The first two months of the 2017 MLB season weren’t kind to the Bay Area. In the East Bay, the Oakland Athletics sit in the basement of the AL West and are tied for last in the American League. But the more surprising result has come across the Bay Bridge, where the San Francisco Giants find themselves 12 games below .500, dead last in the NL West, and 10.5 games out of the second Wild Card entering play Monday.
The story early on was woefully inconsistent starting pitching, but that has improved over the past month. The Giants stopped the bleeding from their horrific April and righted the ship in May, taking five of their last eight series and seeing significant improvement in their team pitching numbers across the board. Now, with the calendar flipping over to June, their task is to put everything together and continue to chip away at the deficit. The Giants winning formula must be found, and soon.
San Francisco Giants Winning Formula Remains Elusive
By no means are they out of the woods just yet. The Giants got off to such a poor start that, even though they appear to have turned the corner, they still may not be able to recover from the deep hole they dug themselves into. If the Giants are indeed going to make a Wild Card push, at some point they are going to have to get hot. Really hot. That means going on multiple five-plus game winning streaks, sweeping series, and having every facet of the ballclub firing on all cylinders.
That’s not to say they can’t do it. After all, there is still a lot of baseball yet to be played, and this Giants roster is certainly talented enough to make a climb up the standings. Yet, regardless of whether they are able to get back into the playoff picture, the Giants can still use the remaining 104 games productively. Or, rather, they can use them much the same way they have used the first 58.
Despite the season being just over two months old, the Giants have already gone through a whole slew of players who have been both promoted to and demoted from the big league club since Opening Day. Position players Chris Marrero, Justin Ruggiano, Drew Stubbs, Kelby Tomlinson, Christian Arroyo, and Tim Federowicz, plus pitchers Neil Ramirez, Chris Stratton, and Steven Okert have all come and gone since the start of April, unable to impress enough to stick in the majors. Part of this has been due to an abnormally high number of injuries early in the year, but a big part is also a result of the Giants continued search for the right mix of players that combine to put a winning product on the field.
To this point in the season, the Giants brass has been tasked with doing this on the fly, while also trying to win ballgames. Needless to say, it hasn’t worked out very well. If the team continues to sputter, it will serve as a golden opportunity for Bruce Bochy, in association with President Brian Sabean and GM Bobby Evans, to get an extended look at the depth in their farm system.
For one, this means auditioning a number of their top prospects to get a feel for where they are at, including Arroyo, Austin Slater, Chris Shaw, Bryan Reynolds, and Tyler Beede, among others. It also means taking a good, hard look at some of the aging veterans in the clubhouse, and making some difficult decisions in terms of whether they can still contribute at the Major League level.
In terms of their younger prospects, the expectation can’t be for them to step in and produce right away. Some may be more MLB-ready than others, and the development process may involve sending one or two back to the minors for additional seasoning, as they have already done with Arroyo. But there’s nothing wrong with that – the point is that the prospects who possess skill-sets that the Giants believe in are being given opportunities.
Facing the Future
Obviously, the primary goal is that the Giants find a way to get on a roll and play meaningful baseball down the stretch. But if they do end up missing out on the postseason this year, the Giants without a doubt will be looking for an immediate bounce back in 2018. The rest of 2017, therefore, can be used as a means of getting a head start on next season.
The odds of a resurgence aren’t in their favor, but with more than 100 games still to play, the Giants are far from done. If the Bochy-led team has taught us anything over the past decade, it’s that they are going to show up to the ballpark every day and fight to the bitter end until there are no more games left on their schedule.
At best, Bochy and the Giants will finally click, go on a run, and find themselves in the thick of the NL Wild Card race. At worst, the remaining games will serve as a very solid sample size with which they can audition veteran and younger players alike to determine who is worth keeping around as part of the ballclub’s future. Either way, the remaining four months of the 2017 regular season will be an important time in San Francisco.