Here we go again with our latest look back at all the years the San Francisco Giants probably have been cheating. This is another one of those seasons where the Giants finished under .500, so a lot of people might wonder how they could have been deceitful—and yet still unsuccessful. However, even though the team won just 73 games, it still needed to put butts in the seats to finally start profiting from its expensive ballpark.
,So as we did for the 2019 season, we will look at this losing squad and its suspect players to see if any of them produced anomalous statistical lines in an otherwise lost season of baseball in the City by the Bay in The House That Steroids Built.
Exhibit A: Derek Holland
Over 8 seasons and 179 game appearances with the Texas Rangers (2009-2016), Holland posted a 4.35 ERA while giving up more than a hit per inning and striking out 7.2 batters per 9 IP. But he came to San Francisco at age 31, having been washed up for for five years, and coming off a season with the Chicago White Sox (2017) where he posted a 6.20 ERA over 29 appearances, 26 starts, and 135 IP.
Guess what happened when Holland started practicing Giants devil magic? He suddenly cut his ERA to 3.57 in 171 1/3 IP while lowering his hits allowed per 9 IP rate to a career-best 8.1—and improving his K rate to a then career-high 8.9 Ks per 9 IP. This is typical of these “miraculous” performances S.F. often gets from washed-up players.
The K rate is most suspect, in that somehow Holland found more movement and MPH on his pitches in his early 30s. He actually improved this K rate to 9.3 the following season with the Giants before being traded away to the Chicago Cubs. But again, Holland was on the scrap heap of MLB after his 2017 season, but somehow, the S.F. organization turned him into a serviceable pitcher for the 2018 season—by reversing his aging process.
Exhibit B: Dereck Rodríguez
The son of a suspected MLB PED user, Rodríguez had posted a mediocre 4.06 ERA and 1.285 WHIP over 7 minor-league seasons (all with the Minnesota Twins). Facing his age-26 season without a contract after the Twins gave up on him, the Giants swooped in and signed him to a deal. Guess what happened next?
You guessed it: In 118 1/3 IP, Lil’ Pudge put up a 2.81 ERA and a 1.132 WHIP in the major leagues. He coughed up 9.0 hits per 9 IP in his minor-league career, but suddenly, in San Francisco, that hit rate dropped to just 7.5 hits allowed every 9 innings. In three seasons of AAA ball, Rodríguez actually gave up 10.4 hits per 9 IP.
So, how did he suddenly figure out how to pitch with the Giants? S.F. sycophants will tell you it was the “amazing” coaching staff, led by Bruce Bochy, that did this for Lil’ Pudge, but common sense overrules that crap pretty readily. Again, with the pattern firmly established—and his family tendencies—there’s more likely rationales here.
Exhibit C: Tony Watson
This case is a little less obvious, as Watson was a solid pitcher for many years before coming to San Francisco at age 33. In seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates (2011-2017), he compiled a nice 2.68 ERA and a 1.088 WHIP as a set-up man and occasional closer.
However, what stands out to us, statistically, is this: At an age when he should have been declining, Watson put on a Giants uniform and suddenly boosted his K rate from 7.9 with Pittsburgh to 9.8 with S.F. That’s almost 2 extra strikeouts per 9 IP, happening at an age when his velocity should be in distinct decline. His walk rate also declined from 2.5 per 9 IP to 1.9 per 9 IP.
His ERA dropped slightly (2.59), which is no big deal, but how does a guy gain velocity and control at age 33 to those degrees of improvement?! It’s very unnatural, and as usual, there’s a primary explanation for it, and that was not the pitching coaches at AT&T Park.
Conclusion: Was this the season when the Giants re-committed to cheating?
Certainly, it could be. Just two seasons removed from a playoff berth, San Francisco’s roster—especially on the offensive side—was a joke. The team had bottomed out with just 64 wins in 2017 (more on that next week), and it was clear a roster overhaul was needed as this team couldn’t cheat its way to a winning record.
No regular on the offensive side posted an OPS higher than .772, and regulars like catcher Buster Posey (.741 OPS at age 31) and shortstop Brandon Crawford (.719 at age 31) were clearly washed up already. Those guys have made miraculous turnarounds in 2021, of course, and we’ve covered that elsewhere.
It is clear that after two devastatingly bad losing seasons (2017-2018), even with the suspect guys above, that the Giants had to do something different to stay competitive in the NL West. We have seen the payoff for that readjustment in the current season, of course, with unreal performances from aging players who were all but done with MLB.
Nothing changes in The House that Steroids Built, does it? Nope, but no one will talk about it or even acknowledge it. We wonder why, and then we remember the mantra of American corruption since the 1970s: Follow the money.