In this dire hour, when the Giants’ deficit in the NL West is at a season-high 4 ½ games, when they have played two whole months without capturing a series or even looking remotely competitive against a team with a winning record, when they limp home after a 7-4 loss to the Royals to complete a three-game brooming in Kansas City as well as a disappointing a 4-6 road trip only to be reminded that, with Chris Sale awaiting them on Tuesday, they are 7-21 at home since June 9, and when it’s become clear that, no, Angel Pagan is not the second coming of Rickey Henderson …
(face turning purple, takes breath)
…we present you with three reasons to hope.
The Diamondbacks. The Rockies. The Padres.
That’s it. Really. That’s all the Giants have going for them. They have 44 games left, and 20 of them are against the three teams in the NL West that are as hardy and functional as particle board furniture in the rain. And pssst, Tim Lincecum, Paul Goldschmidt is out for the year.
The other teams in the NL wild card race might get to play the Cubs more, or the Phillies more. The Giants get to play three Cubs teams. Or three Phillies teams. You get the point. The schedule gives them a built-in advantage.
Now then. Don’t you feel better? OK, so let’s take a look at the NL West standings since June 9:
The Giants have pretty much been made of wet particle board themselves for more than two months.
This is a team missing too many nuts, bolts and washers. Madison Bumgarner has a 5.60 ERA at home and Lincecum has a 5.98 ERA on the road. Even if grinders like Ryan Vogelsong and Jake Peavy can hold the rotation together, the Giants can’t create enough opportunities and that just allows for a fuller analysis when they don’t get hits with runners in scoring position.
So many elements they had in April and May have gone missing, most notably the home runs (did Brandon Hicks really take Clayton Kershaw deep?) but not only that. Brandon Crawford’s season has to be labeled a total bust. He leads all NL shortstops with 18 errors (he ranked second and third the two previous seasons), his average is down to .229, he’s already set a career high with 98 strikeouts and his struggles against right-handed pitching have become so unmanageable that he’s losing playing time to Matt Duffy.
But again, it’s not all Crawford’s fault.
Clearly, it’s not Belt’s fault that a concussion and broken hand caused him to miss so much time. It’s not Matt Cain’s fault that the bone chips he has been able to work around for years settled into a raw spot that locked up his arm. And it’s not Lincecum’s fault that the Giants gave him $17 million per season even though there was so little evidence that pointed to him becoming anything better than a No.5 starter again.
(Those five stolen bases against Lincecum, the most allowed by a Giants starter since Atlee Hammaker in 1988, most definitely were his fault, though.)
This is all so very discouraging beyond their ability to contend for a playoff spot this season. Just look at what they face this winter, with roughly $125 million already committed to a payroll that probably won’t go above $170 million: re-sign or replace Pablo Sandoval (with the clear thrust being to re-sign him), re-sign or replace Michael Morse in left field, re-sign or replace Ryan Vogelsong and/or Jake Peavy, find an everyday second baseman or try to patch it internally, and re-sign or replace Sergio Romo. Plus do it all with arbitration salaries due to Belt and Crawford.
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You begin to understand: Even if the Giants wanted to poke around and see if they could do better than Crawford at shortstop, it would be like spending $1000 to fix the air conditioner when the car’s on blocks in the driveway. It’s too far down the priority list.
Same goes for replacing Lincecum with a rotation upgrade, and moving him to the bullpen -– even if that’s what they need to consider doing if they truly want to return to an elite level next season.
For now, and for their health and sanity in the longer term, they simply need Crawford to play better. They need to get more out of Lincecum. They need to fix whatever has made them a nightly disappointment for the near-capacity crowds that continue to pack AT&T Park, and they can’t wait until the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Padres stroll back into their path.
We spent the better part of two months on Pagan updates, from the doctor’s office to the tee to the batting cage to the minors and finally back to the active roster. We played him up like he was the bread yeast.
They are 0-4 since Pagan returned. It’s hard to rise when you can’t reach the oven knob. And it’s hard to generate momentum when you can’t beat a winning team.
Because you know, even if the Giants find some way to make the playoffs, that’s what would await them.