The San Francisco Giants have won two World Series titles in the last three years. It’s safe to say that Giants fans have been spoiled these last few seasons with how well the Giants have played.
San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Matt Cain throws to the Philadelphia Phillies during the first inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, April 18, 2012. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
However, as the Giants are finding out as defending Champs for the second time in the last three years, defending the title is extra hard. To be World Champs you need to have a combination of skill, clutch pitching, hitting, a manager pull all the right strings and a little bit of luck. That happened for the Giants last year. So far this year though that hasn’t been the case. So what’s happened to Giants? Why are they sitting at 43-51 and 6 and a half games back in the NL West?
Well, first of all, injuries. The Giants have experienced injuries to a number of key players, both pitchers and position players. Pitchers Santiago Casilla and Ryan Vogelsong have been out for most of the season. The same with centerfielder Angel Pagan. Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro and Brandon Crawford haven’t been out for long periods, but enough time to cost the Giants wins. These injuries have really limited the Giants ability to play consistent baseball. Bruce Bochy has been forced to put guys in unfamiliar roles and bring up young pitchers who he wasn’t expected to use: like Sandy Rosario, Mike Kickham and Jake Dunning. Angel Pagan’s injury has forced the Giants to flip-flop the leadoff spot between Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres, which isn’t a great way to guarantee success. Injuries to players like Scutaro, Sandoval, and Crawford have been brief but still hurt nonetheless. Finally, Ryan Vogelsong’s injury has been a big lose for the Giants. He’s been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball the last two years and was finding his groove after a terrible start to the season when he broke his hand. Losing Vogelsong to a broken hand wasn’t all bad though, it gave Chad Gaudin the opportunity to emerge, but that also means that the Giants have had to rely on Barry Zito even more, which is good at home and disastrous on the road.
Next, probably the most obvious problem for the Giants this season has been inconsistencies with the pitching staff. Matt Cain, the Giants Ace from last year is 5-6 and has a 5.06 ERA through the first half of the season, which is a far cry from last year’s record of 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA which earned him the right to start the All Star Game. Ryan Vogelsong, before going on the disabled list, had his struggles. Tim Lincecum has had his struggles this season although he’s got an ERA of 3.16 in his last 8 starts including a no-hitter last Saturday against the Padres. Barry Zito has been a CY Young contender at home 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA and then on the road he’s been the worst pitcher in baseball as his 9.89 ERA would indicate. One good thing is seeing the emergence of Chad Gaudin into the Giants rotation. He looks like he’ll provide very good pitching down the stretch for the Giants.
Heading into the second half of the season the Giants are still within striking distance. They are only 6 and a half games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are coming to AT&T Park for the start of a three game series tonight. The Giants start off the second half of the season with a 10 game home stand which will decide the Giants season. If they have a great home stand like 7-3 or above and make up ground then you will see them make a run, but if the opposite happens and the Giants have a poor home stand and fall farther behind in the division, Giants General Manager Brian Sabean may end up shaking things up, by trading some key pieces like Hunter Pence, Javier Lopez, Santiago Casilla, or even Jeremy Affeldt in exchange for some Minor League prospects in order to beef up the Giants farm system, which isn’t overly strong.
The Giants season is at a cross-roads right now and as Sabean said last night on KNBR 680, the Giants affiliate station, the Giants are in neutral and this home stand will define the season. So will we see the 2012 Giants who won the World Series make a run and put themselves back in the playoff chase or will we see some key components from that team shipped out in exchange for Minor League prospects because the Giants didn’t have it this year. The answer starts tonight.