From the Desk of Larry Baer
I hoped we would still be playing right now. We all did. Tuesday's loss was about as tough as it gets in baseball. Yet I find myself thinking about how proud I am of this team who -- despite the ups and downs of the second half - battled their way into a wild card berth and were among the four National League teams still playing in October. That says a lot about the character of our players, coaches, front office and, of course, our fans.
Though we exited the playoffs earlier than we hoped, I'm proud that once again our team, led by future Hall of Fame manager Bruce Bochy, never stopped fighting. If anything illustrates what Bochy calls "champion blood in their DNA," it is their success in do-or-die games. Their streak of 10 straight victories in elimination games is the longest in Major League history. In all of sports, only the Boston Celtics have more.
And we head into the off season in a much stronger position than we were at this time last year. Our needs are clear, which I'll get to in a moment. But our strengths are also clear -- namely a foundation of talented, battle-tested, mostly homegrown players and an elite starting rotation.
The final weeks of the season encapsulated so many of the reasons we're energized about diving into the work of putting another playoff caliber team on the field in 2017. There were enough gritty, inspiring performances to fill a highlight reel.
There was Matt Moore, who arrived in a mid-season trade, coming within one out of throwing a no-hitter against the Dodgers in late August and then staring down the Cubs for eight innings in the National League Division Series Tuesday night, giving up just two hits.
There was Conor Gillaspie emerging as yet another example of the Giants summoning surprise performances from players up and down the lineup. With the team battling for a Wild Card berth, Conor dove into a photographer's well, flipped over a television camera and popped up with the foul ball in his glove. He was our hottest hitter during the final week of the regular season and batted .421 with six RBI during the postseason. Against the Mets in the Wild Card game, he broke the 0-0 tie in the ninth with a three-run homer to win the game. He came through again with a two-run triple off Aroldis Chapman on the way to winning Game 3 against the Cubs.
There was rookie Ty Blach making a strong case for a spot in the 2017 rotation. He pitched eight shutout innings against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers in that final weekend and was an inspiration to us all. Then -- stepping into the frying pan of Monday's tense Game 3 - he coolly threw two scoreless innings to earn the win in the 13th inning.
There was Derek Law, with a 2.13 ERA in his rookie season, shutting down the Cubs for two innings Monday night then cheering wildly and waving a rally towel in the dugout like a kid in the bleacher seats.
There was Joe Panik, hampered by injuries for much of the season, batting .462 in the postseason. Denard Span set the table during the NLDS with some critical and timely hits.
Our starting pitching features All-Stars Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto at the top of the rotation. Bumgarner recorded more than 200 strikeouts for the third straight season, joining Juan Marichal, Christy Mathewson, Amos Rusie and Tim Lincecum as the only Giants ever to do so. Cueto finished third in innings pitched (219.2), tied for third in wins (18), fifth in ERA (2.79) and sixth in strikeouts (198). Jeff Samardzija posted a 2.45 ERA in his last 10 starts, lowering the starting staff's ERA to 3.71 for the season, the fifth best in the big leagues.
Our defense was outstanding in 2016, the best in baseball. Led by All-Stars Brandon Crawford, Brandon Belt and Buster Posey in the infield, and our inspirational leader Hunter Pence in right, the Giants defense had the highest fielding percentage (.988) in all of baseball. They set the longest errorless streak in National League history with a late-summer stretch of 17 consecutive games.
The primary and obvious focus in the off-season is to fortify the bullpen. As we were reminded this week, no team can win without a strong, reliable bullpen. Under the outstanding leadership of Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans, we will actively pursue options, whether through free agency or trades, to add to our young arms.
In short, we will pursue every opportunity and commit the necessary resources to field the best possible team to get back to the playoffs in 2017.
When the historic streak came to an end this week, we were reminded that champion's blood is, more than anything, about character. We saw it in the clubhouse after Tuesday's defeat. There was no retreat from addressing the media, no finger-pointing. The players faced their disappointment with grace, reflection and resolve. They said they would double-down on preparation, that they'd never forget how awful this felt. They hugged and consoled and thanked one another. As always, they had each other's backs.
And as always, you had theirs. Despite the ups and downs of the season, they could look up into the stands and see wave upon wave of orange and black. A full house every game. You make it clear: We're all in this together. Every player is so grateful to play in front of the best fans in baseball.
Thank you for another incredible season and I am already counting the days til pitchers and catchers report.
Laurence M. Baer
President & CEO