How do you explain 2013? Is it the pitching? Is it the hitting? Did the Giants blow it by bringing everyone back? All of the above?
Here’s my take:
- The Pitching: so many factoids to share, how about this one:
If the Giants allow 10 runs or more in another game, they’ll match the total of 10-run games allowed in 2010, 2011, and 2012 combined.
Here comes the theme of this post: DEPTH…I have no problem with the Giants bringing back the five guys they used last year. But to expect those five guys to (a) repeat, or improve, their usual efforts after a long season, and (b) to stay completely healthy was foolish. It’s easy to point to Gaudin and say “look, depth” but honestly, this team needed him in the bullpen to succeed, and NO ONE in Spring Training would have been happy with a scenario where lots of starts went to Gaudin. Yes, the Giants didn’t get the same kind of quality from Cain, Zito, Lincecum, Vogelsong (and that is a huge problem), but they also left too many innings in the hands of the Kickhams, Mososcos, Rosarios, Machis, and Mijares’s of the world. Finally, total runs allowed: 2009, 611; 2010, 583; 2011, 578; 2012, 649; 2013, 577 (we still have a whole month to play).
- The Hitting: I think these two posts, here and here, are two of the most helpful in understanding the problems of this team. I’ve said from day 1 the Giants were going to have a problem in left field. Again, DEPTH. But, to blame everything on LF would be to over-simplify. Losing Pagan hurt. Scutaro playing hurt most of the year hurt. Sandoval has been a disappointment this season. That hurts. And maybe, most of all, and this pains me to write, Buster Posey has not hit like an MVP and that hurts. He’s still having a good season, and I feel terrible criticizing the guy, but the lack of punch in the lineup this season has a lot to do with Buster’s slump. Finally, as bad as the pitching has been, this is a true fact:
The Giants are 41-14 when they score 4 runs or more. And that 4-run 1st inning matches their biggest 1st inning of the season.
- The Front Office: I can’t blame the front office for bringing most of the 2012 team back for another go this season. In fact, I kind of liked the idea. I do, however, have a problem with the lack of DEPTH. Sure, some things they tried to do to address this issue didn’t work out: see Tony Abreu and Kensuke Tanaka. Those kinds of moves turned into gold in 2010 and 2012, they didn’t this year. Sometimes the bullpen moves make you look like a genius (like when the team brought Casilla in, or Ramon Ramirez in 2010). Other times, not so much. It’s not like they didn’t try, but there were a lot more airballs this year than last.
Conclusion: It’s all about starting pitching. The biggest difference between this team and teams of yore is that the starting guys from 2009-2012 covered a multitude of sins. I don’t know how to address this moving forward. Zito’s gone, maybe Lincecum too, but a big part of renewed success will be Cain and Vogelsong returning to dominance.
Thoughts on the Rest of 2013: There are a couple of things I’d like to see in September. First, I know the Giants want to get Pagan back in there so he can finish the year on a high note, and I doubt they will sit Hunter Pence much, but the team need to let Francisco Peguero and Gary Brown play in the big leagues. This is a MUST. Second, I’m not sure what the team feels about Eric Surkamp’s health, but if he’s healthy he also needs to pitch in September in the major’s. Those three guys are not the answers to big questions, but they could be important pieces, important DEPTH. Finally, September is also about hoping to see some good things from Lincecum, Cain, Vogelsong, Pagan, and the Panda, anything to build on for 2014.
None of that is as much fun as a pennant race, but I still believe this is a roster that can compete next year, so keep rooting for the core, they aren’t going anywhere!