The 2014 season has been weird for the San Francisco Giants. They began the year an MLB-best 42-21 (.667) and have gone 27-41 (.397) since. They led the N.L. West by 9.5 games on Jun. 8, but currently trail the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers by five games.
At 69-62 (.527), San Francisco leads the second wild card by one game over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Marty Lurie, a host on the Giants’ flagship radio station, KNBR 680, says that a baseball season is like a mosaic: you can’t judge it by its individual parts, its moments, games, and plate appearances. Only when you step back and look at the big picture do things come into focus and make sense.
So, now that we’re about to enter the season’s final month (can you believe it’s September already?), it’s appropriate to look back on the season that has been and see how all the moments add up. That’s what baseball is all about.
It’s interesting (and fun) to look at a team’s overall numbers in some key areas, then find individual players whose career or single season statistics are comparable. Let’s get right to it:
2014 San Francisco Giants wRC+: 98
Notable hitters with a career 98 wRC+:
Rich Aurilia: .275/.328/.433, 7.2 BB%, 13.7 K%, .158 ISO, 23 SB, 6,278 PA
Delmon Young: .283/.317/.425, 4.2 BB%, 18.0 K%, .141 ISO, 35 SB, 4,143 PA
2014 San Francisco Giants starting pitcher FIP: 3.66
Notable starting pitcher(s) with a career 3.66 FIP:
Ben Sheets: 3.78 ERA, 7.47 K/9, 2.08 BB/9, 1.04 HR/9, .295 BABIP
Mike Krukow: 3.90 ERA, 6.07 K/9, 3.15 BB/9, 0.81 HR/9, .288 BABIP
Notable starting pitcher(s) with ~ 3.66 FIP in 2014:
Ryan Vogelsong: 3.68 FIP, 3.78 ERA 7.26 K/9, 2.58 BB/9, 0.78 HR/9, .299 BABIP
2014 San Francisco Giants relief pitcher FIP: 3.24
Notable relief pitcher(s) with a career 3.24 FIP:
John Smoltz: 7.99 K/9, 2.62 BB/9, 0.75 HR/9, .283 BABIP
2014 San Francisco Giants UZR/150: 0.0
Notable player(s) with ~ 0.0 UZR/150 in career:
Matt Holliday (0.0 UZR/150 spanning ~ 13K innings in LF)
Edgar Renteria: (0.2 UZR/150 spanning ~ 11K innings at SS)
As you can see, the Giants’ lineup this season (including the pitcher’s spot) has essentially been nine Rich Aurilias or Delmon Youngs, or any combination of the two. Having nine Delmon Youngs in your lineup (disregarding defense) is not the worst thing in the world, but it’s also far from the best. The potential for damage is there, but he’s going to let you down more often than not. If this sounds just about right for the Giants, that’s because the comps are accurate.
Next, the Giants’ starting rotation has been five Mike Krukows or Ben Sheets, or any combination of the two. Or it’s been five 2014 Ryan Vogelsongs. This means that Vogelsong is the typical Giants starter this year—he’s right in the middle of an up-and-down rotation.
The bullpen has been good. John Smoltz (in his career) is a pretty good comp to have for your bullpen as a whole in a season.
Lastly, the Giants defense as a whole in 2014 has been equivalent to how Matt Holliday plays left field or how Edgar Renteria plays shortstop. It’s possible to do worse, but it’s also possible to do a whole lot better.
Delving deeper into the Giants’ defensive issues, Michael Morse has an atrocious (and I mean atrocious) -24.6 UZR/150 in 577 innings in LF this season. His deplorable defense almost completely offsets his terrific 135 wRC+, as he’s been worth just 1.0 WAR this season.
Let’s take the comps a step further by looking at two elite teams in the N.L.:
The Dodgers’ 105 wRC+ this season means they’ve essentially had nine Ray Durhams in the lineup every night.
Durham’s career stats: 105 wRC+, .277/.352/.436, 9.7 BB%, 14.3 K%, .158 ISO, 273 SB, 8,423 PA
And the Dodgers’ 3.50 team FIP in 2014 means that their entire pitching staff has been Garrett Richards.
Richards’ career stats: 3.66 ERA, 3.50 FIP, 7.25 K/9, 3.07 BB/9, 0.63 HR/9, .288 BABIP
Even scarier, the Nationals’ 3.23 team FIP this season means they have been a staff of Curt Schillings.
Schilling’s career stats: 3.46 ERA, 3.23 FIP, 8.60 K/9, 1.96 BB/9, 0.96 HR/9, .293 BABIP
And Washington’s 1.5 UZR/150 team defense means they’ve collectively played as well as Justin Upton plays right field and Erick Aybar plays shortstop.
In summation, the Giants are a decent/pretty good MLB team, but they are clearly not as good as some other teams in the N.L. (and the A.L. for that matter) in some key categories.
On any given day, Ryan Vogelsong might pitch a shutout; Curt Schilling sometimes got rocked. Every now and then, Delmon Young goes 4 for 4 or hits a home run and a double; Ray Durham surely took his share of 0 for 5s. These things happen sometimes. That’s baseball.
But when you step back and look at the big picture, Schilling dealt, Durham outplayed Delmon, and Justin Upton made a fine running catch and throw while Matt Holliday just couldn’t quite get there in time.
Ben Kaspick is the founder of CoveCast, LLC, a sabermetric San Francisco Giants analysis website and podcast featured at CoveCast.net. He has written for RotoGraphs since 2016 and also contributes to SB Nation's Beyond the Box Score. Follow him on Twitter @Cove_Cast.