As the San Francisco Giants offense continues to flail away, the questions continue to mount. Have the 2011 Giants, who we spent all winter trying to bury, been resurrected right down to a defective Panda hamate bone? How did Ryan Theriot sneak into the No. 2 hole? How did Conor Gillaspie, Joaquin Arias and Manny Burriss end up on the same big league roster?
The Giants have not cracked the top half in runs scored since 2004, and have finished above 24th only once. On a day-to-day basis, it's no fun to watch. Last night, when the Dodgers took a 1-0 lead, it felt insurmountable. What are the causes?
It's too easy to blame injuries. Every team has them. The Rays lost Evan Longoria. They are averaging six runs a game since. Lance Berkman, Carl Crawford, Jason Heyward and Adrian Beltre are all injured members of a top 10 run-scoring offense. The top 10 also includes the Houston Astros and the Baltimore Orioles. I would talk more about them, but I couldn't name more than a few of their every day position players.
Is it the ballpark? AT&T Park is cavernous. It's roughly 415 feet to the left field foul pole and the right center field gap is a vortex where three runs per game are swallowed whole. Nobody can be expected to hit there, right?
First, that's not even true. Since it opened, AT&T Park has played neutral, even favoring the hitters at times. Second, advocates of this theory will point out that since the beginning of last year, AT&T has been the hardest park in which to score runs. The rebuttal is simple: The Giants play there. Put two outs on the scoreboard and the Giants would struggle to drive themselves home from work.
What about the inconsistent lineup? Bruce Bochy is notorious for getting antsy with his starting lineup. In 28 games, we've seen four different cleanup hitters, six different No. 5 hitters and eight different No. 6 hitters. Bochy has penciled in the same eight position players two days in a row exactly once—games No. 1 and No. 2.
I don't know if this matters, but I'm having trouble keeping up. Is Nate Schierholtz a starter or on the bottom of the bench? Ask me again in a few days.
Since Hensley Meulens became hitting coach at the beginning of 2010, the Giants have come to the plate with two outs and runners in scoring position 1,310 times. They are batting .196 in those at-bats, by far the worst in baseball over that stretch. The whole team is below the Mendoza line. I'm sure if Mario Mendoza was still playing today, Bochy would start him at second if he believed he could hit the lefties.
All this from a team that won the World Series just 18 short months ago. When it happened, I figured it would be 25 years before I complained again. Wrong. We sports fans have short memories.
If third place is the ceiling for this team, I can at least spend my energies rooting for Matt Cain to finally catch up to .500 for his career (he's currently 70-75). The same Matt Cain who will be the highest-paid right-handed pitcher in baseball next season. Only in San Francisco.