January 30, 2023

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3 major things we've learned from the Giants

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This story was excerpted from Maria Guardado’s Giants Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Injury concerns are once again mounting for the Giants, who lost LaMonte Wade Jr., Curt Casali, Brandon Belt and Austin Slater in the span of four days, but the greater obstacle lies in the fact that they’ll have to spar with two heavyweights — the Dodgers and the Padres — in their quest to defend their National League West title.

While the Giants have taken care of business against sub-.500 teams (15-5), they’ve had trouble against stiffer competition, going only 8-14 against winning clubs this year. There’s still plenty of baseball left to be played, but San Francisco will have to show that it can hang with the best or risk falling further behind its two primary division rivals this summer.

Here are three other trends that have begun to emerge for the 2022 Giants:

Yastrzemski was a revelation in his first two seasons with the Giants, placing eighth in NL MVP voting after batting .297 with a .968 OPS and 10 home runs over 54 games in 2020. He ranked second on the team with 25 homers last season, but he still experienced an overall dip in production, batting .224 with a .768 OPS over 139 games.

What was behind the down season? While Yastrzemski remained dangerous against righties, he had trouble against left-handed pitching, which was a departure from the reverse splits he posted at the beginning of his career. The 31-year-old veteran recorded a .513 OPS against lefties last season, down from .997 in 2020. Yastrzemski has said he believes those struggles partly resulted from getting hit on the hand by a pitch from former A’s lefty Sean Manaea at the end of Spring Training last year, which stayed with him for much of the 2021 campaign.  

Yastrzemski seems to be past that now, as he’s looked more comfortable in the box against southpaws early this year, going 7-for-24 (.292) with a home run and two doubles over 27 plate appearances.  

With veterans like Brandon Crawford, Evan Longoria and Belt enduring slow starts at the plate, Yastrzemski has largely been carrying the Giants’ offense thus far and reasserting himself as an indispensable part of the lineup.

2. The defense hasn’t been crisp enough

Steady fielding was a hallmark of the Giants in 2021, when they ranked fifth in the Majors with 27 Outs Above Average thanks to some of the best defensive positioning in the league. But their glovework this year has left much to be desired, and it’s been costing them in games. San Francisco currently ranks 26th in the Majors with -14 Outs Above Average and 29th with -22 Defensive Runs Saved, a sign of its struggles to convert as many balls into outs this season.

“We’re just not making enough plays,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Nobody expects us to win Gold Gloves because it’s not the type of roster that we are. It’s not the type of team that we’ve been. But we definitely need to make more plays than we’re making.”

3. Carlos Rodón has been as advertised, but the rotation still has room to improve

Aside from a rough start against the Cardinals, Rodón has looked dominant, logging a 3.42 ERA with 62 strikeouts over 44 2/3 innings. But the Giants’ rotation as a whole hasn’t been the strength everyone expected it would be, ranking 20th in the Majors with a 4.37 ERA.

Logan Webb (3.54 ERA) has been effective, but he hasn’t been at his best and is still working on getting his slider back on track. Alex Wood (4.82 ERA) and Alex Cobb (6.25 ERA) aren’t fully clicking yet either, though Cobb’s 1.90 expected ERA suggests that he’s been one of the unluckiest pitchers in baseball this year. Anthony DeSclafani, meanwhile, is expected to be out until at least June 21 after landing on the 60-day injured list with left ankle inflammation, forcing the Giants to lean on Jakob Junis in the interim.

Better health (and better defense) should help the Giants suppress more runs moving forward, particularly since the club’s starters still lead the Majors with a 3.12 FIP.

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