RECORDS: Giants 19-26 Cubs 22-20
GAMETIMES: 7:05pm Monday,Wednesday, 6:05pm Tuesday, 1:20pm Thursday
TV: WGN Monday, CSN Tuesday and Wednesday, ABC 7 on Thursday
SO VERY POOR: McCovey Chronicles
In another time, this would get the “Playoff Rematch!” billing and we would all start swearing about Derek Law shortly after we got off work, if not much sooner. We would hear all about how the Giants aren’t taking this any more seriously than any other serious but kind of are anyway, though they wouldn’t be confirm that until after they had won it if they did. Maybe they’d even throw at Javy Baez for some reason.
Luckily, the Giants have been such a botched surgery this season, they’ve got much bigger fish to fry.
Diagnosing the Giants’ problems doesn’t require MRIs and CT scans. They can’t fucking hit. They rank second-last in team OBP, last in slugging, and way last in team wOBA. They might be tempted to lay some blame, or a lot of it, on injuries to Connar Gillaspie, Hunter Pence, and Jarret Parker. But if you’re counting on Gillaspie and Parker to contribute, you’re already sniffing too much glue and if you’re counting on UnderPants to stay healthy, the sky is definitely not blue in your world. These were pretty much givens.
The linchpins haven’t been great, either. Brandon Crawford has only been ok, declining off of last year which was a decline from the year before and at the age of the 30 some might begin to worry about decline overall. Buster Posey has been his normal excellent self, but other than Brandon Belt he hasn’t really had any help. When Pence has been healthy he’s been awful, and Joe Panik no better. Denard Span’s OBP is under .300, which isn’t ideal for y’know, a leadoff guy. Eduardo Nunez looks like the journeyman he’s always been and the Giants somehow deluded themselves into thinking he wasn’t anymore. And Christian Arroyo, barely 22, is overmatched at this level. That’s five positions of eight that have been below average, with Crawford really only being average offensively so far this year.
The seeds for a revival are also easy to identify though. Without The Mad Biker of The Apocalypse, the rotation has been short. Jeff Samardzija is off to maybe his best start of his career, with a FIP below 3.00 and a 7-to-1 K/BB ration. Cueto hasn’t hit the heights of last year but is still effective and is still Johnny Cueto. But Matt Cain, Ty Blach, and Matt Moore have been borderline woeful. Blach can’t miss bats to save a puppy, and Moore and Cain can’t find the plate. Still, if they could hit at all and could hang on until any possible Bumgarner return/Tyler Beede promotion, with Shark and Cueto you could see a streak being produced.
Because the bullpen has been night-and-day from last year. Melancon has been everything they thought they were signing, compensating for his lower amount of strikeouts for a closer by walking no one. Acceptable exuberant for television Derek Law has been very good, as has Hunter Strickland. The rest of the cast out there has its use.
Still, the Giants could find themselves at a crossroads soon. The lineup is old and ouch-y, and there isn’t a lot in the pipeline to replace them. At some point they might have to finally answer the Belt-or-Posey-at-first full time debate. They’re already well behind the Dodgers who look stronger all around the diamond, and how badly are you going to chase a spot in a coin-flip game?
Maybe if Pence returns healthy he can recapture whatever reserve of past magic he has. Maybe Crawford will return to form. Maybe Arroyo figures out MLB pitching, but now we’re stretching. That still leaves holes in two-third of the outfield and at second and almost certainly third. How many trades can you make?
For the Cubs, they’re 4-1 on what is now a nine-game homestead, and even though the Giants won two of three in St. Louis over the weekend, they end it with four against a team that has a .333 winning-percentage on the road so far this year. A west coast road trip awaits after this, and those are never simple. Good idea to launch into it.