The Giants season ended in disappointment as they lost 5-4 to the Padres in their final game of the regular season. Despite the Giants failure to advance to the postseason, 2020 has been a season of positives for the San Francisco Giants.
The shortened 2020 season may be looked back on as the start of a new era for the Giants. With a new manager and old heroes being replaced by upcoming stars, there has been a lot of change in San Francisco this offseason. Most predicted the Giants to be among the five worst teams in Major League Baseball but they ended up playing their biggest game since 2016 to end the season. The Giants were only in contention thanks to the expanded playoffs but even being an average team exceeded every fans expectations.
The Giants ended the season one game below .500, at 29-31, which is particularly impressive when you consider that they started the season with just eight wins in their first 24 games. With Brandon Belt and Evan Longoria both missing the start of the season due to injury, you could argue that the second half Giants is more like what we can expect going forwards particularly from the offense.
The offense has been the most promising area in 2020. By WRC+ San Francisco had only the 28th best offense in 2019. In 2020 they jumped up to the 7th best in baseball. They have transformed from a truly awful offensive team to a good offensive team.
Mike Yastrzemski has been the personification of this transformation. Yastrzemski broke out in 2019 as a slightly above average player after a long minor league career. In 2020 Yaz was hitting at an all-star level whilst becoming a leader in the clubhouse. Yastrzemski’s 2020 season was the kind of offensive season that the Giants have not seen since they were winning world series.
Yastrzemski’s hot start to the season was backed up by bounce back performances from Belt and Brandon Crawford. Belt and Crawford were considered to be past their best before the 2020 season and for good reason. Belt had not posted an OPS above even .800 since 2017. With one of the hottest runs of Belt’s career he finished with an OPS over 1.000.
Crawford had been a below average hitter since 2016 but put up career best numbers in 2020. These standout seasons are of course much easier with a shortened season and are unlikely to be repeated in 2021. However, when you consider each stat line as just a small part of a season, both Belt and Crawford performed at a much higher level than they have for a few years at least. Crawford also had a bounce back defensively showing that he could still be an above average shortstop for the Giants.
Perhaps more crucially than veteran bounce backs, 2020 was also an important year for the next generation of Giants hitters. Top prospect Joey Bart made his debut in 2020. Whilst Bart is yet to be productive at the plate, his promotion was a crucial moment for the future of the Giants franchise. Given Bart’s immense talent he will surely become an important part of the lineup in the future and will only improve next year when Buster Posey is around to mentor him.
The other young player to get regular playing time was Mauricio Dubon. After struggling at the start of the year Dubon had some big moments at the plate towards the end of the season including an impressive homerun to the opposite field. He also showed that he can be an everyday centre fielder having not played their before this season. Crucially Dubon is the first player from the Giants relief pitcher sale at the trade deadline last year to look like he could be an everyday player.
The Giants also had a lot of offensive production from some surprise sources. With Donovan Solano and Darin Ruf both putting up above average numbers despite neither of them having much success in the major leagues before 2020. Alex Dickerson also put up career best numbers whilst Wilmer Flores lead the team in homeruns. All four of these players were acquired by Zaidi for virtually nothing. This type of player is what Zaidi was known for when the Giants hired him. With these four players and Mike Yastrzemski, Zaidi is doing for the Giants what he did for the Dodgers with players such as Max Muncy and Chris Taylor.
Although the Giants ultimately missed an opportunity to compete for a title for the first time in four years, it is clear that the team is heading in the right direction for the first time in a few years.