Well, that's a fine kettle of fish, all right-- checking in before bedtime only to see the Giants have now lost ten of twelve, have claimed last place as their very own, and, to top it off, were no-hit by Homer Bailey last night as some sort of gruesome coup-de-grace. Not that we're making reservations at Panic Beach just yet or anything, but we're at the point where things have to improve if this ballclub is going to go anywhere, even in this eminently winnable division.
The Giants' mantra since 2007 has been "pitching, pitching, and more pitching"-- particularly starting pitching. As we have seen, this year's model simply isn't able to live up to that expectation. Thus the 2013 Giants have had to hit to win. And, up until about two weeks ago, they were hitting enough to be contenders. Averaging 4.4 runs per game through the beginning of the Atlanta series, the Giants have since scored a paltry 41 runs in 17 games, two full runs per game fewer, and are 4-13 over that span. The pitching is the same it's always been, but the guys who were drilling the ball a month ago-- Hunter Pence and Brandon Crawford, particularly, plus Pablo Sandoval, who hasn't hit a lick since returning from the DL-- aren't doing so right now, and until they do, the current state of affairs is unlikely to change.
The Giants are eighth in the league in runs scored, which isn't bad, just average. Problem is, average ain't good enough for these guys. Yes, scoring is down all across the league this year, but three weeks ago the Giants were up around where Cincinnati and Atlanta are right now. And when your pitching staff is still allowing 4.4 runs per game but your scoring has dropped to 4.0 and is still dropping-- well, you're probably going to lose, like, four out of every five games. Which is precisely where we are.
Yet another annoying thing is that the Dodgers, at whom we were chuckling indulgently a few weeks ago as they floundered chest-deep in a division cellar filled with wasted money, have sailed blithely past us and are still on the rise. In terms of raw baseball talent, no team in the division can match the Blue Meanies, and more experiences like that nightmarish three-game set in LA ten days ago are not what we had in mind.
Given the current numbers, the Giants would be best served leading off Marco Scutaro, with Brandon Belt in the two-spot. (Nobody else save Buster Posey seems willing to take even a pitch, let alone a walk.) Neither Gregor Blanco nor Andres Torres is getting on base enough to hold the leadoff spot, and it's tempting to conclude that one or the other ought to be in the lineup every day for the rest of the year, but not both. No other outfielder has leaped up and shown much, either; so with Angel Pagan now likely out for the season, how motivated might the front office be to make a trade for someone who can hit at least as well as, say, Hunter Pence? It depends on many things, including how winnable this season appears to be. The wild-card is almost out of reach already, but a five-team division dogfight looks plausible. The Giants are unlikely to sink so far so fast that they turn sellers rather than buyers at the trade deadline; the decision point will be whether to make a move or merely stand pat and hope for the best.
As for what the Giants might have to offer in trade-- well, we'll review the state of the pitching staff in our next missive.