5 Adjustments SF Giants Must Make to Beat Diamondbacks This Time Around
After the Arizona Diamondbacks swept the San Francisco Giants in the first series of the 2012 season, the two division rivals will face off again this weekend in Phoenix, AZ. But if the Giants want to beat the Diamondbacks this time around, they're going to need to make some adjustments.
The two teams are currently going through a similar phase at the moment: hovering around .500 and trying to stay afloat after losing some key players to injuries.
And on the Giants' side of the ball, injuries aren't the only reason they aren't playing as well as they should.
It all boils down to fundamentals. The Giants are simply playing sloppy baseball, and unless that changes, it's going to be a long season for the Orange and Black.
The Giants rely on stellar pitching from both the rotation and bullpen, excellent defense and timely hitting in order to win baseball games. And when the Giants struggle to excel in more than one of those aspects during every single game, I'd say it's a damn miracle that they're only one game below .500.
Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News wrote an excellent article summing this up nicely, which can be read here.
That said, here's a list of five adjustments the Giants need to make in order to beat the slumping Diamondbacks.
Keep the Diamondbacks' Sluggers in the Park
The long ball was the name of the game for the Diamondbacks when they beat the Giants earlier in the season. They slugged six home runs in total—two in each game—and each one seemed to suck the life out of the Giants, who looked like they weren't ready for the season to start anyways.
The Diamondbacks offense lives and dies by the home-run ball, so they have pop up and down the entire lineup. Keeping them in the park won't be an easy task to say the least.
However, their current home run leader, Chris Young, is currently on the disabled list, which is great news for the Giants.
If the Giants pitching staff forces the Diamondbacks to play station-to-station baseball by keeping the ball low in the zone, they'll have a shot at winning this series.
Bullpen Needs to Do Its Job
You can blame it on Brian Wilson missing the year with season-ending Tommy John surgery.
You can blame it on Ramon Ramirez being the X-factor of the bullpen and trading him to the New York Mets threw everything off.
You can blame it on Jeremy Affeldt's second freak accident in as many seasons.
You can blame it on Guillermo Mota and the clenbuterol that got him suspended for 100 games this season.
But any way you look at it, the Giants bullpen has not been sharp this season, and it's a major reason why this team has underperformed thus far. In years past, once the offense was able to steal a run or two here and there and the pitching rotation did its job through the sixth inning, the bullpen was able to preserve the win on a regular basis.
As of today, the bullpen has an ERA of 3.89. That isn't bad, but it isn't good either, especially for the Giants who depend on their bullpen to maintain leads that are usually no more than one or two runs.
If the bullpen doesn't shape up, it's going to be a long season for the Giants.
Make the Routine Plays on Defense
Watching the Giants attempt to play defense this year has been hard to endure.
The Giants' slogan "Torture Never Felt So Good" usually referred to the their inability to hit and Brian Wilson's habit of making every save situation a stressful inning solely due to his addiction of adrenaline.
But there's a new contributor to the torture this year, and it's the inability to make the routine plays in the field. And it's bad. Real bad.
The Giants have made 33 errors this year. Thirty-three friggin' errors. That's more than enough to lead the majors.
And the weirdest part about it is that the Giants' three best defenders have made the most errors this year.
Brandon Crawford, the wizard at shortstop himself, has made six errors this year. Pablo Sandoval, the one who some thought could've won the Gold Glove award last year, has made five errors. And lastly, the most shocking of them all is that Buster Posey has committed four errors already.
The Giants already have enough trouble winning games due to their incompetence at the plate. They cannot afford to give the other team free runs because of simple defensive lapses.
Solid Outings from Starting Pitchers
Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain have put themselves into the early Cy Young award discussion, Barry Zito is pitching out of his mind and Ryan Vogelsong has been very solid to say the least.
However, this wasn't the case at all when the Diamondbacks swept the Giants earlier in the season.
|Pitcher||Innings pitched||Hits||Runs||Earned runs||Walks||Strikeouts||Home runs|
This is very uncharacteristic of the Giants. And when the three aces have a combined ERA of 8.31 in one series, the Giants just don't stand a chance.
The starting pitching must show up this series, and the fact that both Bumgarner and Cain will be pitching this weekend must make Giants fans a little relieved.
Hit with Runners in Scoring Position
The Giants have been so inept at hitting this year that studying for a bio-chemistry final might've been less frustrating at times than watching the Giants squander opportunity after opportunity to get that clutch hit with runners in scoring position.
It got to the point where I truly believe it got to the team's head, which only made it worse. And there were times where I didn't think it could get any worse than it was at the time...but I was wrong. Dead wrong.
The Giants are currently hitting .206 with runners in scoring position this year, and a lowly .169 with two outs and runners in scoring position.
It was never a secret that the Giants struggle to put anything but goose eggs up on the scoreboard, but this has gone to a whole 'nother level. The most frustrating part about it is that the Giants have a team batting average of .256, which ranks them 10th in baseball. However, they rank 22nd in runs.
See my point?
The Giants can hit and get on base, but they can't get that clutch hit with runners on base.
This needs to change if the Giants want to compete with the explosive offense of the Diamondbacks.