As we pointed out in several prior editions of the The House That Steroids Built series, as well as the Fenway Frauds series, cheating never guarantees wins. It just increases the potential for winning in close situations where we’d otherwise call it “luck”—unless we know better, as we do with the San Francisco Giants. Never punished for Barry Bonds profiteering, why would the organization change its ways?
The 2022 MLB season is over, the Giants finished with an 81-81 record, which was 26 wins less than they had in 2021 when seemingly everyone on the roster overperformed. The team needed a 20-13 finish to the year in September and October against weak opponents just to get back to .500 as 11 of those 20 victories came against losing teams from Arizona and Colorado.
So, now, let’s look at the final stats and those most likely to have been consuming flaxseed oil in 2022.
Exhibit A: Joc Pederson
We discussed this player in our midseason edition (and then some). Here are the final numbers on his surprising season: After posting a .681 OPS with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020 and a .732 OPS combined with the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves in 2021, Pederson managed close to his career-best mark this year with the Giants (.874, trailing only the .876 he posted with L.A. in 2019).
He was 27 in 2019, so that number made sense at the time, but his decline in the last few years—despite World Series-winning coaching in L.A. and Atlanta, after which neither team wanted to keep him—showed his limited capabilities. With both championship franchises cutting him loose, it is clear Pederson realized his career would be over soon if he didn’t do something different. Enter San Francisco.
We’ve seen this story before with players looking for one last payday: With his All-Star designation and good OPS, Pederson did just that. Remember, the Braves paid him $2.5M to get out of his contract, and the Giants ponied up $6M for a one-year deal. Now? Pederson can score a huge payday from a stupid GM on a bad franchise to secure his financial future. But he will be 31 years old next year …
And that’s the start of the final decline for a limited-tool player like Pederson. He posted a -2.1 dWAR this season, too, with San Francisco, so anyone who bites on his offensive numbers is really proving themselves to be foolish. But we digress: This is another player in an endless line of players who used the Giants to get back on track for a final payday, and the S.F. organization used that desperation in return.
Exhibit B: Jason Vosler
A long-time minor leaguer with just a .777 OPS there, Vosler posted a terrible .612 in limited duty last season. But this season, an injury opened up the door for him in San Francisco at age 28, and he walked right through it to the tune of an .812 OPS. He has spent four seasons in Triple A ball, and he probably realized he was running out of chances to claim a MLB roster spot before he reached 30 years old.
Guys who reached the majors for the first time at a late age are never going to be big stars, unless they start doing the dirty. Vosler clearly has a lower ceiling for his talents at the MLB level, but considering his MiLB track record and the open door in front of him, we understand the temptation. We just have to wonder if he succumbed to it or not. This is not a strong example, but it’s a typical one, in truth.
Exhibit C: Alex Cobb
He was once a shining example of how the Tampa Bay organization produced talent, but then Cobb fell on hard times, due to injuries. After the Rays let him walk in free agency after the 2017 season, Cobb posted successive ERAs of 4.90, 10.35, and 4.30 over 217 innings with the Baltimore Orioles—who stupidly had signed him to a 4-year, $57M deal. The Orioles dumped him on the Los Angeles Angels.
Then something shocking happened: Cobb managed to “recover” from all his injuries and troubles in 2021 with the Angels, posting a 3.76 ERA over 93-plus innings at age 33. So, naturally, the Giants stepped in to give an age-34 pitcher a 3-year, $28M deal—based on those 93 IP from 2021. Cobb rewarded their faith with a 3.73 ERA over almost 150 IP this season.
Something is fishy here: How did Cobb suddenly get “healthy” at age 33, just when his last big contract was expiring? Why would the Giants gamble so much money on an old guy several years of ineffectiveness on his recent stat line? Clearly, the two entities came to an understanding, the kind we have seen so often here. Player is desperate; team is desperate … “Let’s be desperate together!”
Exhibit D: John Brebbia
Another holdover from the midseason analysis, this guy finished with a 3.18 ERA—after being out of the majors entirely in 2020 and posting a 5.89 ERA in 2021 at age 31. He had been an effective pitcher in St. Louis (3.14 ERA) after making a late MLB debut at age 27 in 2017, but the Cardinals let him go … which is surprising, considering that organization’s 21st-century success (16 postseasons in 23 years).
St. Louis has won four NL pennants and two World Series since 2000 by making smart personnel decisions, the likes of which the Giants cannot imagine without cheating. So, why would the Cards grant him free agency after the 2020 season? His MiLB ERA was 3.96, so perhaps the St. Louis front office realized he was limited in his potential—which explains a lot about this season.
Let’s look at the money here: At age 32 this season, this player knows his time is up. He has to make good or else his MLB career will be over, since he’s almost arbitration eligible and only making the league minimum. Therein lies the temptation—and the rationale for the S.F. organization in giving him another chance. Here we go again, with the story as old as time.
Exhibit E: Alex Young
Yes, a rando off the roster, but coming into 2022, the age-28 pitcher had a career ERA of 4.90 over 181 2/3 IP with the Arizona and Cleveland organizations. So why would the Giants buy him from the Guardians midseason? Good question, other than the fact he was probably cheap and malleable—not to mention desperate. You know the formulaic results: a 2.39 ERA in 24 games for San Francisco. Surprise?
At this point, there should be no surprise: As ESPN noted last spring, “… we should remember that projections are just projections, and our methods are not necessarily the Giants’ methods.” We know ESPN’s sabermetric and statistical methods are based in fact and reality, while the S.F. organization’s methods have been based in deceit and fraud for almost 25 years now.
Conclusion: Usual patterns, usual suspects, usual results since there are no stars in S.F.
This team hit .234 overall with just a .705 OPS, so there were not a lot of standout performances on offense. We saw old guys with recent, unlikely resurgences in their mid-30s fall apart hard again (Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford). This makes you understand why Buster Posey retired after last season, for sure. He had to preserve his image, in order to take advantage of dream opportunities.
But this was a team with few stars, if any. Two strong pitcher performances carried the team, along with sporadic performances from a variety of D-list hitters, and the bullpen was a strength thanks to the likes of Brebbia and Young, et al. But there wasn’t a single hitter in the lineup to scare opponents, and fringe guys only doing dirties isn’t going to win you a lot of games. Hence the 81-81 record.
Belt, at age 34, saw his OPS drop to pre-Gabe Kapler levels (.676), as did Crawford at age 35 (.652). It was kind of funny, how both their efforts just dropped off a cliff after seeing such improvement under Kapler’s managerial wisdom in 2020 and 2021. Maybe Posey’s numbers would have gone back to his pre-Kapler level, too: The .688 OPS he put up in 2019 showed us how washed up Buster was at 32.
Either way, another baseball season by the Bay ends with the team drawing only 2,482,686 paying fans—eighth in the National League and down from even the 2019 season when the Giants drew 2,707,760 paying fans for a 77-85 team. It’s been five seasons since San Francisco drew truly elite attendance, so we wonder how this talentless roster will re-arm itself for a 2023 season which could be a turning point.
The L.A. Dodgers and the San Diego Padres owned the Giants this year, going a combined 28-10 against their NorCal brethren in the NL West. Even the Diamondbacks won the season series with San Francisco (10-9). With the new schedule reducing in-division games to just 12 matchups against L.A. and S.D., that could give the Giants a chance to snag a wild-card spot in 2023—if they “re-inject” some talent into it all.