Kurtenbach: The SF Giants’ playoff hopes are dead. You only needed to watch one player to understand why

Kurtenbach: The SF Giants’ playoff hopes are dead. You only needed to watch one player to understand why

The Giants’ 2023 season is over.

Not literally, of course. The Giants still have 10 games to play. But those games won’t mean much of anything.

Not after Wednesday’s 7-1 loss to the Diamondbacks.

San Francisco needed to go to Arizona — a rival for a National League wild card spot – and win both games in a 20-hour series against the Diamondbacks.

They lost both. And they didn’t put up much of a fight in either.

Pair that with the feeble efforts in Colorado last weekend, and the Giants no longer have a realistic shot of making the postseason.

What went wrong? There was a point this season where this team was 13 games over .500 and looking plucky amongst the best teams in the National League.

In the short term, you can point to the team’s terrible road record, feeble offense, or bullpen breaking down. The lack of reliable starting pitching outside of Logan Webb (who receives no run support) was also problematic.

But the big picture was in the Diamondbacks’ outfield.

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The Giants’ demise in the Arizona series came in the form of one player — the kind of talent that is everything the Giants lack.

Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll will win the National League’s Rookie of the Year award. He might even be an All-MLB player this campaign.

And on Wednesday, he buried the Giants with a 4-for-5 performance at the plate with seven total bases, three runs, two stolen bases, and a 415-foot home run, his 25th of the season.

In the two-game series, Carroll went 6-for-9 with five runs, 10 total bases, three RBI, and three stolen bases.

He also flashed the leather in the outfield.

San Francisco might have some solid players — a few nice young players, too — but watching Carroll this series and this season, it’s obvious that this Giants team lacks a star.

And Carroll, with his combination of power, speed, and elite fielding, is unquestionably a star. He’s now the first MLB rookie to ever hit 25 home runs and steal 50 bases.

Adding insult to injury, the Giants passed on Carroll in the first round of the 2019 draft — the first under director of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi. Instead, San Francisco took local prospect Hunter Bishop. He’s yet to progress beyond Single-A.

It’s important to remember that last season the Diamondbacks were an 88-loss team with the same top two pitchers and many of the same hitters.

But by putting Carroll at the top of the lineup, making some moves in the bullpen, and a few major league trades to shift the lineup, too, suddenly Arizona is a team that’s not only competing for a playoff spot, but can also do something in the postseason, too.

Young, dynamic players are the lifeblood of success in modern baseball. The rules have changed, and, in turn, the rules for building a winning roster have, too.

The Giants didn’t adapt. They built a team for the launch-angle era.

That’s a great formula for finishing .500.

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Don’t get me wrong: Patrick Bailey will be a good player for a long time.

But let’s not get carried away. He’s an excellent defensive catcher and an average bat for the position. And Luis Matos has the chance to be a solid contributor, but he’s slugging .365 in his last 30 games. He has three stolen bases this season.

Who else is worth mentioning?

The offensive foundation of this Giants team is Wilmer Flores. Barry Bonds was the last player to hit 30 home runs in a season in a Giants uniform.

Meanwhile, San Francisco is last in the big leagues in stolen bases on the fewest attempts, and they’re sixth in strikeouts.

All while playing some of the worst outfield defense in the game.

You can’t piecemeal a winning lineup. Not anymore. Moneyball is dead. Welcome back to the era of stars.

And if the Giants didn’t already know that, they learned the hard way this season.

Like Ronald Acuña and Julio Rodriguez in Atlanta and Seattle, respectively, Carroll has the Diamondbacks in position to be contenders for years to come.

These guys are the present and future of the league.

So who is the Giants’ star?

Amid the countless questions surrounding this team heading into the 2024 offseason, that question needs to take precedence.

Because without that star — that force around which everything else orbits — this team is destined to be this kind of average for years to come.