Can SF Giants manager Gabe Kapler buck a trend from the past?

With a 51-55 overall record and a 3-12 record since the All-Star break, the SF Giants are quickly slipping out of playoff contention. If the dive continues, they will play non-competitive games in September. Can manager Gabe Kapler reverse a trend from his days with the Philadelphia Phillies?

When Kapler was announced as one of the finalists to be the Giants’ next manager. There were many concerns about how he managed the Phillies, especially as the season wound down.

To be fair, the Giants’ struggles in 2022 extend beyond Kapler. He’s just using the players the front office put together.

It has often been noted that the Giants have one of the worst defenses in baseball based on defensive metrics. Their value was -35 defensive runs (DRS) and -31 strikeouts above average (OAA). No matter which metric you use, they’ve had the second-worst defense in baseball, and the eye test backs it up, as they often fail to throw to the keeper or can’t handle routine plays.

Is it all Kapler’s fault? Perhaps, he could field a lineup that prioritizes defenses more, but this is an organization that puts a lot of emphasis on platoon games. So, by nature, they’re fine with taking a hit in defense if it means better lineup leverage.

Additionally, as a whole, the 40-man roster doesn’t have many position players who are capable with the glove. They have too many first basemen, corner outfielders and designated hitters, but not enough players at premium positions like shortstop and center. This has left them noticeably exposed this season.

The bullpen was another major issue, as they posted a 4.39 ERA in 2022, which ranks as the fifth-worst mark in baseball. Is this Kapler’s fault? The front office then gambled on stability with one of the most volatile areas on the roster, and that plan backfired.

Bullpen management is very much a result-oriented evaluation, when it should be more process-oriented. Kapler’s handling of the bolt has been suspect at times, and he feels like he should have a quicker hook when he notices someone struggling. At the end of the day, relievers need to perform better and that hasn’t happened.

John Brembia and Jarlin Garcia are some examples of relievers who have had nice seasons, but seem to have struggled, at times, to get their best in high-leverage situations. It is not the reason for the bullfights like Jake McGee, Jose Alvarezand Tyler Rogers they’ve regressed significantly from their roles in 2021. It didn’t help how much the defense struggled, so that’s a factor.

What Kapler needs to prevent is a late-season skid. It was something that happened in both seasons with the Phillies. In 2018, Philadelphia had a 72-62 record going into the last day of August, but posted an 8-20 record in the final month of the season, finishing 9 games ahead of the Colorado Rockies for the final Wild Card spot.

It wasn’t nearly as steep, but the Phillies experienced a similar slump in the final month of the 2019 season as well. On the last day of August, Kapler led Philadelphia to a 69-65 record, but they posted a 12-16 record in September.

They finished eight games behind the Milwaukee Brewers for the Wild Card spot, so a great September may not have helped them. That said, when a contending team slides like the Phillies have in September in both seasons with Kapler as manager, it makes you wonder how focused they’ve been.

It looked like the Phillies just hit a wall as the season went downhill and they were never able to recover. For better or worse, this is usually a reflection of the manager.

The Giants may not have had as strong a record as the Phillies in either season with Kapler at the helm. However, it’s a trend that’s still relatively fresh and could cause more concern for fans if it happens again.

The 107-win season seems like a long time ago at this point. Fans are disappointed with how the 2022 season turned out, and that frustration will continue to grow if Kapler and the Giants don’t play better baseball down the stretch.

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