Just like that, the 2015 season is over.
“You managed to take this beat up team and get us eliminated in the final week.”
Affeldt chuckled, the crowd sigh-laughed. It was true.
That’ll be the story of this season; Tim Lincecum, Joe Panik, Hunter Pence, Juan Perez, Hector Sanchez, Andrew Susac, Nori Aoki, Gregor Blanco, Matt Cain, Angel Pagan, Tim Hudson, Mike Leake and Jake Peavy bounced around the disabled list. Brandon Belt recently underwent knee surgery and will need four weeks of rehab.
The active roster has nine total rookies and 11 players that started out the year in the minor leagues. They traded for two Cincinnati Reds, brought back two old faces (Nick Noonan and Kevin Frandsen) in a last stitch effort that had fans thinking … maybe.
The never-say-die September kept this odd year interesting and the Rockies concluded the Giants’ long-winded celebration of endings with a rousing 7-3 last-game demolition. AT&T Park held one more ceremony after the loss; Ryan Vogelsong, with his team behind him on the infield, thanked the loyal fans.
Photos by Marlene Sanchez/SFBay
They’d come to see a possible repeat, but stayed for the breakout rookie performances and old heroes. Bruce Bochy said there’s no reason to the odd-year slump — though there has to be something to his team’s apparent fatigue and vulnerability after a winning season—he’s just looking forward:
“Overall, I’m proud of these guys. They’ve been through a lot. They’ve got some work to do, some healing up to do. We’ll start meeting tomorrow.”
That rough ending, said Buster Posey as he watched his team pack up the clubhouse in another odd year, had its silver lining:
“Just looking around at the position players that are coming back. I think there are a lot of teams that would be happy to have an infield as solidified as that.”
Matt Duffy finished the season with a .295 average and a .964 fielding percentage at third—not bad for a converted shortstop. Kelby Tomlinson hit .400 in his last nine games and Brandon Crawford emerged as a power hitter
His 21 homers marks the first time a shortstop has led the team since Bill Dahlen‘s seven in 1905 — and Belt is also a probable Gold Glove winner.
With Joe Panik and Brandon Belt to return next season, the infield just looks unbreakable. Or maybe a little breakable; injury poked a hole in that wall this year.
Posey said it’s been a good year despite the disappointment of missing the playoffs:
“Definitely you have to look at the positives. We had some young players come up and play well down the stretch. Bumgarner was strong all year after what he had accomplished last year. There’s some good stuff, but it’s hard for me to say you’re satisfied with it all if you’re not getting to play more.”
Posey had yet another solid year, hitting numbers just below those of his MVP season; he went .318 with 95 RBI and struck out four fewer times than he walked (56BB, 52K). He was the team’s go-to two-strike hitter—always ready to leap on the pitcher’s pitch. Posey knows what he’s working on this offseason:
“Fun thing is for me is there’s spots to improve. More excited to take a little break and get back to work and start tweaking things. Get in the weight room and make good positive adjustments and be ready to go for next year. … One thing I want to hone in on, early in the count zone up a little bit more and not just swing at that pitcher’s pitch as often.”
Matt Cain eased fans out of this weird season with a gentle reminder that he still has the old Matty Ice in him. He dished five innings of scoreless ball on 65 pitches.
“Today definitely felt good. I felt like I had good rhythm. … got a lot of quick outs. I’d done that a lot during the season and sometimes the results didn’t show.”
Maybe his emotions mixed well with the adrenaline; Cain spoke during Affeldt’s retirement ceremony before the game. Affeldt teared up when he spoke of Cain and Buster Posey:
“I believe there are friends that are closer than brothers, and I have two on this team.”
It looked like Cain would also get his third win on the season — the Giants tallied two runs of support before his departure. The first four Giants batters led off the game with singles, including RBI hits from Matt Duffy and Buster Posey.
Kontos departed having now allowed just 13 of his 28 inherited runners score.
A bittersweet ending for Cain. He felt optimistic about 2016 and his role in next year’s uncertain rotation:
“I want to be right there with Bum doing the same thing he’s been doing. Both of us can compete and push each other. Heston’s gonna be able to do the same thing, and Peavy, we’re all gonna be pushing ourselves in this inner rivalry we’ve had as a staff. If they want to go out and grab a big guy, the more the merrier. We saw what Leake was capable of doing this year. He’s a tremendous pitcher and a tremendous hitter, he works out because he’s a tremendous athlete all around.”
The Giants finish this year 84-78, just four fewer than last year’s regular season record and eight games more than the last odd-year. San Francisco and the Dodgers are the only teams in the NL West to finish above .500.
They also finish the year leading the National League in batting average (.267), OBP (.326) and rank third-last in strikeouts (1159).
Something for these Giants to be proud of, all things considered. Said Bochy of the disappointing end:
It’s so hard to do what we’ve done three times. I know when it happens, three out of five years, now three out of six, it makes it look easier. Every year’s different. You talk about how you have to stay healthy and that caught up with us this year.”
Notes: Sergio Romo made his 70th appearance on the season, a career high… Javier Lopez made his 77th season appearance, matching a career high… Jeremy Affeldt recorded two outs in the sixth, knocking out lefties Jose Reyes and Carlos Gonzalez. It was an appropriate end to his 14-year career; Bochy put him in the right scenario and Affeldt did his job.