Looking back on the 2018 season, the San Francisco Giants were actually surprisingly competitive until late August. So what went wrong?

The team was able to hover around .500 up until the end of August. In fact, when the G Men defeated the Mets on August 31st, their record stood at 68-68. With 26 regular season games remaining, the orange and black were a respectable six and a half games out of first place in the National League West.  

Throughout a season chock-full of injuries to key players, the Giants welcomed the solid contributions they received from (mostly) surprise players like Derek Holland (171.1 IP, 3.57 ERA), Dereck Rodriguez (118.1 IP, 2.81 ERA), and the bullpen’s core of Reyes Moronta, Will Smith, Tony Watson, and Sam Dyson, whose combined era checked in at around (2.60). Even Dereck’s fellow rookie hurler, Andrew Suarez (160.1 IP, 4.49 ERA) provided rotational depth, innings, and more than his fair share of solid outings.  

All of those feel-good stories aside, the Giants accomplished what little they could despite the fact that their two-way infield studs each had down years at the dish. That’s right, I’m talking about Buster Posey, Joe Panik, Brandon Belt, and Brandon Crawford. While their defensive abilities appeared to remain well intact, their offensive production left Giants fans wondering, “what if?”  

What if each player’s slash lines looked like his career average?

Player’s Career Average Slash Line

Buster Posey: .306/.375/.465 (.840 OPS)

Joe Panik: .277/.338/.395 (.733 OPS)

Brandon Belt: .266/.356/.455 (.811 OPS)

Brandon Crawford: .258/.323/.421 (.744 OPS)

*Brandon Crawford’s slash line is actually an approximate average of his previous four seasons; his first three big league seasons were nowhere near indicative of his offensive ability.

Those numbers look pretty solid, given the ballpark the Giants call “home,” as well as each player’s aforementioned defensive prowess.  However, as was also previously mentioned, none of these young men were able to turn in seasons resembling the above totals.  This is what Giants fans had to endure this past season:

2018 Season Slash Line

Buster Posey: .284/.359/.382 (.741 OPS)

Joe Panik: .254/.307/.332 (.639 OPS)

Brandon Belt: .253/.342/.414 (.756 OPS)

Brandon Crawford: .254/.325/.394 (.719 OPS)

After seeing these numbers together, just imagine what could have been, had these talented veterans been able to keep up with their career averages!  Not to mention, Posey, Panik, and Belt each had significant time lost due to injuries.  All of those close games, late innings where one hit would have made the difference, could have gone in favor of the G Men.  Just a Posey walk-off homer, opposite field base hit by Crawford, a shot into “triples alley” off the bat of Belt or Panik…

Whether lamenting over last season’s struggles or reminiscing about the “better days,” when it comes to these four guys, it’s simple: Their production has a sizable impact on the success of this team. Only time will tell which version of each former All-Star will show up in 2019, but rest assured, the answer is coming soon!

Photo: John Ruddock