2015 was an odd year. Not as in strange, but as in the opposite of even. Therefore the San Francisco Giants did not win the World Series. Of course, this is a story of legend more than a realistic expectation, even if the last three World Series in even years were won by the Giants might suggest otherwise. And this year wasn’t too bad; an 88-74 record just wasn’t enough to make the playoffs.
The Giants of recent years have been known more for their pitching than offensive prowess and true to form, the 2015 club was just a tick over average in runs scored. With 696—tied with the Twins—they slotted between the Pirates and Athletics. This is a team that still outscored the Cubs, Mets, Dodgers, and Cardinals, all playoff teams.
Buster Posey was once again, fantastic. .318/.379/.470 with 19 homers and 28 doubles led the team as did his 6.1 bWAR. 28 years old until March, Posey has led the team in WAR three of the past four years, topped just once in 2014 by Madison Bumgarner. The catcher and their best pitcher setting the pace for the team? Sounds about right for the Giants.
Brandon Crawford continued his development by doubling his homers (10 in 2014 to 21 in 2015), increasing his doubles by more than fifty percent (20 to 33) and compiling a .256/.321/.462 performance. His career high in OBP was .324 last year, but other than that he put up a number of highs. The team didn’t waste any time signing their shortstop to an extension.
The departure of Pablo Sandoval left an opening at third base for Matt Duffy and he pounced on it. Duffy’s 2015 Baseball Prospectus entry ended with “[t]he former Long Beach State Dirtbag might never become more than a steady utility infielder…” and after a strong showing in very limited action in 2014 slashing .295/.334/.428 with a dozen homers and stolen bases, he blew past that expectation and made Giants fans forget all about the Kung-Fu Panda.
Injuries limited Hunter Pence to just 52 games this year but he still managed to hit .275/.327/.478 with nine homers. Brandon Belt slugged 18 himself and hit .280/.356/.478 while looking like the guy everyone thinks he can be.
The Giants were among the stingiest teams at allowing runs in 2015—seventh from the best—and Madison Bumgarner was their ace. It’s a sign of how strong the pitching was in the NL this year that a 2.93 ERA (2.87 FIP) over 218 innings was only good enough for sixth place in the NL Cy Young vote. He did pick up his second Silver Slugger, however.
Chris Heston had a fine rookie year: 3.95 ERA (4.02 FIP) over 177.2 innings with an 18.9 percent strikeout rate and 8.6 percent walk rate. And of course, a no-hitter.
Jake Peavy isn’t done at 34, but injuries limited the right-hander to just 110 innings. Still, a 3.58 ERA (3.87 FIP) strikeout (17.4 vs. 18.5 percent in 2014) and walk rates (5.6 vs. 7.4 percent in 2014) in line with his recent performance is enough to provide hope for the final year of his Giants contract in 2016. If healthy, he’s still going to help.
Ryan Vogelsong (4.67 ERA, 4.02 FIP), Tim Hudson (4.44 ERA, 4.53 FIP), and Tim Lincecum (4.13 ERA, 4.29 FIP) didn’t fare as well as some of the other veterans. Matt Cain didn’t make his debut until July but got knocked around to a 5.79 ERA in 60.2 innings. Hudson did get a showdown with Barry Zito as both players headed into retirement. Lincecum took his place on the DL and finished the season there.
Was it a successful season?
The Giants had a lot go right: Duffy, Belt, Crawford, Posey, Bumgarner… but it wasn’t enough to make the playoffs. And, a lot also went wrong. The vaunted pitching over the last decade was in tatters and even with Bumgarner at the top, it was not enough to compete either for the division against LA or the wild card against the Cubs and Pirates. This year wasn’t a complete success, but with rumors of Zack Greinke swirling, they might be able to get right back into the postseason and fulfill the prophecy of an even-year World Series once more.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs