An update on the Giants after a week in which things went from bad to worse on the run-scoring front. Flirting with being no-hit by the D-backs on Tuesday came hot on the heels of dropping a four-game series 3-1 to the Padres, and even though there were signs of recovery in last night’s win against the D-backs, it has been a difficult week for the orange and black.
The narrative that was thrust on the Giants on the eve of the season was that they would need strong hitting to support their patchwork rotation after injuries downed Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija. With Samardzija looking good to start his first game of the year, in the series opener against the Angels on Friday, it has actually been the rotation who have kept the team afloat, if being three games under .500 and 5 back on the division can be counted as being afloat.
The stark truth is it that no team in baseball has scored fewer runs than the San Francisco Giants this season, and just as alarmingly, the Giants have now failed to score more than a run in a game on nine separate occasions this year.
So while hitting has obviously been the big issue so far, it is not simply down to bad at-bats, as the Giants started the week ranked tied-7th overall in batting average. Indeed, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik and Buster Posey have reached base at roughly their career rate or better so far.
The underlying issue to the Giants run-scoring difficulties has been a frustrating tendency to leave men on base, and a failure to convert opportunities to score. The Giants slash line with runners in scoring position is an eye-popping .158/.269/.242. Just 19 out of 120 at-bats with runners in scoring position have yielded a hit, and if it is difficult to see why this is the case then perhaps we can be optimistic that it is down to luck and likely to change soon. The trouble is, we are getting towards the point in the season when we can stop using the ‘small sample size’ caveat to explain things away as a fluke.
Brandon Belt (.333) has been great with runners on, typified by his 2-run bomb last night in Arizona, but he stands alone from his teammates in that respect. The rest of the team has been appalling. In what has been something of a nightmare start to the season Hunter Pence is now hitting .077 with runners in scoring position, but he’s not the only guilty party.
The Giants who have made more than 50 plate appearances, excluding Belt, have combined for .131 batting average with runners in scoring position. If that doesn’t change then the Giants will really struggle out of the lower reaches of the NL West and get the season back on track.
So after seven days in baseball in which the Giants went lost 3-1 in the series in San Diego and are so far split the three-game series in Arizona, where have the positives come from?
Luckily the pitching continues to be good. The Giants are ranked 5th in FIP, 9th in WHIP and 10th in Batting Average Allowed. Johnny Cueto has really risen to the challenge of leading the staff, leading the league in ERA after yielding just one run in his first three starts. He has traditionally started well as a Giant – he won his first three games in both his previous two seasons in San Francisco – but his last start in particular, in which he shut out the D-backs through seven innings, giving up just two hits and striking out eleven into the bargain, offers hope that he can continue to hold the fort until Samardzija returns and beyond.
Chris Stratton is looking better than ever, pitching the best and second best games of his career in the last two against the D-backs and the Padres in terms of game score. Whilst none of the starters have disappointed, one who has flown a bit under the radar so far has been Derek Holland. His strikeout to walk ratio is the best on the staff, and his 2.99 FIP nestles him amongst Clayton Kershaw and Trevor Bauer in the rankings. I have to admit to having been sceptical about the signing after knowing little about him other than that he was pretty awful with the White Sox last year, but I’ve been impressed with the start he’s made in spite of his 0-2 record.
It is not all bad news on the hitting front either. Brandon Belt has had a very good week. Hitting the 100th home run of his career on Wednesday night capped a productive week in which he took his OPS to a respectable .794 for the season. Both Joe Panik and Buster Posey continue to be consistent as well.
It has been a more positive week from Evan Longoria too, and after starting the season terribly, it does appear that he is slowly starting to come good. His OPS is steadily rising towards respectability, but he is still swinging and missing at an alarming rate.
The performance of the week has come from someone not even on the Giants 25-man roster, as Mac Williamson continues to carry his spring training form into the regular season, albeit with Triple-A Sacramento. He is doing everything he can to be part of the solution to the Giants hitting problem, with six home runs in just eleven games and a .487/.600/1.026 slash line. Given Hunter Pence’s terrible to start the campaign, both offensively and defensively, how long can it possibly be until we see Mac given another chance at the top level?