Here’s the thing about September: Thirty minutes in, it was already a rough month. The Giants got walked off in Los Angeles in the sixth hour of a game that started August 31, and the slide to the first tee was officially on.
Oh, the Giants made it interesting alright, and they hung around much longer than anyone could have expected considering they were running the Sacramento River Cats lineup out there most nights. But ultimately it was the final stretch of the season, one that ended with the defending champs getting officially knocked out on September 29.
For the third time in five years the Giants fell short of a repeat bid, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a stirring final month at times. The final month of the season was the one when we said goodbye to Tim Hudson, and then said goodbye to Jeremy Affeldt. We discovered rookies who will try to be big pieces on the #EvenYear team, watched a legally blind man hit a homer, and witnessed this generation’s best postseason pitcher draw a pinch-hit walk against this generation’s hardest thrower.
Here, as we always do, we go back and look at the final month and run down the best players, quotes, GIFs and more. This is The Month That Was:
1. Year of the DL: Madison Bumgarner started on Opening Day in Phoenix, throwing seven strong innings to kick off another outstanding season. His 32nd and final start came against the Dodgers on Sept. 29, and that was the night the Giants finally got eliminated. Here are the lineups for those two games:
I’ve written this a few times: Other teams got hit harder by injuries when you add up games lost, but nobody had as many at the same time down the stretch. When the Giants really needed to be healthy and sweep the Dodgers to stay alive, they played without their Opening Day left fielder (Nori Aoki, concussion), right fielder (Gregor Blanco, concussion) first baseman (Brandon Belt, concussion), second baseman (Joe Panik, back inflammation) and the guy — Hunter Pence (oblique) — who was supposed to hit behind Buster Posey all year. Jarrett Parker and Trevor Brown were the pinch-hitters against Clayton Kershaw, meaning four of the 10 position players Bruce Bochy used (along with Mac Williamson and Kevin Frandsen) hadn’t even been called up when rosters expanded. They were all late additions because of injuries. It was that kind of season.
2. Lineup Monkeying: In 162 games, the Giants used 99 different lineups. Once Matt Duffy replaced Casey McGehee, Bochy’s go-to group would have been Posey, Belt, Panik, Brandon Crawford, Duffy, Aoki, Angel Pagan and Pence. That lineup played together just eight times and went 5-3.
3. The Other Jake: While Jake Arrieta had a second half that put him in the record books, Jake Peavy quietly put himself in position for a big 2016. Peavy finally got healthy this summer, and the results were impressive: A 3.15 ERA once he returned from the DL in July and a 1.96 ERA and .183 opponents batting average in six starts in September and October.
“I hope I’m showing my value,” Peavy said late in the year. “I’m the guy that I was last year down the stretch for this team.”
Since a deadline deal in 2014, Peavy has played just about a full season with the Giants, making 31 starts. His line: 189 1/3 innings, 2.99 ERA, 1.08 WHIP. He has a 122 ERA+ during that time, which would be his highest in a 30-start season since he was an All-Star for the White Sox in 2012. Before that, you have to go back to 2008 to find a season in which Peavy had an ERA+ of 120 or above. Basically, Peavy The Giant is pitching pretty similarly to Peavy In His Prime, and regardless of what the Giants do this offseason, that should be a huge boost to their 2016 hopes.
4. Not Just Bumgarner: The Giants were missing some of their biggest power threats down the stretch, but they still might have had more crowd-pleasing homers in September than any other team. Four different pitchers hit a bomb, helping the staff tie an MLB record with five different pitchers with a homer. Then there was Kelby Tomlinson’s electric inside-the-park job, with StatCast measuring Tomlinson at 15.19 seconds home to home. How does that measure up? Ryan Vogelsong rounded the bases in 26 seconds on his home-run trot, and 40-year-old Tim Hudson took 24 seconds to savor his blast. Some other numbers from an insane month for the starting staff …
Vogelsong (38 years old): 98 mph exit velocity, 394 feet
Hudson (40 years old): 100 mph exit velocity, 389 feet
Peavy (34 years old): 100 mph exit velocity, 387 feet
Mike Leake (27 years old): 100 mph exit velocity, 398 feet
By comparison, Bumgarner’s longest blast was 415 feet on a homer in Pittsburgh that left his bat at 108 mph.
5. The Bumgarner: Speaking of pitcher homers, The Bumgarner! One day FanGraphs will be tracking these, but for now, it’s up to this corner of the internet. If you missed it last month, The Bumgarner (a spinoff of throwing a “Maddux”) is when a starter goes at least seven innings, gives up two runs or fewer, and hits a homer. Bumgarner did it three times this year:
June 28: 7 2/3 innings, 2 earned runs, solo shot
July 25 7 innings, 1 earned run, solo shot
August 16: 9 innings, 0 runs, solo shot
Here, for the sake of record-keeping, are the others:
Leake (April 30): 8 innings, 0 earned, solo shot
Syndergaard (May 27): 7 1/3, 0 earned, solo shot
Harvey (July 11): 7 innings, 2 earned, two-run homer
Arrieta (July 12): 9 innings, 1 earned, solo shot
Greinke (Aug 16): 7 innings, 1 earned, solo shot
Arrieta (Sept. 27): 7 innings, 0 runs, solo shot
Now that, my friends, is one hell of a group of pitchers. On August 16, Bumgarner pitched nine shutout innings and struck out 14. In his two Bumgarners, Arrieta struck out 18 over 16 innings and allowed just two hits. We’ll see if anyone tops those performances next year …
6. Angel vs. Angel: Pagan has become known for having a short fuse on calls by home plate umpires, but this was legitimately funny. Pagan trolled Angel Hernandez after one of the league’s worst umpires lost track of balls and strikes and had to call the replay center.
7. They Went to Jarrett: There were a lot of good things that happened as the season slipped away, and the development of Parker is near the top of the list. One scout told me after his call-up that he has 80 raw power on the 20-80 scale, and it showed during a series in Oakland. Parker went upper deck for a 474 foot homer that was the longest by a Giant in 2015 and put him in the top 10 for all MLB players. Then he busted out a three-homer game that included a grand slam. At that point, Parker was the first player in MLB history to slug 1.000 or higher in his first 14 games. Parker slowed from there, but still finished his rookie year with a .755 slugging percentage. Here’s the list of MLB players with at least 50 plate appearances in 2015 and a slugging percentage over .750:
Jarrett Parker (.755)
Here’s the list of players with at least 50 plate appearances and a slugging percentage over .650:
Jarrett Parker (.755)
Bryce Harper led the Majors with a .649 slugging percentage and just 13 other players finished within 200 points of Parker. It was a very small sample, but it was enough to put Parker on the radar, and he’ll have a shot at an Opening Day job next spring. As Bochy said many times, Parker opened a lot of eyes.
8. Play of the Month: We go to the minor leagues for this one. Panik made one of the best plays you’ll ever see from a second baseman. If he can stay healthy, he’s going to win a Gold Glove.
9. Staredown of the Month: It remains amazing that this happened. Bumgarner’s deadpan afterward was nearly as strong.
“Joe was behind the plate?” he said. “I don’t pay attention to the umpires. I didn’t realize he was up there.”
10. Quotes of the Month:
"If he mentions first base, I would listen.” — Bochy, when asked if Bumgarner could play left field.
“It’s a weird thing. It’s weird. It’s not clear, that’s for sure. I’m not picking up the spin on the ball like Buster does. But I still have a chance.” — Peavy, explaining how he hit a 96 mph Andrew Cashner fastball when his vision is so bad that Posey has to paint his fingers.
"With what I'm dealing with, we have to be smart. I’m excited to get back and do what I can.” — Panik, when he returned. You could tell from his tone that he wasn’t right, and he played just three games.
"He found the fountain of youth today.” — Bochy, after Hudson pitched six innings and hit a homer in his first start back.
"This is definitely my last year, for sure. It’s the right thing to do, it's the right time for me and my family. I've played this game a lot longer than I thought I would.” — Hudson, confirming that he would still be retiring despite his homer.
"BP is a little overrated. I'm starting to find out it messes my swing up.” — Hudson after his homer. He hadn’t taken BP in two months.
"No, no. Duffy won that one.” — Panik, when asked if the Tortoise Race was back on after he homered Sept. 8. He later said that was his way of hinting that his season would soon end.
"That's Play 123B. We worked on that in spring training.” — Bochy, after a bizarre play against the Diamondbacks that led to a backdoor out at third.
"Come on Huddy, hit a homer." — Matt Duffy, when standing next to Bochy as Hudson came to the plate.
“It’s hard for people to understand how taxing (last year) is on the body. It’s a testament to his work ethic. It’s something he should be proud of. I’m proud of him.” — Posey, on Bumgarner’s season.
"I wish I could explain it. I’m buffaloed, to be honest.” — Bochy, on getting shut out five times in nine home games against the Diamondbacks.
“I was, but I never watched it while I was pitching.” — Dodgers lefty Brett Anderson. They filmed a “Fuller House” scene while he was warming up and a beat writer later asked him if he was a fan of the show.
“I’d rather not wait. I’d like to pick a team and get ready to go with that team … It’s a strong possibility that this is a place I’d like to play. It’s kind of wait-and-see. You never know what’s going to happen.” — Leake, on free agency.
“It’s time for me to walk away … I’m going to take my ball and go home.” — Jeremy Affeldt, at his retirement ceremony.
"Brownie has a lot of confidence. Brownie feels like he belongs.” — Peavy, on Brown.
“You’re watching guys grow up in front of your eyes. Not at one point in time has it felt this team has any quit or back-down. It makes me awfully proud to call these guys teammates.” — Peavy, near the end of September.
“They didn’t play like kids. They played like men.” — Bochy, on his rookies.
11. Quotes of the Month, Part II: The countdown to the end …
“You never lose hope. Stranger things have happened, trust me. I don’t think we’ve ever done anything the easy way, anyway.” — Bochy, after the Giants got swept in Los Angeles on Sept. 2.
“We still believe anything can happen. You have to believe that.” — Bochy, on Sept. 9.
“It’s been a while since we picked up a game. You never know.” — Bochy, on Sept. 13
“I don’t think we can lose another game, to be honest.” — Bochy, on Sept. 18.
“I talk about this so many times. You never know …” — Bochy, on Sept. 22.
“We’re hanging by a thread. This was a tough one to let get away.” — Bochy, on Sept. 23.
"As I've said so many times, you never know. We wish we were in a little better position. We lost some tough ones on this trip.” — Bochy, on Sept. 27.
“I just talked to the guys briefly and told them how proud I am of them. Four concussions, three obliques — and here we are on Sept. 29. They fought. They never stopped and I felt good about that. To go into the last week and still be in it, I’m proud of these guys.” — Bochy, when the Giants were finally eliminated Sept. 29.
12. Quotes of the Month, Part III:
"I felt pretty strong.” — Belt, after he snapped his bat against the dirt.
“That was pretty emotional for me. I was kind of caught there. I’m not going to lie to you, the crowd influenced me. I needed to get Petey some work. I got a battalion down there (in the bullpen). I could hear the crowd. I told Brett: I need to give Petey some work, but you’ve got this hitter.” — Bochy, on letting Brett Bochy finish a game after the crowd booed the manager’s walk to the mound.
“You just feel like it’s a matter of time with him. He’s been so close.” — Bochy, after Bumgarner took a perfect game into the eighth.
“No. No. No. If there was (disappointment) I wouldn’t tell you, but there’s really not.” — A smiling Bumgarner, when asked if he was disappointed to lose the perfect game.
“The goal is to go out there and win games, but at the same time you like to be the guy that starts the game and also finishes it. I’d like to think (this season) answers a lot of questions I had coming into the year. That’s why I come in and work my butt off every day.” — Bumgarner, on getting another 200-inning season.
"I'd been getting a little too much (crap), so I needed to do something.” — Leake, after his homer in September that followed Hudson/Vogelsong homers.
“We’re taking over.” — Duffy, when the Other Matt Duffy was called up by the Astros.
"It's just old. I got that old tricky hip. That's just what it is.” — Hudson, on his hip injury.
"I see the finish line. I see it coming. It's fine ... come on. I'm ready for it.” — Hudson, three weeks before the last game of his career.
"Just think about how the trainer feels.” — Dave Groeschner, when told that fans were spooked by another back injury to a second baseman.
"I sprinted down the hall and told my parents.” — Brown, on his reaction to getting the call to the big leagues.
"That's probably the best (plate appearance) against him all night. I mean, what would you expect with that guy? He's like a storybook. He goes up there and I was truly expecting him to hit a homer. Honestly, he's got the midas touch up there, I guess.” — Hudson, on Bumgarner facing Aroldis Chapman.
“It was exactly what I thought it would be. That first inning, getting behind the plate and looking out, looking at the fans — it was exactly how I pictured it.” — Brown, on his first MLB start.
"I might've gotten cut out on the editing floor.” — Hudson, on “Moneyball.”
"I'd be 42? That's going to be tough, that's almost Affeldt's age.” — Posey, when asked if he could win a title every other year to match Yogi Berra’s record.
"He's such a positive guy. He's one of those guys that's never had a bad day. I think he likes hanging around the guys and being around the ballpark and showing off his small shirts.” — Bochy, on Andres Torres.
13: Quotes of the Month, Part IV:
“I walked in and they were a good looking group.” — Hudson, on all his teammates wearing No. 17 shirts.
“That’s the best offensive game I’ve ever seen. It’s just an amazing day for this kid. To do what he did today, it really is amazing. The kid has been locked in since he came in. He makes it look so easy.” — Bochy, on Parker’s three-homer day.
“That’s unbelievable. I’m speechless. I can’t even respond to that.” — Parker, on being first Giant since Willie Mays to hit three homers and drive in seven runs.
“It was a crazy game. It wasn’t quite the pitcher’s duel we imagined.” — Hudson, on Hudson vs. Zito.
“My wife is concerned with the amount of free time I have to be around outdoor things and barbecues. She’s actually really concerned. I think she bought me some gloves the other day that they said are stab-proof.” — Affeldt, on life after baseball.
"I would say I'm probably not on the high-priority list, as much as I hate to say that. As many times as I've seen the field in the last month, it kind of put the writing on the wall. That being said, crazier things have happened.” — Vogelsong, on a possible return to the Giants.
“You’re with a guy who just had a tremendous career. You’ll be talking about the Hall of Fame with this guy. It’s been an honor. We’re very appreciative of what he’s done here and just getting to know him. Over the years, you get a chance to spend time with some great players and get to know them, and he’s been one of them for me.” — Bochy, on Hudson.
"I couldn't be more honored to have my name alongside several of the past winners tonight. I’d like to thank the Giants organization, the coaching staff, my teammates, my family and all the coaches who taught me how to play the game the right way. They taught me that if you put in the time and the preparation, good things will come.” — Duffy, on being the first rookie to win the Willie Mac Award.
"I promise you I expect to show up and throw 200 innings as I always do.” — Peavy, on the 2016 season.
"I don't ever have a normal day.” — An injured Pence, when asked if he’ll be able to have a normal offseason routine.
“Wow. He should take away from that that he's back. What a job he did. I thought he had good stuff, good off-speed stuff down in the zone, and he was hitting his spots. He should be really encouraged.” — Bochy, on Matt Cain’s final start.
"It was a Debbie Downer the last inning. There’s no getting around it.” — Bochy, on the blown lead in Game 162.
“You’ve got to take that and just remember that going into your offseason. Everyone here needs to remember that. It’s not a fun feeling. We have to take that into the offseason and have it give us a little fuel for next season.” — Bumgarner, on the Dodgers clinching in San Francisco.
14. GIF of the Month Nominees: It’s too bad the Giants aren’t still playing, because I would have expanded this category next month to include Vines, mostly so we could all watch Jose Bautista’s glorious bat flip 200 more times. As it is, some highlights from the end of the regular season include Brandon Crawford somehow getting this throw off, Bumgarner working a walk against Aroldis Chapman, and — from the rest of the league — Ben Revere's big miss.
15. GIF of the Month: The winner, in a year that was largely about Bumgarner doing things we haven't seen before ... the left-hander telling Paul Goldschmidt that an intentional walk was not his idea.
16. Best New Tradition: Allow me to compliment Don Mattingly for a second … his tradition of choosing a veteran to be manager for Game 162 is pretty cool, and has led to some funny moments. The Giants need a Game 162 tradition, and I think Crawford found the perfect one. On the final day of the regular season, the shortstop switched the walk-up songs for just about every one of his teammates. You know, you think you’ve seen just about everything during a season … and then Buster Posey walks up to the plate as “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” blasts through AT&T Park. It was brilliant, and it should be a tradition as long as Crawford is the shortstop, which should be quite a while.
16. The Month That Will Be: Well, there’s no parade coming. But Royals-Blue Jays should be an awesome series and the Cubs are going to be must-see no matter which team they’re lining up against. If you need a Giants fix, I did six of these recaps this year and you can find the links at the top of the previous month’s recap. Hot Stove Season starts in a month, and you can follow along here, on Facebook, on Twitter, or on your couch as we air our Hot Stove shows on CSN. Until then, sit back, grab a cold one, relax … and spend some time enjoying the new walk-up song chosen for George Kontos.