You would have forgiven some Giants fans for thinking the NL West race was over somewhere around July 1st. They held an eight-game lead, Clayton Kershaw disappeared into the ether, and it is an even year after all. So they may be in something of a fog these days that it’s all disappeared, though there is the safety net that they’ll still most likely land in a wild card coin-flip that they can just toss Madison Bumgarner into and feel pretty good about things.
So how did the Giants get here, discovering this isn’t their beautiful wife? The answer isn’t always just one thing, but the big problem has been that none of their pitchers can keep the ball in the park. And that’s while playing in one of the more pitcher-friendly parks you can find on The Cove.
To be fair to the hurlers, the offense hasn’t lit the world on fire in the second half either. It’s hasn’t been awful, but as a team they’re 11th in slugging in the NL in that time, so it’s been a lot of singles. It’s been middle of the pack in terms of average and on-base percentage. The return of Under Pants hasn’t helped in the way they hoped, because he’s been simply awful.
So the eyes point to the pitching. In the second half, just about every starter is giving up a ton of homers. Bumgarner has given up nine in the season’s latter half. Jeff Samardzija has given up seven. Johnny Cueto has given up eight. So has Matt Cain.
Digging a little deeper, it’s just an abnormal amount of flies that are leaving the park. Bumgarner’s FB/HR% in the second half is twice his career rate. Cueto’s has doubled. Cain’s has nearly tripled. Bumgarner and Cueto have also seen the amount of fly balls they’re giving up significantly increase in the second half from the first as well.
But it appears to just be “one of those things.” None of the Giants’ starters have seen a significant increase in the amount of hard contact they’re giving up from one half to the other. They’re line-drive rates are all either at 20% or just below it, except for Cain who’s just kind of a disaster all unto himself.
Giving up a lot of flies might not be a path to success for this team either. All of Pagan, Span, and Under Pants are over 30 and slowing down. They’re not a terrible defensive outfield but considering the amount of space they have to traverse at AT&T, there are more balls going to drop in than probably should. It’s all a problem, John Fox. This is partly why both Bumgarner and Cueto have seen massive jumped in the BABIP from the first half to the second half. Samardzija stopped striking out people regularly a couple seasons ago, and the more contact he’s giving up the more it’s turning into hits.
The schedule won’t help them much in this area either. They have four games here, though Wrigley can play either way as we know. Then it’s to Coors Field and Arizona, both hitters’ paradises. After that though they’re either at home or in San Diego or in Los Angeles. The Giants will get to write their own ticket with six games against the Dodgers left. It would just help if the pitchers could keep the ball where their fielders can get them.