Could The San Francisco Giants Pitchers Have A Crack In The Armor?
As baseball has been the one constant through all the years, as quoted by James Earl Jones in the movie “Field of Dreams,” the one constant through all the years for the San Francisco Giants has been their starting pitching. From their first World Series victory in 2010 to their latest in 2012, the position players have vastly changed with the exception of one, Buster Posey, but the starting pitching and bullpen have remained for the most part intact. This season, the bullpen has been stellar, racking up 13 SV’s with a 2.65 ERA, 96 K’s, 37 BB’s, 8.76 K/9, 1.23 WHIP, and a .233 BAA. But the starting pitching…hasn’t quite lived up to the same billing. Despite the Giants being 19-13 and in first-place in the NL West division, they’ve done so on the strength of their late-inning offense and bullpen; in 6 of their last 7 victories the Giants had to come-from-behind and score in the 8th inning or later. Their starting pitching, which has been the protective shield of this team against those trying to bring them down, hasn’t been putting up a good fight. One can’t help but ask, is there a crack in the armor?
While we are still in the early portion of the 2013 MLB season, we are closely reaching the point where small sample sizes turn into trends. For the Giants starting pitching staff, that time is now. Currently, the starters have a 10-7 W-L record with a 4.44 ERA, 169 K’s, 65 BB’s, 7.98 K/9, 1.32 WHIP, and a .257 BAA. League average isn’t going to cut it for this group if they have any hope of returning to the playoffs and defending their crown as World Series champs.
So where to begin? The first and obvious choice would be the horse and team ace, Matt Cain. Cain isn’t off the too the greatest of starts, having a 1-2 W-L record with a 5.57 ERA, 36 K’s, 13 BB’s, and a 1.26 WHIP. He has also given up 9 HR’s so far in this short season; last season Cain didn’t give up his 9th HR until mid-June. Cain has always been a fly-ball pitcher, mostly relying on the comforts of AT&T Park to hold them in, but this year (particularly on the road) those same fly-balls are turning into hits and home runs. He recently started dropping his arm angle down a little more on breaking pitches, causing him to lose some of them up in the zone as well. Cain’s last start against the Dodgers this past Sunday was phenomenal (7 strong innings with 1 ER and 4 K’s) and hopefully is a sign that he’s turning it around.
Madison Bumgarner has been the one reliable starter of the bunch. He has been nothing short of remarkable, posting a 3-1 W-L record with a 2.31 ERA, 43 K’s, 11 BB’s, and a 0.94 WHIP. Before his start last night against the Phillies, taking the lost and giving up 5 ER, he was in the small group of early NL CY Young favorites. He has continued to develop and started employing a new change-up into his arsenal of pitches, throwing it more for strikes. Bumgarner looks to be the least of the Giants concerns.
Call me the optimist, but I actually still believe in Tim Lincecum and think he is on the cusp of figuring it out and salvaging his season, maybe his career. As you recall in an earlier post I wrote regarding Lincecum’s first start of the season, I cautioned people not to hammer his stat line and make too much of his 7 BB’s. I also stated that once Posey gets behind the plate for Lincecum starts, we will see remnants of his old self. Sure enough, 4th start of the season, with Posey behind the plate for the first time in a long while, Lincecum pitches a strong 6.2 IP’s with 0 ER, 2 BB’s and 8 K’s. His second start with Posey, 7 IP’s with 2 ER, 3 BB’s, and 9 K’s. He has somewhat came back to his old, new ways in his last two starts, but I’m seeing a different pitcher than last season, and that’s a start.
Barry Zito has pitched well this season, with the exception of one horrific start in Milwaukee against the Brewers were he gave up 9 ER’s. He has a 3-1 W-L record with a 3.06 ERA, 22 K’s, 17 BB’s, and a 1.45 WHIP. His WHIP is high, but he isn’t giving up many runs. Still, it could be a receipt for disaster, but for now we’ll take what we can get from Zito. If you told me I can have a Zito start of 5 IP’s with 3 ER, 2 BB’s and 2 K’s, I’ll tell you to go ahead and start the game in the 6th IP and I’ll take my chances with the offense and bullpen. All Giants fans are on the edge of their seats when he pitches, waiting for Zito to implode, but I think this is a different Zito. Not to talk too much Zen power on you, but there does seem to be an inner peace and calmness with Zito, and it’s having a profound impact on his pitching of late.
Probably the most disappointing of all the Giants starters and the most perplexing is Ryan Vogelsong. What happened? The last two years, Vogelsong has been one of the more consistent starters for the Giants over a season’s period of time. After a stellar 2012 regular and post-season many though Vogelsong could be the league’s best 5th starter. Vogelsong is not making a good case for that cause. His stat line reads: 1-2 W-L record with a 7.20 ERA, 12 BB’s, 30 K’s, and a 1.66 WHIP. Voggy is a corner pitcher, who obviously isn’t doing a great job locating the corners. He is leaving a lot of his pitches out over the plate and he’s getting rocked.
So is there a crack in the armor? If there is, it’s a hairline crack. The Giants are still 19-13 and in first place in the NL West division. Hopefully they can put some glue on the crack and have it be repaired in the next few weeks. In the end, I’m not ready to start calling into question a starting pitching staff that has been so dominate through the past couple of years and the staple of the success for the Giants.