midseason collapse. However, the Giants were undone by their lineup’s inability to do damage at the plate when it mattered most, and an unsightly combination of defensive mistakes and poor pitching, usually out of the ‘pen.
When you’re out of postseason contention by August, it’s safe to say things didn’t turn out the way you’d planned.
Before the Giants turn the page to 2023, let’s recap this year, beginning on a positive note:
The rotation, such a strength in San Francisco last year, remained so in 2022.
Logan Webb, on whose arm so much of the team’s future success may depend upon, put together another impressive campaign. Webb pitched 192.1 innings over 32 starts, the most of his young career so far, and even though his strikeouts were relatively low, his ability to induce consistent outs ensured he remained a dominant force. Webb’s 2.90 ERA, 4.2 WAR (per Fangraphs), and 139 ERA+ are all career-highs.
Webb’s partner in crime was flamethrower Carlos Rodón, the ace of this year’s rotation. Rodón remained healthy all season long and, like Webb, pitched the most innings of his career (178). His career-high 237 strikeouts overwhelmed hitters and he finished just behind Corbin Burnes for the National League lead. Whether we see Rodón return to the Bay Area is yet to be determined, as he has a player option for 2023, which you’d expect him to decline. Rodón will almost certainly command a multi-year deal north of $100 million and his performances this year would definitely warrant it.
Rodón_strikeout_reel_v11.mp4 💻 pic.twitter.com/5sSf48ittj
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) September 30, 2022
The two-headed monster of Webb and Rodón were supported by veterans Alex Cobb and Jakob Junis, who both enjoyed resurgent seasons, their best in recent years. Both pitchers were prime examples of the front office’s excellent scouting and fondness for revival projects; Cobb and Junis performed admirably and were often the difference makers in Giant victories. Alex Wood, who battled injury, couldn’t match the heights of his 2021 performances but was still serviceable as the fifth man; Wood contributed 130.2 innings before being shut down for the season.
In the lineup, Wilmer Flores cemented his status as a fan favourite, and was easily the team’s most consistent offensive player (and Willie Mac Award winner). Flores showed yet again that he can do it all and thoroughly deserved his extension that will keep him in San Francisco for years to come. His infield partner Thairo Estrada graduated from a bench role into the everyday second baseman (and occasional shortstop), proving adept at the plate and in the field, and led the team in stolen bases (21).
Joc Pederson, perhaps the Giants’ biggest offseason acquisition, became an All-Star for the second time in his career and led the team with 23 home runs. Despite a summer slump for the ages (a .133 batting average in July), and hardly ever facing left-handed pitchers (49 at-bats), Pederson was very effective overall and achieved the highest OPS+ (144) and batting average (.274) of his career so far. We’ll have to wait and see if the hometown kid returns to the Giants for another go-around.
Finally, despite an awful first half that led many of us to question his major league future, Joey Bart returned to the Giants in style, and looked a totally different man from July onward. Bart handled the pitching staff like a veteran and looked more than respectable with the bat, hitting .328 in August. The lingering effects of a September concussion slowed him down to finish the year but Bart’s future looks infinitely more promising heading into 2023.
Where do we begin? Everything that went right for the 2021 Giants fell to pieces in 2022. In the case of the roster’s health, they literally fell to pieces. Injuries ravaged these Giants.
Veterans that were depended upon simply could not stay on the field. When they did, they often looked slow and in great pain. It became abundantly clear as early as May that the unathletic makeup of the roster was something the club would need to change.
Brandon Belt was a shadow of his former self, his bothersome knee causing him havoc and putting him at risk of an early retirement. Evan Longoria could roll back the years for one week, then struggle for a few weeks after, all whilst dealing with his own ailments. Brandon Crawford, arguably the MVP of last year’s team, also caught the injury bug and his performances suffered, especially his typically elite defence. Crawford recovered with a superb September at shortstop, but his offensive output was nowhere close to what he enjoyed in 2021.
LaMonte Wade Jr. couldn’t match his sensational 2021 breakout and missed significant time with injuries. Once Wade returned he never found his rhythm and suffered through a pretty miserable .207/.305/.359 (BA/OBP/SLG) line over 77 games. Tommy La Stella barely took the field, featuring in a paltry 12 games as an infielder, and will almost certainly be released; the Giants have enough DH-eligible players as it is.
With much of the team missing and underperforming, it wasn’t a surprise the Giants fell so far behind the mega rosters in Los Angeles and San Diego. The Giants eventually finished:
- 30 games behind the Dodgers with a 4-15 record against them
- Eight games behind the Padres with a 6-13 record against them
Being so uncompetitive against their division rivals really hurt San Francisco and cost them a spot in the playoffs. If the Giants had just been a little more competitive against their division foes, they could have pushed Philadelphia all the way for that final wild card position. In the end, the Giants finished six games behind the Phillies, missing out on any chance at postseason glory.
The competency of a bullpen can make or break a team’s season, and that was definitely the case with the Giants. San Francisco’s relief pitchers were among the best in baseball last year but the group suffered in 2022. There aren’t many guys who can feel secure in their role heading into 2023.
The sole exception is Camilo Doval. The young closer established himself early in the season and enjoyed a strong campaign. The 25-year-old added a devastating sinker at midseason and his notorious fastball somehow got faster, reaching an eye-watering 104 mph in September. Doval will hopefully be a fixture in the Giants bullpen for many years to come.
Oh yeah, and he touched 104 mph 🔥
Camilo Doval is your NL Reliever of the Month! pic.twitter.com/abclZc7sOc
— SFGiants (@SFGiants) October 3, 2022
Where does that leave everyone else? Guys like Tyler Rogers and Jarlín García, previously used in high-leverage situations, were demoted to pitching when the stakes were far lower, as both men experienced their fair share of difficulties this year. Even John Brebbia, one of the most trusted and frequently used arms, will be unsure exactly what his role will be in 2023; Brebbia was effective as an opener on many occasions, where he seemed to enjoy more success.
The Giants will use the offseason to extensively analyse all their in-house relief options but may want to look elsewhere to restore their bullpen to dominance. Although, history has proven that high-priced free-agent relievers are no guarantee of success (*cough Mark Melancon cough*).
When the pitchers scuffled, it coincided with the defence capitulating at the same time. Outfielders not named Austin Slater and Mike Yastrzemski were often exposed, their flaws in the field naked for all to see. When Steven Duggar and Mauricio Dubón were traded, it became apparent how limited the Giants’ outfield range could be without the duo’s defensive speed. San Francisco finished with their lowest fielding percentage (.983) in a full season since 2013, ranking them among the worst in the league (27th).
Perhaps the most disheartening aspect of the season was the feeling of apathy that surrounded the club. A lot of fans just didn’t seem to enjoy watching this team. I always love putting the Giants game on, and if I was lucky enough to live in the city I’d go to as many games as possible. But even I can understand why some felt a certain level of detachment in 2022. When the roster is built around platoons in almost every position and the team lacks a star player to rally around, particularly when times are tough, I can appreciate why an evening at the ballpark might lose some of its appeal. The Giants used 66 players this year, a franchise record; it’s hard to grow attached to a guy when you know his future in orange and black is likely to be brief.
The Giants must now address their 2023 targets and begin moving forward. The immediate goal must be to close the gap on the Dodgers and Padres. The Giants cannot go another season languishing so far behind their rivals. Significant recruitment will be expected by the fanbase, perhaps in the shape of soon-to-be free agent Aaron Judge. The newly-crowned American League home run king wouldn’t solve all the Giants’ faults, but it would be one very large step in the right direction, addressing both the superstar factor this team sorely lacks and the power-hitting outfielder they desperately need.
A .500 season wasn’t what we hoped for, and missing out on the playoffs does sting, but I’m already looking forward to having the Giants back in my life on a daily basis.
Here’s to 2023 and all that awaits us.
Ash Day is the San Francisco Giants writer for Bat Flips and Nerds. Follow him on Twitter @AshDay29
Photo credit for featured image by Chris Coduto/Getty Images.