Every year, the Giants’ stated goal is to reach the postseason. Even as recently as the trade deadline, team brass considered the roster playoff caliber, and the club’s record reflected as much.
But a second-half collapse, featuring a historic 6-28 stretch on the road and a teamwide offensive slump, dropped them from third-place in the National League to out of the playoff picture.
Although they’re not mathematically eliminated from the postseason, the brutal stretch has forced the Giants to run out the clock on the rest of their season.
The Giants finish their season with six games at Oracle Park — three against the Padres, and the final three versus the Dodgers.
Here are six storylines worth watching in the final week of a season that failed to meet the organization’s expectations.
The Giants’ issues with filling Oracle Park since the pandemic have been well-documented. But the organization hoped this year would be more of a rebound than has occurred.
As many teams have experienced increased attendance totals, the Giants have averaged a couple hundred fewer paying fans per game. They’ve dropped from 12th to 17th in attendance and are in danger of their lowest non-pandemic year box office result since the team moved from Candlestick Park.
As Fan Nation’s Marc Delucchi pointed out, the Giants will have to average roughly 31,199 fans over their final six games to eclipse last year’s total. Weekday games have been a struggle, particularly Mondays, with downtown in-office work still recovering.
But the Padres and Dodgers travel well and should attract strong turnouts. It’s rare for a team to finish its schedule with six home games, but the quirk gives Giants fans ample opportunities to support their team before another long winter.
The attendance topic is nuanced. But declining attendance is at least a data point, if not a referendum, on a fan base’s impatience and apathy.
Can Mitch Haniger finish the season strong?
Haniger, the Giants’ biggest offseason acquisition, has had a season to forget. And while the final week shouldn’t matter more than any other, taking some positive momentum into the winter could be a major development for both the veteran outfielder and the team.
Haniger wasn’t in the Giants’ starting lineup for two consecutive games last week, a response to his poor play since returning from a fractured right forearm (in 20 games since returning, he has hit .150). That led to conversations between Haniger and Gabe Kapler about his role and the team’s expectations of him.
“I think that comes with production,” Haniger told reporters in Los Angeles. “Not being in the lineup every day is because I haven’t produced. … I feel like if you’re swinging the bat really well, you can force the manager to put your name in the lineup, and unfortunately, I haven’t done that.”
Regardless of how Haniger finishes the year, he’ll be in a Giants uniform through next season at the very least, as he owns a player option for 2025. It’s too early, and Haniger didn’t play enough this year, to make broad declarations about his three-year, $43.5 million contract, but Year 1 was a dud.
The young guns
Kyle Harrison! Marco Luciano! Patrick Bailey! Luis Matos! Heliot Ramos? Tyler Fitzgerald?
The Giants’ develop-and-compete plan didn’t pan out exactly how they’d hope for 2023. But the club will finish with several of the 12 players who made their MLB debut this year on the active roster.
San Francisco’s front office won’t be able to behave differently this offseason based on how the final week goes. But it sure would be nice if the rookies perform well against Major League competition.
For the rookies: the more experience, the better.
A fight for .500
Under Farhan Zaidi, the Giants have gone:
That’s one winning season — and one playoff berth — in the president of baseball operations’ tenure. The Giants haven’t won a playoff series since 2014, when they won their third World Series in five years.
To finish .500, the Giants must win four of their last six games. The Padres and Dodgers are each formidable competition, making that result rather unlikely.
Giants chairman Greg Johnson has reiterated to multiple outlets that the franchise is committed to Zaidi and manager Gabe Kapler for next season. But a third sub-.500 season in five years, one that faltered the way it did and had lofty spring training expectations, could turn on the seat warmers. In a results-driven business, jobs have been lost over less.
Logan Webb’s place in the Cy Young race
With the sixth-best odds entering Monday night’s matchup with frontrunner Blake Snell, Webb is a longshot to win the highest honor for a starting pitcher. But with two starts left, he could improve his candidacy for a higher finish.
Webb leads all pitchers in innings and is tied with Gerrit Cole for the most quality starts. He ranks first in ground ball rate and has dealt with the lowest run support of any starter in MLB. The Rocklin native ranks fifth in the National League in Fangraphs WAR (ninth overall) and fares even higher in Baseball-Reference’s version of the stat.
Webb finished 11th in Cy Young voting last year and is likely to crack the top-five this year. Occasionally dominant but always reliable, Webb is the Giants’ clear-cut ace for the future, with a five-year extension to prove it.
Brandon Crawford’s (possible) farewell
The Giants’ most decorated shortstop ever could play in his last game on Oct. 1, when he’s eligible to come off the injured list.
Crawford’s contract expires after this season, one in which he has registered career-lows in most major hitting categories, including batting average.
Based on how his season has gone, it’s unclear if any team will be interested in offering the 36-year-old a real contract. It’s also unknown if he’d want to play anywhere other than the hometown Giants, the only organization he’s played for over his 13-year career. He has a big family — that’s getting even bigger — and could go out in front of Giants fans in the season finale.
No matter how this season has gone for Crawford, the two-time World Series champion deserves the type of reception any legendary Giant enjoys. Oct. 1 could get emotional.