Thursday, July 10, 2014

On The Giants' Struggles

Last night, I'm reading and I see that the "Highlight of the Night" is the Giants' 5-2 win over the A's. Baseball Tonight accompanied the post with a video, How do the Giants turn it around? (which I didn't watch, as I didn't want to be nauseated).

And sure, they beat the best team in baseball on one night, but the Giants still dropped two to Oakland before that. And they're 8-19 over their past 27, which has helped the Dodgers claw back into first place. With the Giants' 5-2 win, and the Dodgers' second loss in Detroit, the Dodgers and Giants were tied for first again. And here's where the Giants would break out again, right?

Part 1: David Schoenfield (also of ESPN), recapped the game and was pretty guarded:

1. How good are the Giants? Not as good as their 42-21 start and not as bad as they've been the past month. They're probably about where they should be, on pace for 89 wins. That's about where most people had them projected before the season.

2. Sure, but they lost Angel Pagan on June 15. Right about when the slide started. No coincidence, right? His injury has hurt but one guy doesn't make a lineup. Pagan was having a nice season -- .307/.356/.411 -- but that's not exactly Willie Mays. It is true, however, that Giants center fielders have been a disaster since Pagan went down, hitting .145/.193/.205 since June 15 entering Wednesday's game.

A bigger factor for the offense has been the decline in home runs. Through June 8, they were second in the National League and fourth in the majors with 69 home runs, a great pace for a team that was next-to-last in home runs in the NL in 2013 and last in 2012.

Since June 9, however, the Giants have hit 14 home runs -- the lowest total in the majors. Pence homered on Wednesday. They need more of that.

3. OK, what's been wrong with Cain? I'm not sure anything is wrong. I've been going through his numbers, slicing and dicing and digging deep and there's nothing obvious that explains why he had a 2.93 ERA from 2009 through 2012 and 4.06 the past two seasons. His fastball velocity is the same. Things like swing-and-miss rate and strike percentage and batting average on balls in play are all stable.

But his walk rate is up slightly, especially this year, and he's given up a few more home runs (his home run per fly ball rate is up, although his actual rate of fly balls has been lower the past two seasons than before). That's enough to raise that ERA just a bit.

Why that's happening, I'm not sure. Maybe he's falling behind a little more often. Early last season, he was certainly grooving a few many pitches. This year, he has missed a few starts and twice landed on the disabled list -- first, with a cut on his right index finger suffered while cutting a sandwich and then a hamstring pull. So that could have had an effect. Overall, however, I see no reason why Cain can't be better the rest of the season.

4. What about the rest of the rotation? That's why Cain really needs to step it up. The rotation was bad last year and even this year it's not as good as its reputation. Look, Madison Bumgarner is a terrific pitcher, but he's not Clayton Kershaw and I'd be hard-pressed to say he's better than Zack Greinke. Tim Lincecum is pretty good against the Padres and pretty good at home, but has a 5.82 ERA on the road. Tim Hudson was the savior the first two months and Ryan Vogelsong has been much better than last season. Entering Wednesday, the Giants ranked 21st in starters' WAR via FanGraphs.

Part 2: Oh yeah, and then the funny thing about baseball is, everything can shift from day to day. Yesterday, the Giants were going to turn things around. Today's result: Oakland 6, SF 1. Dodgers are back to being alone in first, pending tonight's game vs. San Diego.

(Though the Giants do have the Diamondbacks this weekend, which is probably favorable for SF.)


Hideo Nomo said...

The Dodgers have played two more games than the Giants, but that will be made up by the end of July. SF plays straight through after the break, while the Dodgers have two days off.

They will lose those two games, for sure.

Fred's Brim said...

Didn't they go into the tank last season when Pagan got hurt?