What happened to the Giants this year? Is there hope of them turning it around next year?Fine; I'll do a baseball one to close out, and then I'll try to go back to comments on the original post to do short hits on a few.
What happened to the Giants? That's easy. As of today, they have 47 starts from pitchers with ERA+ higher than 80, and 103 starts from pitchers with ERA+ under 80. That's not the whole story, but it's most of it. I'm not going to look it up, but I'd say that if you get over 100 starts from terrible starting pitchers, you're not going to win very often.
Can they turn it around? Sure. Matt Cain had a 5 ERA in the first half; he's at 2.65 since the break. It's very realistic to expect 30 starts above 100 ERA+ next year.
As for the rest...well, say that either The Freak or a high-priced replacement gets one rotation spot, and will keep it, if healthy, barring total disaster. That's still more likely to be better than worse. Zito will be gone, and Vogelsong, if he returns, will be more likely to lose his spot if he's this bad again. Yes, it's always possible to get worse, but those two have been so awful that it really isn't likely. I don't see any particular reason to expect a collapse out of Bumgarner...the one place where a downturn wouldn't be a surprise is the Gaudin slot, but it's not as if he was that great, or started that many.
Granted -- they aren't going to get the same level of performance out of RF next year. Or, most likely, 2B. But the rest of the lineup has every possibility of being as good or better.
Basically, this doesn't smell to me like a team that's peaked and is heading down; it smells like a team that had a collective terrible year, partially through luck of the draw, and partially from a few poor decisions involving trusting too much in the WS winning players. Of course, youneverknow, and it's not all that hard to imagine a few poor decisions and a few bad breaks and the next five years in last place. But mostly, that's not what I see right now.