Last week I riffed on the “glass half-full vs. glass half-empty” metaphor. One week later, I feel like the glass is down to two-thirds empty. Really the only thing going well for the Giants is that the other teams in the NL West have been losing this week, too. After I published OOLF last week, the Giants lost the final three games of their road trip and weren’t especially competitive in any of them. It takes some unique calendar magic to be on the wrong end of two series sweeps barely 24 hours apart. And no, I don’t really feel that the two-game “sweep” (is a two-gamer really a sweep?) of the woeful A’s represented any real sign of hope. I guess considering the alternative, it did, but they didn’t especially play well in either of those games. And last night’s loss to the Red Sox was gnash-your-teeth frustrating, considering that it wasted an excellent home start by Logan Webb.
I said during the game, several times, “This is not a good team.” I said it on the TWG board and I said it to MrLefty. He asked me, “What were they doing differently when they were a good team?” This was a good question, and I thought it over for today’s column. The big difference, back in June when they ran off ten in a row including impressive sweeps at Coors Field and Dodger Stadium, was that they were hitting and scoring runs. They averaged exactly eight runs per game in that winning streak, and that will offset an iffy rotation which was problematic even back then. Mitch Haniger (remember him?) was injured early in that streak, so his presence or absence wasn’t a factor in the June run and isn’t one in July. Wilmer Flores and Mike Yastrzemski both went on the IL during that period, too, and they’re both back. They did lose Thairo Estrada on July 3 when he was hit by a pitch that fractured his hand, and that’s been a problem–less so because of Thairo himself being out of the lineup (he’d been slumping badly) but more so because of the domino effect of having struggling youngsters like Brett Wisely, Casey Schmitt, or David Villar in the lineup everyday. So injuries are part of the explanation but not all of it.
The bigger issue than who’s not in the lineup is that the players who are haven’t been hitting, with the notable exceptions of the aforementioned Wilmer and Joc Pederson. The team batting average for July is .203, which is 50 points lower than the previous months. There are still three more games in July, and they could end up as the Fightin’ Mendozas (h/t MrLefty) for the month. This link shows how all of the Giants’ hitters have done in July. In addition to Wilmer and Joc, Blake Sabol has a July split OPS+ that is above league average (133), and Luis Matos is almost there at 99. Austin Slater is at 86, not good but not ridiculously bad. And then you drop way, way, way down: Michael Conforto at 64, J.D. Davis at 59, LaMonte Wade Jr. at 50, Yaz at 41, and well, it gets worse from there. Yeah, the rookies aren’t hitting, but it’s the established veterans who have really fallen off. That’s the problem.
The rotation, which I also mentioned on June 24 back when I thought the Giants were “good,” continues to be a problem. The six straight road losses last week included blow-up starts by ace Webb and All-Star Alex Cobb, but they were pretty much all awful, unless you want to exclude Ross Stripling‘s start (six innings, three runs, all on a three-run homer, Giants lost 3-2). And now Keaton Winn, whom we were hoping would be needed depth once someone was traded, is seeing an arm specialist about the pain in his elbow. Yikes.
So…we have big problems. In June, the Giants were outslugging their rotation weaknesses, and a good bullpen was wrapping things up. In July, the hitters don’t seem to wake up until the sixth inning or so, and with bad starting pitching, that turns out to be way too late. They continue to strike out far too much (worst in the NL by a huge margin). We can hope that the latest infusion of rookie energy (Marco Luciano) helps a bit, and there’s still the looming trade deadline, three days from now. But it’s just hard to see how so many major problems can get solved.
Back on June 24, when the Giants were playing well and I said they’d moved from “putrid” (in April) to “promising” (in late June), I also said, “They absolutely could win the NL West.” Five weeks later, after a pretty bad July (10-12 with a -21 run differential with three games to play), that is oddly still true. They are in second place and only three games behind the Dodgers, with whom they still have seven head-to-head games in September. But…the schedule gets much, much worse from here. Other than two games in Oakland next weekend, the entire month of August is against winning teams (until the Padres on Aug. 31). It includes two series against the Braves as well as series against the Rays and the Rangers. They are going to have to play a lot better or they could end up not only out of playoff position but also under .500. We will see where we are a month from now.
Thanks as always to HaakAway for not only coming up with this contest but also recruiting, cheerleading, and number-crunching. As a reminder, this contest was named in tribute to Allen Hirsch, known here as “awvh,” who was a great community member and an avid Giants fan and follower of prospects. He also was a talented amateur photographer (indeed, he passed away suddenly in December 2015 while on a shoot, with his camera in his hand). The seagull photo on the MyGuy™ winner’s pin (photo at the top) was taken by Allen.
During the All-Star Break, HaakAway updated this year’s MyGuy™ standings. Here were the top-10 scores (score in parentheses; lower is better)
- BSTDFA (22)
- DrLefty (23)
- EB (24)
- Vintage62 (27)
- Frank Novak (28)
- Crawnik (29)
- PGBreaker (30)
- William Henri (30)
- giantc (31)
- tie: Roger Munter & totalfan62 (32)
Remember that MyGuy™ scores rely on year-over-year improvement. Some of the prospects with the highest improvement scores include Logan Wyatt (AA), Jared Dupere (A+), Patrick Bailey and Matos (both MLB), and Heliot Ramos (AAA). I was feeling pretty good about my chances of winning this year until I heard about Winn’s injury, not that my MyGuy™ results are the most important thing here(!).
Red Sox at Giants, 4:15 p.m. at Oracle Park (TV: Fox)
James Paxton vs. Ryan Walker (yep, another opener game)
Taking Us To The Limit
I forget if I mentioned this, but I was supposed to be at the Taylor Swift concert at Levi’s Stadium last night with Lefty Jr. As I shared earlier this week, she was injured in a car accident last weekend and we had to cancel. I expected to be writing this column on Amtrak back to Davis this morning and planned a bunch of clever tie-ins to Swiftie titles and lyrics. But alas, it’s a “cruel summer,” so I will instead pay tribute to Randy Meisner, who passed away this week. “Take It To The Limit” has always been my favorite Eagles song, and Meisner co-wrote it and did the stellar lead vocals. I hope that Randy has a “peaceful easy feeling,” wherever he is now. Lefty out.