Is it officially time to hit the panic button for the San Francisco Giants? After another ugly Tim Lincecum start Wednesday night against the Oakland Athletics, a game that once again found him unable to break the five-inning mark, it just might be.
For a team that has parlayed pitching and defense into two championships in three years, the incredible fall from the precipice of immortality has been a dramatic one thus far.
Sure, they’re still only 1.5 games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the division and boast an above-.500 record, 29-25 to be exact.
It’s the way that the most recent losses have occurred that may be foreshadowing further problems.
After kicking the ball around three more times Wednesday night and once Thursday afternoon (in a win), the Giants have now stumbled their way to 26 errors in the month of May, a number that would make even the Houston Astros cringe.
When the struggles of the pitching staff are factored in, it becomes a recipe for failure.
Far too often an error on the field has opened the floodgates for a scoring barrage by the opposition. With a group of pitchers struggling so mightily, the lack of support by the fielders looks like it's taking its toll.
The inconsistency from the defense has led to mental collapses from the starters. We’ve seen it over and over again; the pitchers are cruising through the early innings, and then one blunder from the field leads to a big inning.
The combination of a lack of mental fortitude from the pitchers to be able to pitch through mistakes and the defense not holding up its end of the bargain has led to the type of unpredictability that was not there last season.
If the Giants want to have any hopes of repeating this season, this all must change.
Surprisingly, it has been the hitting that has kept the team afloat thus far, that same lineup that has been the laughingstock of the league in seasons past.
While the Giants have been around league average in everything but batting average (fifth in the league at .268), it has been enough to keep them in contention.
As they have proved twice in the last three years, however, it is pitching that wins championships. If the rotation does not improve, we will not see a parade in downtown San Francisco this year.
Matt Cain, while sporting a record of 4-2, has been nowhere near the pitcher we have come to expect, a 5.00 ERA providing the proof. Lincecum appears lost once again this season, his command nonexistent.
If they hope to regain their form, Cain and Ryan Vogelsong (upon his return from the disabled list) will have to regain theirs. Tim Lincecum, a shell of his former self, must regain the magic he once had.
This is a lineup that cannot be expected to carry the Giants to a championship. The pitching and defense must make marked improvements if they hope to be playing in October.
If Zito’s start Thursday afternoon—six innings pitched and only one earned run—is any indication, they might be on their way to regaining what they once had.
The rest of the rotation, however, must join him to succeed.
Obviously it’s a very long season, one that’s not even close to halfway over. We won’t hit the panic button just yet.
A team that has two of the past three championships on its resume deserves more than that.
If the same problems persist, however, we just might have to soon.
All stats taken from ESPN.com