The 2015 season has come and gone for the San Francisco Giants, and while they were unable to make the postseason and defend their title, there were certainly some positives to take away as they mentally and physically prepare for 2016.
Internally, expectations were set quite high coming off a World Series championship that the team had enough talent to defend their title. After winning their third championship in five seasons, the Giants had caught the eye of almost every person who followed sports as a dynasty in the making.
Unfortunately, the 2014 offseason did not go as planned. For some odd reason, the Giants just were not able to lure in free agents to build on their championship caliber season. Pablo Sandoval vaulted for Boston. Jon Lester chose the Chicago Cubs. James Shields chose the Padres. Chase Headley chose the Yankees. And so on.
Externally, people knew the lackluster of an offseason would force the Giants to miss the postseason. Pickups Nori Aoki and Casey McGehee were not enough to replace Michael Morse and Pablo Sandoval. Brining back an aging rotation with a lot of question marks wasn’t going to work either.
So came 2015. And the Giants surprised many right off the bat, sitting at the top of the NL West until reality hit in August when the they were tasked with competing against some of the best teams in baseball with records well over .500. Additionally, Giant after Giant went down to injury, and it just seemed right there and then the Giants had hit a brick wall. Nothing was really the same. And it was probably for the best that the Giants didn’t make the playoffs. But they hung in there, waiting until the last week of the season against the Los Angeles Dodgers to be eliminated. Given all the injuries, to be able to finish the season in second place is a positive takeaway in itself.
The biggest positive of 2015, however, was the emergence of third baseman Matt Duffy. A lot has been written about him, and he has been a special story. If you have time, I highly encourage reading this Players Tribune article on Duffy’s path to the Major Leagues through the lens of his very own father, Tom Duffy. It takes the reader through the journey of what it takes, and gives you the kind of sense of hard word and dedication one needs to make in order to make it the show.
Duffy’s hard work and dedication was evident in 2015. He unseated incumbent third baseman Casey McGehee after he wasn’t even supposed to make the major league roster out of spring training. He jumped up to the third spot in the batting order ahead of a former MVP in Buster Posey. He rolled his ankle during a game in August against the Cardinals, a time when everyone was getting hurt, but instead of sitting a day or two he wrapped that bad boy up and continued to take the field. He played in over 100 straight games, and nearly finished the season with a batting average of over .300.
Many scouts didn’t think Duffy had any power, but he hit 12. He also showed a knack for the RBI by knocking in 77. His defense at third base was stellar. And overall he was worth 4.9 wins above replacement (WAR). That is the second highest WAR from an NL rookie in the past decade. The only one to post a higher WAR happens to be this year from Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs.
Duffy was in the run for Rookie of the Year, which he is unlikely to win given Kris Bryant’s monster year, but before the season ended, Duffy was recognized by his teammates and coaches for his hard work by being awarded this years annual Willie Mac award. He becomes the first Giants rookie ever to be awarded this prestigious honor.
The future is bright for Duffy, and for many of these young Giants players. Their home grown players stepped up and had career years. Their offense stood at the near top in almost every offensive category.
Brandon Crawford broke out big time in 2015 by hitting a career high 21 home runs. He struggled a bit in the second half due to a few nagging injuries, but he put himself on the map as being an overall star shortstop and not just a glove only player.
Madison Bumgarner followed his stellar 2014 postseason by having an outstanding year once again. His battery mate Buster Posey was having an MVP caliber season once again hitting well over .300 and finishing with 19 home runs and 95 driven in.
The Giants bid farewell to many of their aging players who are either retiring or will not be back in 2016. For the Giants, as their braintrust begin focusing on next year, the focus must be on starting pitching. And they know it. They will be competing with big pocket clubs like the Dodgers and Yankees for the services of the available pitching in this years free agent corps, but with roughly $50 million to spend, the Giants will be playing with the big boys this offseason.
2015 was not disappointing in that the Giants didn’t perform well. Injuries happened. It’s a long season, and just goes to show that all the right buttons need click in order to be successful.
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