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Case Study: 2023 Giants in Review

A picture of Oracle Park by jdnx, licensed under CC BY 2.0.

After winning over 100 games just two years ago, the San Francisco Giants had a season to forget in 2023. They started off the year playing terribly, going 11-17 in their first 28 games, but they gave their fans new hope after they started to seemingly turn things around. The Giants went 50-32 in their next 82 games, landing at 61-49 at the All-Star Break. This 61-49 record was third best in baseball at the time, up there with the regular-season juggernauts in the Braves and Dodgers. In fact, speaking of the Dodgers, the Giants led the NL West and were able to sweep their blue enemies in mid June with potent offense. They beat the Dodgers 15-0 in the second game of their June series in LA, and would go on to outscore them 29-9 over those three games.

Giants players and fans alike were riding high going into the break. They had two pitchers selected to the All-Star Game (arguably could have been three with Webb getting snubbed), and the third best record in the majors. Their offense was dismantling opponents, hitting home runs like they had nothing to lose. They were also high in MLB’s respective power rankings for the first time since their outstanding 2021 season. However, in contrast to that 2021, 107-win season, everything went wrong for the Giants down the stretch.

The scariest two words for the 2023 Giants are as follows: Road Games. Especially in the second half, the Giants were simply not able to win games away from home. At a glance, the numbers are just as bad. They went 34-47 on the road, good for a .420 winning percentage. They had a -32 run differential in games played away from Oracle Park. In contrast, their home record and winning percentage respectively were 45-36 and .556. It is worth noting that their run differential at home was still negative (-13), so there was some luck involved in securing the record they had. Taking a look at their monthly splits further highlights this inability to secure wins on the road. The Giants had just two months where they won more games than they lost, and this heavily influenced their record at the time. In May, they went 17-12, and in June they went 18-8. Outside of these months, the Giants disappointed, and it was flying under the radar how poorly this team was actually playing. At the end of the day, the Giants could simply not win games when it mattered the most. This team could have easily ran away with a wildcard spot if they had won 6-8 more games on the road at any point this year.

A big part of the Giants’ woes was the severe offensive regression as the year went on. In general, the Giants offense was bad in 2023. However, as mentioned above, there were points in the season when they were looking like one of the most potent groups of guys in the league. Still, this team ended the season with several important categories in the bottom 10 rank across baseball. Their most notable shortcoming is in runs per game. This team managed just 4.16 runs/game, good for 24th best of the 30 teams. In case it’s not clear how a team wins baseball games, you need to score runs to make that happen. The Giants did not do that.

Getting into the specifics of their offense reveals a group of guys who relied heavily on home-run production in the first part of the year. When this production regressed back to normal, the entire Giants offense couldn’t maintain the pace. J.D. Davis is an example of one of the players whose production took a big hit (pun intended) in the second half. Davis was on track to lead the team in about every category on offense, having a monster start to the season where he collected 17 RBI in just 24 games. He would also hit 6 home runs while batting .289. But even by July, it was clear Davis’ bat had run out of juice. He would hit just .179 in that month, while collecting only 8 RBI and 14 hits in 22 games. Looking at his first and second halves, his batting average dropped 70 points, his wRC+ dropped from 121 to 81, and his slugging percentage would drop almost 100 points (.450 to .359). It’s no secret that the Giants have relied on consistent home-run production to power their offense. In 2021, they led the league in home runs and won 107 games. However, when they have players regressing in a way that J.D. Davis did throughout the season, it is hard to stay relevant as a contender.

Another guy that highlighted this stalling offense is Lamonte Wade Jr. Wade was arguably the most productive hitter for the Giants in 2023. His elite ability to draw walks was evident early in the year, as he ended the first half with a .404 OBP and a 16.6% walk rate. He also hit for power to start the year off, slugging .529 in the first month of the season. Wade was a serious contender for an All-Star selection. It seemed like he wasn’t being talked about enough at the time, like all Giants players not named Logan Webb, but his stats from the first half were extremely impressive. He had a 138 wRC+, an .842 OPS and a .438 slugging percentage. Unfortunately, his July and August performances would set him back further from becoming a name people knew. From June to July, Wade’s production fell off a cliff. His wRC+ dropped from 152 to 36 (-116). This drop off mirrored the Giants struggles during these months. Wade served as their leadoff hitter for a good part of the games during this season. When a guy who the Giants used to rely on so heavily to get on base stopped doing just that, it was a sign of a dying offense. Wade would have a great end to the season, posting a 144 wRC+ and a .900 OPS. But it was too little too late, as the rest of the Giants’ offense was still underperforming, and the team slipped out of a playoff berth.

Outside of the numbers, there is something to be said for the Giant’s managerial situation. A lot of reports were saying that Gabe Kapler had lost the clubhouse as the season went on and Logan Webb called out the team for not being focused enough on winning. It is clear that the organization felt there needed to be a change, too, as Kapler was fired days before the season ended. This aspect of the game can not be measured through stats, but it is still extremely important to have all of the members of the team pulling in the same direction. When the team struggled this year, they were not pulling in the same direction. The Giants hired manager Bob Melvin as their first move this offseason. This will hopefully shake up the dynamic enough in the clubhouse to create a winning atmosphere in San Francisco.

In 2023, the Giants relied on their pitching staff in a big way to collect wins. This staff did a good job considering the amount of pressure put on the starters and bullpen every week. They had the best BB/9 in baseball, as well as the second best HR/9 and 4th best strikeout to walk ratio. Gabe Kapler loved his bullpen games, which taxed the arms from the ‘pen like no other team in the league. Still, the pitchers held strong. They were led by Logan Webb, who had a fantastic season leading the MLB in innings pitched. He will go on to earn Cy Young votes this offseason.

Despite this pitching success, the statistics mentioned above regarding the offense proved to be too much to overcome for this team. To make steps back in the right direction, this offseason would have to address the lack of consistency from the group of hitters. The organization relied on a significant amount of rookie production this season, and this utilization was bound to be inconsistent due to the lack of experience. Still, the players listed above are veterans, and we saw how their production changed as the season went on. There is one player in baseball right now that can make a hitting group better while also producing on the mound, and he happens to be a free agent. If the Giants could sign Shohei Ohtani long term, that’s a great step in the right direction. Regardless, expect the Giants to be active in pursuing big-name free agents this year in order to turn this team back into a winning one.



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