Eureka, I’ve found it!
I’ve finally zeroed in on the source of the Giants’ problems: their pitchers aren’t hitting.
After starting the season with their bats on fire, of late, Giants pitchers might as well be going to the plate holding an icicle. First, check out their batting averages a week into the season:
OK, Vogelsong and Cain didn’t have a hit, but you see my point. Now let’s look at these same pitchers’ averages a few weeks later.
I know what you’re saying. Zito is still hitting a remarkable .600, and Bumgarner’s .250 isn’t too shabby for a pitcher. But Zito’s average has dropped by .150, Bumgarner’s by .083, and Lincecum’s by an embarrassing .208! Meanwhile, Cain and Vogelsong remain hitless.
How can a ball club win games when their starting pitchers suddenly aren’t hitting?
Yes, I’m being silly. But no more silly, I think, than a lot of sportswriters, fans, and radio broadcasters who just four weeks into the season, with the Giants two games out of first place in the West, are already looking for scapegoats to explain why the Giants have seemingly lost their mojo. Last night on KNBR, Marty Lurie asked his listeners which Giants hitter needs to step up his game to get the rest of the Giants’ offense going. Like a prosecutor leading witness testimony, he limited their choices to Sandoval, Posey, and Pence. Apparently incapable of following simple courtroom rules, I was ready to burn Marco Scutaro at the stake until I realized what I was doing.
The thing is, Giants hitting has been good overall this season. They have the second best average in the National League, hitting .262 as a team. Even if we limit ourselves to the past four games, the Giants have gone 38 – 148, a .257 average.
Oh, but they’re not hitting with RISP! Andrew Baggarly points out that the Giants have gone 0 – 15 with RISP the past two games. Two whole (low-scoring) games!
The point is, you can cherry pick whichever numbers you wish to make an argument about what’s supposedly going wrong for the Giants. But we’re only four weeks into the season. Of course, we expect the Giants, who have won two World Series titles in the past three years, to be dominant all the time, and throughout their lineup. However, you could easily go back to the 2010 or 2012 season and take a snapshot of the team, or even a particular player, and make an argument explaining why the Giants were unlikely to win the division that year, much less go on to win the World Series.
Baseball is a game of numbers, and numbers are revealing–over a long stretch. We’re not there yet. Not even close.