Farhan Zaidi

Giants' lack of athleticism exposed in crushing losses to Diamondbacks

NBC Universal, Inc.

SAN FRANCISCO -- In the bottom of the first inning Wednesday, Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll bounced a single to center, stole second, and then scored. Two innings later, Carroll blooped a single to left, stole second, and then scored.

By the end of a 7-1 win over the Giants, Carroll had become the first rookie in MLB history to reach 25 homers and 50 stolen bases. He was part of a 14-hit effort by the Diamondbacks, who hit two homers, stole three bases, played their usual strong defense and left the Giants hoping for a miracle over the final 10 games of the season.

"Now," manager Gabe Kapler said, "The math is not on our side."

There is no good way to get swept when you're in the position the Giants are in, but this is a series that should haunt the front office when the offseason begins. Farhan Zaidi and Kapler repeatedly said at the end of a disappointing 2022 season that the team needed to get younger and more athletic in 2023, and a part of that push was the late-season games last year against the Diamondbacks. 

Arizona was younger, faster and more dynamic. In a division that had the Los Angeles Dodgers and free-spending San Diego Padres at the top, the Giants saw another potential power forming. Staff members marveled at how the young Diamondbacks chased down every ball in the gap and took the extra base with every opening.

When a reporter pointed out to Kapler that he often brought up the Diamondbacks without being asked about them, he admitted he spent a lot of time thinking about what a strong team they were putting together.

The Giants promised to keep up in 2023, and technically they have gotten younger. This season has been defined in part by the introduction of a large rookie class, but it is a group that is mostly not ready for primetime. Faced with their biggest games since the 2021 NLDS, the Giants leaned almost entirely on veterans, with only Patrick Bailey and Luis Matos deemed good rookie choices for these two games at Chase Field. 

The Giants went with their experience -- and for two games they were left in the starting gate. The biggest play in the series was an error on Wilmer Flores in the second inning on Tuesday. It allowed both Carroll and Ketel Marte to score, and it was the type of play that doesn't exist for a Giants offense that's been the lowest-scoring group in the National League since the start of July.

You could watch that play and ask how many current Giants could score like Carroll and Marte did, but that's not the right question. How many current Giants could even attempt to score?

Thairo Estrada? Sure. Mike Yastrzemski? When his hamstrings are feeling good, probably. But it's not a long list. 

Carroll and Marte were on base that inning because with two outs, Mitch Haniger couldn't get to a pop-up down the left field line. It was an odd-looking play, but one that fit right in line with the type of outfield defense the Giants have played the last two seasons. On the other side, Alek Thomas and the Diamondbacks outfielders ran everything down for 18 innings. 

In two crushing losses, the Giants looked old and slow, but that's not a surprise. For all of the offseason talk about getting more athletic, they again rank near the bottom of the league. 

Carroll is just three stolen bases away from tying the entire Giants team; at 53, they're a distant last in the majors, and they have stolen 103 fewer bases than the Diamondbacks. They rank last in the NL in sprint speed, and it's not like they're making up for that lack of juice and athleticism with homers and extra-base hits. On the other side of the ball, Giants outfielders rank 26th in Outs Above Average. 

The Diamondbacks are fourth in outfield defense and fifth in sprint speed, which seems to be a pretty good indicator of success given the offseason rule changes. Of the eight teams ahead of the Giants in the NL postseason race, only the Atlanta Braves -- who lead the world in homers -- are outside the top 13 in the majors in team speed. The Giants sit in the bottom five with the New York Mets, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox and New York Yankees. 

The game has changed, and for two days at Chase Field, only one team took advantage. The Diamondbacks look poised to join the Dodgers as the NL West's representatives in the postseason. After vowing to provide a different look in 2023, the Giants once again have stalled.

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