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.
In my last post, I wrote about the Giants’ lack of offense in the first six games of the season. Last night, in game seven, except for Hunter Pence’s first-inning, three-run blast, the Giants weren’t exactly wowing the home crowd with their bats.
Giants pitching has also been less than stellar. Although Madison Bumgarner pitched a spectacular two-hit, no run game against the Dodgers on April 2nd, last night he struggled against the Colorado Rockies, even though he would go on to get the win, 4-2. Bumgarner walked five batters in 5-2/3 innings, including one intentional walk. His only three up, three down inning was the first.
On Saturday, the Cardinals had already gotten to Ryan Vogelsong in the first inning, after a Carlos Beltran single scored Matt Carpenter. Vogelsong had perfect innings in the third and fourth, then allowed three runs in the fifth. He allowed another run in the sixth before being replaced by Jose Mijares. All told, Vogelsong went 5-1/3 innings and allowed nine hits and five earned runs.
I’m intentionally passing over the Cardinals’ nine-run conga line against Matt Cain on Sunday. The less said, the better, although the one saving grace was that the Cardinals yesterday gave up a nine-run inning themselves against the Reds.
In seven games, four Giants starters haven’t been able to finish six innings.
The two glimmers of light were Bumgarner’s above-mentioned shutout against the Dodgers and Zito’s scoreless game against the Cardinals on Friday. Oh, and Romo’s four saves. That’s six glimmers.
Tonight, Tim Lincecum faces the Rockies after a shaky first outing against the Dodgers last Wednesday in which he issued seven walks. Amazingly, he went on to win, 5-3.
And this is what is so remarkable. The Giants are struggling both behind the plate and on the mound, yet they’re 4-3 going into today’s game. They’re record is over .500 with less than 100 percent of their stuff.
Imagine what they’ll be able to do once they’re locked in.