The 2013 season hasn’t gone as planned for the San Francisco Giants.
Demoralizing injuries to Ryan Vogelsong, Angel Pagan, Santiago Casilla, Marco Scutaro and Pablo Sandoval have hampered the club; as a result, the Giants have a 37-36 record. They are hanging in the NL West race, but if they keep playing like this, they’ll have no shot at winning the division.
San Francisco has struggled in multiple different ways. Primarily, the starting pitching has been terrible, as Matt Cain struggled in April and May, Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum have been inconsistent and Madison Bumgarner hasn’t exactly performed like an ace.
Oh, and Vogelsong, who compiled an inflated 7.19 ERA before injuring his hand in May, is going to miss about one more month.
Chad Gaudin has done a solid job filling in for Vogelsong, but he was diagnosed with a right elbow contusion after getting hit with a line drive on Thursday. That will cause even more problems for the rotation.
San Francisco has Michael Kickham in Triple-A, and he could make some starts if needed. However, he showed some control issues in his only big league start, and he isn’t an amazing pitcher.
The rotation is having its issues, as depth has been a problem for the Giants. One way to add depth would be making a trade, which, well, needs to happen. Danny Knobler of CBS Sports noted that the Giants will look to trade for a starter, which is great news for Giants fans.
Why? Because even when Vogelsong returns, the Giants pitching will still have some troubles. The bullpen has been mediocre lately, and Casilla’s injury has left a glaring hole in the bullpen. Casilla primarily takes the mound in the eighth inning, and he has done well as the Giants setup man.
Jeremy Affeldt, who assumed Casilla’s role when he went down, has done an adequate job this year, but he has cost the Giants lately. Affeldt has blown a lead in two of his last three appearances, and he isn’t likely to continue pitching the eighth inning.
There has been talk about Lincecum moving to the bullpen, and, as Andrew Baggarly of CSN Bay Area noted, the Giants are open to that possibility.
What should the Giants do with the pitching situation?
If they could put Lincecum in the bullpen, they likely would. However, the depth in the rotation clearly isn’t at the Giants’ disposal right now.
As for the bullpen, Casilla will be back before Vogelsong, but he isn't going to solve the Giants’ woes. The Giants don’t have great pitchers in the bullpen, and some, like Jose Mijares and Sandy Rosario, simply cannot be trusted.
By contrast, Lincecum can be trusted in the bullpen. Lincecum’s 4.52 ERA isn't great, but his 2.92 ERA in June and his three quality starts in the month (four starts) is promising. His 0.69 ERA in the bullpen in last year’s postseason also suggests that he can thrive there.
Lincecum’s lack of fastball command and velocity has killed him as a starter, but that wouldn't be an issue in the bullpen.
His fastball averaged 92.86 mph in Game 3 of the 2012 World Series, and the result was 2.1 no-hit innings and eight whiffs on 32 pitches.
The two-time Cy Young winner still has great off-speed pitches, as opponents are hitting just .175 off of his changeup and .201 off of his slider. With a good fastball, Lincecum could rekindle the dominance that propelled him to two Cy Young awards.
While Lincecum is a good fit for pitching in the later innings, he will only be able to pitch there if Giants make a trade. Bud Norris has done a great job stranding runners and limiting opponents’ runs in Houston, and he said that going to San Francisco would be a dream come true.
Norris would be a great addition to the Giants rotation. His HR/FB rate is a glistening 5.9 percent, and it would be even better in spacious AT&T Park. If the Giants added Norris, they could solve their bullpen woes and fill out the rotation.
Casilla will return, but adding extra arms wouldn’t be a bad idea. With Casilla, Lincecum and closer Sergio Romo finishing off games, the Giants would have no problem holding leads. Affeldt is a good reliever, but he is streaky.
The Giants will likely get Casilla back before the All-Star break, but that’s still about two weeks away. They will have trouble winning with their bullpen and rotation woes, and a trade would change that.
Yet the trade would need to happen as soon as possible.
Getting rid of erratic relievers like Rosario, Mijares and Jean Machi wouldn’t be a bad idea either. All three have done well at times, but all three are also inconsistent. Moving Lincecum to the bullpen would allow the Giants to send down or trade one of them.
The Giants aren’t in any rush to move Lincecum out of the rotation, as he has looked extremely sharp in June. However, they are in a hurry to win, and moving Lincecum to the bullpen would help them do that.
If the Giants want to keep Lincecum in the rotation, they can trade for a reliever. Steve Cishek has been stellar this year, as he owns a sharp 3.45 ERA and a decent 1.15 WHIP. Cishek has a low release point, and he throws hard, so it’s hard for hitters to hit off of him.
Trading for Cishek would also give the Giants right-handed relief help. Machi and Jake Dunning are the Giants’ best options on the active roster for right-handed middle relief help, and that needs to change.
The bullpen has compiled a noteworthy 3.16 ERA this season, but it is starting to fall apart. If the front office doesn’t address the issue, the losses will continue to pile up.
Surprisingly, the offense hasn’t been the cause of those losses. But even though the offense has been better than it has been in recent years this season, it has succumbed to injuries. Pagan may miss more time, and that could prompt the Giants to pursue an outfielder.
While an extra bat would be nice, it isn’t needed.
Gregor Blanco has come through with some timely hits lately, and he has continued to make eye-popping plays on defense. Juan Perez has been a spark plug, as he’s hitting well and has a mind-blowing four outfield assists.
Somehow, Andres Torres has five errors in left field as a platoon player. However, he is swinging the bat well and has made some nice plays in left field. Hunter Pence has been great in right field and could make the NL All-Star team.
Like the outfield, the infield has been plagued by minor injuries. But the fact that it has a good amount of depth and the fact that the Giants have more important needs means that it will likely remain untouched.
San Francisco’s offense isn’t great, but it has enough depth to survive without a trade. Unfortunately for the Giants, that can’t be said about the rotation.
The rotation’s 4.56 ERA must be improved upon, and Norris and his 3.60 ERA would definitely help. Ricky Nolasco, Cliff Lee and Jake Peavy will also likely be shopped, and all three could help the Giants.
Any pitcher would help.
San Francisco can trade for a starter and move Lincecum to the bullpen, add a reliever or even add another bat. No matter what, it needs to address the issue now, because it is 10-14 in its last 24 games and isn’t receiving much production from the pitchers.
A championship is what the Giants want, and they aren’t going to win another with their current roster. There are too many question marks, and that has led to losses. Nothing has been going right for the team, and general manager Brian Sabean needs to address the problems.
And if he doesn’t do it soon, the team’s championship hopes will rapidly slip away.
*Some stats via Brooks Baseball.