Bochy made the right move leaving in Lincecum to finish the 7th against the Diamondbacks.
Based on surface-level analysis, the San Francisco Giants hovered rather meekly above the .500 mark for the second straight month.
Indeed, the G-Men’s 15-14 record in May would support that assertion.
Further examination, however, reveals some positive implications moving forward into June.
The Giants held their ground against the Marlins, even with some quality defense.
After getting swept by the Marlins through the first three days of the month—all games lost by a single run—the Giants surged ahead by taking two of three from the Milwaukee Brew Crew. Madison Bumgarner emerged victorious in his fifth consecutive start. The team also rallied from Santiago Casilla’s first (and only) blown save of the season.
Another ephemeral downfall occurred in a series defeat to the loathsome Dodgers in the two rivals’ first meeting of the year. Tim Lincecum surrendered one of his all-too familiar “big innings,” but Ryan Vogelsong outdueled LA’s ace, Clayton Kershaw. He had owned the Giants in previous outings; not this time.
May 11 then marked the start of a surprisingly remarkable run for the Giants the rest of the month. Not dominant, but certainly noteworthy.
From this point forward, San Francisco did not lose another series, and reeled off a trio of three-game win streaks. They took two of three from the Diamondbacks (twice), the Brewers (again) and the cross-town rival A’s at a time when rumblings surfaced that Oakland may have had the superior Bay Area squad.
The Giants split consecutive two-game series with the Rockies and Cardinals, as well as a four-game set with the Fish. Even so, St. Louis was a formidable team at 21-15, while Miami was one of the most dominant teams in baseball in May, compiling a 21-8 record.
That once pedestrian 15-14 record looks a bit more impressive, doesn’t it?
According to Mike Krukow, Tim needs to raise that pitching arm to solidify his mechanics.
Allow me to eliminate the bad right off the proverbial bat.
Big Time Timmy Jim wasn’t so big time—his 0-4 record, 5.88 ERA and the Giants not winning a single one of his six starts reflected that.
His last start was a quality one, though, despite losing command out of the stretch and laboring though many 2- and 3-0 counts and five walks (one intentional). His strikeout repertoire (split, slider, curveball) showed flashes of brilliance in his six punch-outs. Timmy also put his team in position to win (7 IP, 1 ER).
Most will concentrate solely on the fact that Lincecum only once avoided a ruinous inning that cost his team a win during his collection of starts this month.
However, we must always remember that Tim experienced an even more disastrous month during August of 2010.
0-5, 7.82 ERA—Yes, we remember that.
Tim then bounced back in superb fashion, posting a thoroughly dominant 5-1 record, 1.94 ERA and 52-8 K-BB ratio. He only then went to go 4-1 with a 2.43 ERA in the postseason, helping the Giants capture the World Series.
Point being, let’s avoid playing armchair doctor trying to decipher the reasons for his slump, and give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll recover with another bounce-back month in June.
And it doesn’t have to be 2010-dominant.
Vogelsong has been money all season long.
As for the other starters, let’s unleash the relative flood of positives.
Matt Cain: 4-1, 3.10 ERA, 40-8 K-BB, 4 Quality Starts
Most importantly, the Giants went 5-1 in his six starts. Cainer emerged as the true ace of this staff when the team needed it most during the wake of Lincecum’s struggles.
Madison Bumgarner: 1-3, 3.71 ERA, 30-6 K-BB, 2 QS
Okay, this stat line isn’t immediately so commensurate with the “flood of positives.”
On the other hand, MadBum went at least six innings in every start, posting a respectable ERA, walking only six, while the Giants provided him with a measly two runs per outing. Also, his most dominant performance resulted in a no-decision against the Brewers (7.2 IP, 10 K).
Barry Zito: 3-2, 4.94 ERA, 3 QS
Again, please look beyond the surface. The Giants broke even over the course of his outings—something with which fans should be perfectly happy. The bullpen also blew one of his quality starts against the Dodgers (6 IP, 3 ER). He more significantly overcame two poor performances with effective follow-ups each time. He seemed to harness his overly cerebral tendencies, reversed negative trends and ultimately ended the month by shutting down the Snakes through seven.
Ryan Vogelsong: 3-1, 1.51 ERA, 41.2 IP, 6 QS
Vogelsong’s stat line in May is superior to all other Giants’ starters, Cain included. This production is rather absurd when one considers it comes out of the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Every start was quality, he essentially pitched seven innings in every outing and the Giants should have easily won every time Vogel took the mound.
Suppose 5-1 ain’t too shabby, though.
The Giants aren't missing a beat thus far with Casilla at closer.
The Giants once again feature one of the most outstanding bullpens in all of Major League Baseball.
Santiago Casilla has filled in exceptionally for Brian Wilson all season long, May being no exception. He converted 10 out of 11 save opportunities, posted a 12-3 K-BB and a tremendous 1.26 ERA. He looked fully poised yet again and emerged unscathed after a couple scenarios with winning runs at the plate.
Sergio Romo has been even better so far in 2012. The bearded wonder turned in a ridiculous 0.96 ERA. He continually refused to walk batters (16-3 K-BB) and recorded six holds. As long as the slightly dislocated knee he suffered recently doesn’t require a stint on the DL, the G-Men need hot ever worry about maintaining leads when the eighth inning rolls around.
The remaining late-inning relievers (Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Clay Hensley) totaled an exceptional collective ERA of 2.30. Of the three, only Lopez failed an assignment for the entirety of the month (Hensley made his loss on May 4 a thing of the past).
Then again, Lopez’ mishap occurred when phone equipment used to communicate with the bullpen failed in a game against the Marlins (5/24), causing Lopez to unexpectedly be called into pitch (after he had already warmed up then sat back down, not expecting to pitch).
Pitchers are meticulous creatures that thrive on routine; they just don’t overcome disturbances such as these. The Giants had already lost this game as well.
The two concerns with this area of the Giants are depth and lack of a reliable mid-inning reliever.
Shane Loux and Steve Edlefsen are serviceable, but both have surrendered unnecessary runs in close games. Dan Otero has been totally ineffective (16 base runners in 8.1 IP), while Guillermo Mota (drug suspension) and Travis Blackley (traded) are long gone.
By and large, the bullpen is an absolute strength for the Giants. Whatever issues exist I expect Brian Sabean to resolve via trades. His deals for relievers usually work out in the end.
Melky salutes the fans after his record-breaking hit.
Melky Cabrera provided Giants fans with constant hits, fielding prowess and overall excitement in a record-setting month.
He broke an all-time franchise mark of hits in the month of May that was held by the greatest Giant of all time, Willie Mays. His 51 hits also tie the franchise record for most in any month during a season (held by Randy Winn).
If that accomplishment doesn’t quite resonate, he registered a stat line of .429 AVG, .457 OBP, .647 SLG, 1.104 OPS. I’d qualify that as fairly unreal.
The Melk Man also totaled 15 extra-base hits (3 HR), 17 RBI, 24 R and 16 multi-hit games. And if that’s not enough, he failed to record a hit in just four out of 29 games (1 pinch-hit AB).
Say hello to the Major League’s hit leader (78).
I wonder how the Royals feel about the Cabrera-Jonathan Sanchez trade now.
Now, let’s not forget about the other bright spots.
Angel Pagan is rather fond of extended hitting-streaks. He advanced his 20-gamer with hits in the first six games in May. After a brief one-game respite, he peeled off an 11-game streak. And to honor tradition, after another one-game hiatus, Pagan enters June sitting on an eight-game hit-a-thon.
While being overshadowed by Cabrera’s incredible month, one most not overlook Pagan’s output. He put up a line of .375/.422/.462/.884. He didn’t hit for power, but racking up 39 H, 11 RBI, 13 R and 8 SB in nine chances are all commendable statistical achievements for a lineup that so desperately needs them.
Last, but not least, Mr. Buster Posey. The Giants “Franchise” at the plate managed two HR, 18 RBI and batted .253 this month. Surely nothing spectacular, but he doubled his RBI total from the previous month, many of them coming in opportune moments.
Briefly, Gregor Blanco provided a nice boost at the top of the lineup. He got on base consistently (.427 OBP), collected 29 hits (.315 AVG) and added 20 runs, seven RBI and five stolen bases.
Play defense. Beat the Dodgers.
With the Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp reportedly out for an additional four weeks due to a second hamstring strain, it is imperative that the Giants make up some of the five-game deficit currently facing them with such a favorable schedule.
Things continue to work in the G-Men’s favor when they get the Texas Rangers at home (away from their friendly Ballpark in Arlington confines) for three. The lowly 22-29 Astros then arrive in town for three more.
The potential back-breaking portion of the schedule presents itself in the form of a nine-game road trip against the remaining AL West teams. Fortunately, it’s really not all that brutal upon second glace.
The Giants square off against the Mariners and A’s for three apiece in their home parks, where each team is far worse than on the road. In between those two series, the Giants play the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Angels Los Angeles (sorry, couldn’t help myself).
The Angels are on a huge surge behind the resurrection of Albert Pujols, but with staff ace Jered Weaver on the shelf, they might revert back to their underachieving ways when the G-Men arrive in town.l
Finally, the Bruce Bochy’s squad could very well be in first place in the West when the Dodgers come to San Francisco (June 25-27), followed by the NL Central-leading Reds to wrap up the month.
If they capitalize on their auspicious schedule, the Giants should be in position to extend their division lead and further prove their worth against the playoff-contending Reds.
For this to occur, the Giants must, a) see the return of the Tim Lincecum of old; b) avoid seeing a return of the Barry Zito of old; c) maintain overall starting pitching dominance to keep the depleted bullpen fresh; d) for said bullpen to continue to lock down games; e) play up to their capabilities defensively and f) get a healthy Panda back to solidify a consistently underperforming lineup.
I omitted a few.
Here’s to an exciting second month of the season.