SAN FRANCISCO -- At the start of spring training, some Giants officials said they thought the 2023 team might have more talent on paper than the club that won 107 games two years ago. Ultimately, this Giants team ended up being much more similar to the others under Farhan Zaidi and Gabe Kapler.
For the fourth time in Zaidi's five seasons and third time in Kapler's four, the Giants will watch the postseason from home. That became official Tuesday, when they lost 4-0 to the San Diego Padres.
In an odd twist, some Giants didn't even realize their very, very faint playoff hopes had died when it happened. Because MLB's official standings do not account for the league's complicated tiebreaker system, the Giants took the field with an elimination number of two and some players and team officials believed they were still technically alive after the loss, even if they knew there was no hope of making up the gap.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Bay Area and California sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
But according to research done by Sportradar and Andrew Baggarly of The Athletic, there is no way for the Giants to come out ahead in any tiebreaker, even if every result were to somehow go their way over the next five days. When Kapler initially spoke to reporters after the loss, he said he didn't know if his team had been eliminated. A few minutes later, the updated math was relayed.
"The math has been what it's been. I think you turn your attention from watching the scoreboard to trying to win every moment, trying to win every game," he said. "Obviously that method doesn't change. It probably never changes, no matter what. But coming to terms with the fact that we're not going to the postseason is pretty s--tty.
"Yeah, it's not a fun thing to be thinking about. It's disappointing. We expected to go to the postseason and every step along the way we expected to go to the postseason and that never changed. It's certainly frustrating."
A year after going 81-81, the Giants are 78-80 and fighting to stay out of fourth place in the NL West. It's a familiar finish, but a massively disappointing one for a group that fell apart in the second half.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants were 13 games above .500 at one point in July and 10 games over on deadline day, when they all but opted out of the festivities, adding only A.J. Pollock and Mark Mathias. Per FanGraphs, they had a 66 percent chance of making the postseason that day, but the offensive woes that popped up in July never went away, and in September, the pitching and defense finally gave way.
Since the start of July, the Giants have been the lowest-scoring team in the big leagues. That put tremendous pressure on a pitching staff that had just two actual starters most of the season, and when All-Star Alex Cobb's hip flared up in September, the Giants had little hope of keeping up with a mediocre wild-card field.
The window has for weeks remained open to sneak into the third spot, but the Giants went 2-8 on a crucial road trip through Denver, Phoenix and Los Angeles, dropping three of four to the last-place Rockies and then losing both games to a young Diamondbacks team that is likely to give the NL West a second postseason representative.
The first spot was locked up earlier Tuesday, when the Phillies won their 88th game. At the moment, it appears it'll take just about 85 wins to get into the postseason in the NL, but that proved to be too high a bar for the Giants, who had a strange offseason but still came into the year feeling good about their chances.
While the Giants missed out on Aaron Judge and backed away from Carlos Correa over the winter, they felt they ended up with a strong haul of veteran talent, one that would mix with prospects to compete for a division title. The group ended up falling flat.
Michael Conforto and Mitch Haniger didn't reach past heights at the plate and dealt with injuries. Ross Stripling and Sean Manaea, signed to boost the rotation, ended up in the bullpen. Joc Pederson, brought back at the highest salary on the roster, couldn't come close to matching last year's production.
The Giants will head into the offseason on Sunday with some silver linings, most notably the introduction of so many rookies who may be part of the future solution at Oracle Park. But it's hard to see the current staff being around to watch much more of it if they can't find a quick fix.
Both Zaidi and Kapler are signed through next season and ownership intends to bring both back, but patience is wearing thin. These Giants have tried to do things their own way, pushing back on critics who don't like their system of platoons, openers and constant roster churn by saying it's the best way for this particular group to win.
For the third time in four years, it hasn't been enough.