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Lefty Madison Bumgarner leads the Giants in ERA and innings pitched.
Lauded as the key to the Giants’ success—the unit that led San Francisco to two World Series championships in three years—the rotation has struggled in the early season.
This season, the Giants returned all five of their starters and with their lineup should, arguably be the best rotation in baseball. Behind ace Matt Cain, veteran Ryan Vogelsong and 23-year-old Madison Bumgarner were expected to continue to be consistent.
Although two-time Cy Young Tim Lincecum had his worst-ever season in 2012, he made leaps and bounds in the postseason, developing into a dominant relief presence. Fifth-starter Barry Zito, largely regarded as one of the Giants’ biggest contract mistakes, held his own and impressed in the playoff run and the World Series.
In 2013, with the rotation holding a collective 4.40 ERA, four of five starters have been rocked for big innings in their early season starts. However, all five have shown glimpses of dominance in their starts.
The season is young, and the sample size may be small, but what’s missing from the Giants rotation right now is consistency—something the baseball world has come to expect from such an experienced group.
Highlight: Madison Bumgarner
Bumgarner would be an ace on any other team. Dealing in the shadow of Cain and Lincecum for the past few seasons, Bumgarner has developed into a reliable starter with a high strikeout rate and the ability to go deep into games.
This season has been no different.
With four starts, the lefty leads the team in ERA and innings pitched, including a perfect 3-0 record. Bumgarner opened the season with an eight-inning, two-hit performance against the Dodgers to hand the Giants their first win of the season. While some fear that the Giants have invested too much in the young lefty, his early-season dominance has demonstrated that he is only continuing to grow.
Lowlight: Matt Cain
Cain started the season with a no-decision despite going six scoreless innings in an opening-day duel with Clayton Kershaw. Since then, the right-hander has disappointed the front office, holding a team-high 7.15 ERA and giving up nine earned runs in his second outing against the Brewers.
Although no one is ready to panic yet, Cain’s early-season slump is reminiscent of a 2011 Tim Lincecum trajectory. His strikeout to walk ratio is down, as is his ground ball to fly ball ratio. However, the good news for the Giants is that Cain does not seem to be hurt, and with such a small sample size, it may be too soon to tell if his early season performance is indicative of a greater problem.