Most teams have reached the midpoint of the season or will over the next few days, so we know what we have with all 30 teams. Sample sizes for most stats are reaching points of significance and there shouldn’t be a whole lot of surprises going forward.
That being said, some teams have fallen off the pace over the last couple of weeks. Those teams are the subject of this week’s Regression Report. Will they get back on track or is this what we can expect the rest of the way?
San Francisco Giants
The Giants got a lot of run in the blogosphere leading up to the season. They were coming off of an improbable 107-55 season in which they went over their season win total by more than 30 victories. Their season ended with the infamous check-swing call when two teams with 213 combined wins were forced to meet in the NLDS. The Dodgers went on to win the World Series. The Giants went home.
This year, the Giants got off to a good start with 20 wins in their first 32 games, but now they have only 20 wins in their last 46. Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Diamondbacks, the Giants had lost five in a row and 11 of their last 14. Are there any signs of hope?
Over the last 30 days, the Giants are batting just .222 with a K% of 24.6% and a BB% of 9.8%. Working counts and drawing walks are two fine attributes, but strikeouts often come with that strategy. The Giants are fifth in K% in that span but 14th for the full season. So this is a team striking out too much of late with a track record that says the opposite. It could be an area of positive regression.
What doesn’t seem to be fixable is the defense. The Giants rank 27th in defensive runs saved (DRS), 30th in Fangraphs’ all-encompassing Def metric and tied for last in Outs Above Average per Statcast.
Among 64 pitchers with at least 80 innings pitched, the Giants have two in the top 10 in FIP (Carlos Rodon and Logan Webb), but ongoing offensive concerns and defensive shortcomings make me believe the Giants don’t have what it takes to hang around in the NL West race. While this current stretch is worse than I expect them to play the rest of the way, even the playoffs look like a dicey proposition despite the extra wild-card spot.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays finished June with a losing record at 12-14, despite holding opponents to just 91 runs over those 26 games. The Rays only scored 96 themselves. Injuries have played a huge part in their season, as they lost Wander Franco for most of June and Kevin Kiermaier for the last 10 days of the month. Mike Zunino, Brandon Lowe and Manuel Margot remain on the IL.
Tropicana Field suppresses offense, so to see the Rays “struggling” relative to their peers is hardly out of the ordinary. Park-adjusted metrics such as wRC+ often look more favorably on the Rays than most metrics, but the offense’s June swoon was noticeably bad. The Rays finished the month with a .292 wOBA and a 95 wRC+ , an indicator of how much of a curve the Trop is graded on, but they also had the fifth-highest K% at 24.4%.
There are a lot of MLB-caliber pitchers on the IL as well, including three who would have been big parts of the rotation (Yonny Chirinos, Tyler Glasnow, Brendan McKay) but are all returning from significant surgeries. The Rays are also missing five relievers who have all pitched in high-leverage situations before.
With 15 games left against the Red Sox, nine against the Yankees and 11 against the Blue Jays, the schedule certainly does the Rays no favors, but they still can control their own destiny with those head-to-head meetings.
If nothing else, the wild-card bubble is very weak in the AL, so the Rays should make the playoffs, but what happens when they get there is another story. I don’t think improved health will be enough for a deep postseason run without some significant upgrades on offense at the trade deadline.