The good news is that, if the pattern holds, the Giants will win the World Series next year given that they've followed all of their seasons since 2009 missing the postseason with a championship. The bad news is, well, the champs won't be in the postseason this year, and next year figures to be their biggest challenge yet. Seven and a half games back of both the Dodgers for the NL West and the Cubs for the last Wild Card, there simply isn't enough time to make up the ground necessary to force their way in. Baseball Prospectus gives them just a one percent chance of making the postseason.
So what went wrong for the Giants in 2015. How did they get to this point? How do you go from the top of the world to missing the postseason? And how do you do it three times in a row?
The answer, as you'd probably guess, has something to do with age and injuries. In 2010, the Giants got strong performances out of guys like Andres Torres, Freddy Sanchez, Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, Jonathan Sanchez, Brian Wilson, and of course rookie sensation Buster Posey. When Edgar Renteria went down, the Giants could turn to Juan Uribe. The next year they moved forward with the same squad virtually intact, and everyone's performance suffered or they went down to major injuries. They dipped from 92 wins to 86.
They won again in 2012 thanks to the rise of Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, the acquisitions of Angel Pagan, Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro, and Melky Cabrera's PED-enabled first half. But with Pagan hurt and huge regressions by Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Barry Zito and Ryan Vogelsong, the Giants allowed the 11th most runs in the league in 2013, despite playing in a tremendous park for pitchers.
And finally 2014, while Scutaro, Belt, Pagan, and Matt Cain all battled injuries, Joe Panik came up and solidified the second base position, Mike Morse was surprisingly decent again in left field, and the pitching staff (buoyed by veteran acquisitions Tim Hudson and Jake Peavy) bounced back enough to provide stability.
But injuries have killed them again in 2015. Panik, Pence, Pagan, Cain, Lincecum, and Norichika Aoki have all missed significant time. Again, the Giants have managed to find young players like Chris Heston and Matt Duffy, and acquire players like Marlon Byrd and Mike Leake to plug holes, but it's simply not enough to help a team that is getting older and more brittle.
And that's the biggest problem, as we start to wonder whether the pattern will hold, and if the Giants can compete for the World Series in 2016? In the past, the Giants have supplemented their core with young players from their farm system, and traded well at the deadline. With Belt, Madison Bumgarner, and Buster Posey in their primes, it's certainly possible to build around them.
But the Giants have the oldest average pitcher age in the National League by a full two years in 2015, and are more than a year and half older than the oldest AL staff. Their hitters are older than everyone in the Senior Circuit but the Dodgers and Reds. Cain, Pench, Peavy, Pagan, Sergio Romo, Aoki, and Gregor Blanco are all under contract for next year and are on the wrong side of thirty. The Giants will have to replace Hudson, Leake, and Lincecum in the rotation, and that likely means signing or trading for more veterans.
In fact, the best way for the Giants to really get younger might be to trade from their core, and move Belt this offseason. An elite first baseman, Belt has been asked to play left field (poorly) to accommodate Buster Posey and Andrew Susac at times this year. With two years left before he hits free agency, Belt could potentially bring back a young starter to prevent the Giants' staff from crumbling to dust, and allow Posey to transfer to first base to preserve his bat, and Susac to take over behind the dish.
Either that, or they're going to need minor leaguers like Clayton Blackburn, Chris Stratton, Aldaberto Mejia, Tyler Beebe, Hunter Cole, and Mac Williamson to take big steps forward next year to fill spots vacated by veterans who are likely to get injured. Otherwise, I'm afraid the Giants' amazing ability to bounce back from their off years is going to fall unbelievably short in 2016.