Offense Heating Up, Starters Continue to Struggle
In each game up in Toronto, the Giants starting pitcher put the team behind the 8-ball significantly early on. Barry Zito got knocked around pretty good on Tuesday night, but the real concern coming out of that series has to be with Ryan Vogelsong. I talked extensively about Vogey's struggles in our last post, so I won't keep beating a dead horse, but we're 1/4 of the way through the season, and it's really time to start assessing performances. Needless to say, Vogelsong has been one of the worst starters in the game up to this point and is now sitting at 1-4 with a 8.06 ERA and 1.84 WHIP. The other starter I'm starting to worry about is Matt Cain, who's been dealing with many of the same problems as Vogelsong. 'Cainer strung together a couple of quality starts his last two times out and was showing signs of the old Matt Cain rounding into form, but he was lit up by Colorado Thursday night in game one, giving up 6 runs on 8 hits, including 3 long balls, over 6 1/3 innings. Luckily for Cain, the Giants offense was up to the task and were able to come back and earn the right-hander his third straight victory, but it was hardly a performance he'll be happy about. What's effected Cain the most this year has been the long-ball. He's given up 13 in 56 innings after giving up just 30 the last two seasons combined.
So, with Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum's ERA in the mid-5's and Vogey's north of 8, the starting pitching is hardly responsible for the Giants' current first place standing. Sure, Madison Bumgarner has done his best to help overcome the slow starts by the others, and Barry Zito has been pretty steady for the most part, but it's been the Giants offense that has been the driving force to their success this year. They showed early on this year that they have the ability to comeback in games and with the pitching struggling, that's been something they've had to do quite frequently. Unfortunately, they got down by too large of deficits in Toronto but they got back to their come-from-behind ways in Colorado. There are certainly better lineups in baseball, but the Giants are extremely stable from 1-5 in the order and are finally getting some production out of the bottom of the order too. Their 6-8 hitters played an integral part in Thursday's win, going a combined 4-10 with 5 RBI and 4 runs scored. Brandon Crawford helped pace the bottom 1/3 of the order with a huge April, and has clearly been the most improved Giant in 2013. Meanwhile, Brandon Belt was nowhere to be found offensively in April, but he's quietly been putting things together in May. Belt is hitting .275 with 3 HR, 10 RBI 9 runs and an impressive .958 OPS this month.
If there is one thing still lacking in this lineup though, it's that right-handed hitting corner outfielder that I knew they would need in the offseason, but they never were able to tackle it. A right-handed bat would be ideal in the 7-spot splitting Belt and Crawford. Gregor Blanco has been pretty solid at the plate, but Andres Torres isn't giving the team the right-handed platoon option they need, and Francisco Peguero didn't get the job done in his brief audition. Sabean's top priority heading into trade season will be a quality starter, but a right-handed bat for the outfield will continue to be a necessity until a remedy is found.