The SF Giants have lost five of their last six games, and failed to put up much of a fight in a two-game sweep at the hands of the Diamondbacks.
The Giants’ 2023 season has come to an end.
Of course, not literally. The Giants still have ten games remaining. But those games will be meaningless.
Not after a 7-1 loss to the Diamondbacks on Wednesday.
San Francisco needed to travel to Arizona, a rival for a National League wild card spot, and win both games in a 20-hour series.
They were defeated on both counts. Neither did they put up much of a fight.
Combine that with the Giants’ lackluster performance in Colorado last weekend, and they no longer have a realistic chance of making the playoffs.
What happened? This team was 13 games over.500 at one point this season and looked like a contender among the best teams in the National League.
In the short term, you can point to the team’s poor road record, mediocre offense, or a deteriorating bullpen. A lack of consistent starting pitching outside of Logan Webb (who receives no run support) was also an issue.
The big picture, however, was in the Diamondbacks’ outfield.
The Giants’ demise in the Arizona series was precipitated by one player — the type of talent that the Giants lacked.
Corbin Carroll of the Arizona Diamondbacks will be named National League Rookie of the Year. He could even be an All-Star this season.
And he annihilated the Giants on Wednesday, going 4-for-5 with seven total bases, three runs, two stolen bases, and a 415-foot home run, his 25th of the season.
Carroll went 6-for-9 with five runs, ten total bases, three RBI, and three stolen bases in the two-game series.
In the outfield, he also flashed the leather.
San Francisco has some solid players — and a few nice young players — but after watching Carroll this series and this season, it’s clear that the Giants lack a star.
Carroll is unquestionably a star, with his combination of power, speed, and elite fielding. He is now the first rookie in MLB history to hit 25 home runs and steal 50 bases.
To make matters worse, the Giants passed on Carroll in the first round of the 2019 draft, the first under new general manager Farhan Zaidi. Instead, San Francisco selected Hunter Bishop, a local prospect. He has yet to advance past Single-A.
It’s important to remember that the Diamondbacks were an 88-loss team last season, despite having the same top two pitchers and many of the same hitters.
But by putting Carroll at the top of the lineup, making some bullpen moves, and making a few major league trades to shift the lineup, Arizona is suddenly a team that can not only compete for a playoff spot, but also do something in the postseason.
Young, dynamic players are the lifeblood of modern baseball success. The rules have changed, and with them, the rules for assembling a winning roster.
The Giants failed to adapt. They assembled a squad for the launch-angle era.
That’s an excellent finishing formula.500.
Don’t get me wrong: Patrick Bailey is a great player who will be around for a long time.
But don’t get too carried away. He’s a solid defensive catcher with an above-average bat for the position. And Luis Matos has the potential to be an important contributor, but he’s slugging.365 points in his last 30 games. This season, he has three stolen bases.
Who else should be mentioned?
Wilmer Flores is the Giants’ offensive foundation. Barry Bonds was the last Giants player to hit 30 home runs in a season.
Meanwhile, San Francisco ranks last in the majors in stolen bases with the fewest attempts and sixth in strikeouts.
All while playing some of the game’s worst outfield defense.
A winning lineup cannot be assembled piecemeal. Not any longer. Moneyball has died. Welcome back to the era of celebrities.
And, if the Giants didn’t already know, they found out the hard way this season.
Carroll, like Ronald Acua and Julio Rodriguez in Atlanta and Seattle, has the Diamondbacks in position to be contenders for years to come.
These players are the league’s present and future.
So, who is the Giants’ main attraction?
Among the countless questions surrounding this team as the 2024 offseason approaches, that one must take precedence.
Because without that star — that force around which everything else revolves — this team is doomed to be average for the foreseeable future.