The defending World Series champions are struggling. Rather than chalk it up to their odd-year curse, here’s a real look at why that is.
Call it World Series hangover, call it a team that didn’t improve in the offseason, but the San Francisco Giants enter Monday with an 8-11 record, which puts them in last place in the National League West despite winning four of their past five contests. What has plagued the Giants can be narrowed down to a few key issues.
Any major leaguer, and really, any athlete, will tell you that injuries are not an excuse for underperformance, but you cannot talk about San Francisco’s first weeks of the season without mentioning the key players that have missed key playing time for them already in April.
The injury troubles started in the first days of exhibition games in Arizona when outfielder Hunter Pence suffered a broken left forearm. He has yet to play in a regular season game, but appears close to returning.
On March 30th, Travis Ishikawa was placed on the DL with a strained lower back. That was followed up by starter Matt Cain being placed on the DL on April 3rd with tightness in his right forearm as he continues to recover from surgery to clean bone chips from his throwing elbow last August, while Jake Peavy, who started with the season with an 0-2 record and a 9.39 ERA and 2.08 WHIP, was placed on the DL with a strained back on April 18th.
On top of all the DL stints, first baseman Brandon Belt missed some playing time in the first days of the season with a groin injury.
- Madison Bumgarner
Over the Giants’ run that has seen them deliver three World Series titles over the span of five seasons, their calling card has been starting pitching. And while Madison Bumgarner hasn’t been bad by any means, there has to be some concerns about the workload of the Giants’ ace.
The North Carolina native, who pitched 217.1 innings in the 2014 regular season and followed that up with another 52.2 innings pitched during San Francisco’s World Series run last October, has posted a 1-1 record through four starts this season with a 4.63 ERA, a 1.37 WHIP and 12 earned runs surrendered in 23.1 innings pitched.
- Cold offense
While the pitching has held up for the most part, the offense has certainly had its struggles through the first weeks of the season. Casey McGehee, who is the starting third baseman in San Francisco following the departure of Pablo Sandoval in free agency, is hitting just .188 with nine hits, one home run, and two RBI in 14 games this season.
And Buster Posey has yet to show his MVP-caliber numbers as he has hit just .246 with a pair of home runs, eight RBI, and eight walks in 69 at-bats so far this season.
Overall, San Francisco is averaging 3.05 runs per game. They have been shut out three times this season and are 1-5 in games in which they score less than two runs. The most runs they’ve posted in a game is six, which they’ve done three times (the last time was on April 21 in a 6-2 victory over the Dodgers).
- What has gone right?
Despite the slow start, there’s certainly been some positives for the Giants. One of them has been the pitching of young starter Chris Heston. Heston is essentially filling in while Cain works his way back into the rotation and in four starts he has posted a record of 2-2 with a 2.77 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, while surrendering just eight earned runs in 26 innings of work.
In three starts this season, pitcher Tim Lincecum has been solid as he’s posted a 1-1 record with a 2.00 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. The former Cy Young Award winner has given up just four earned runs in 18 innings pitched.
Leadoff hitter Nori Aoki has also proved to be a solid top of the order guy for the Giants so far this season. Through 19 games and 76 at-bats, Aoki has compiled a .303 batting average with 23 hits, 10 walks and three RBI.
The Giants have also performed well in extra-inning affairs where they have compiled a record of 3-1.
While some has gone right, far more has gone wrong for the Giants this season. After failing to appreciably improve following their third World Series title in five years, injuries and some underperformance has led the team to the bottom of the National League West. While it’s a long season, things haven’t gone right early on for the champs.