Playing Patience or Panic on San Francisco Giants' 5 Worst Early Slumps

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Playing Patience or Panic on San Francisco Giants' 5 Worst Early Slumps
Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants have won six of their first eight games of the 2014 MLB season and look to have a firm grasp on the NL West in the early going.

While the results have been mostly positive for the Giants, especially given the team's road-heavy schedule to start the season, there are a few regulars who haven't quite put it together thus far. Let's take a look at whether the early-season slumps will turn into season-long struggles or prove to be simply bumps in the road.

 

Hunter Pence (.125/.222/.281)

Alex Gallardo

Pence continued his early-season slide Tuesday, going 0-for-3 with a pair of strikeouts to drop his batting average to a measly .125. Pence did score a pair of runs in the game, but that didn't prevent him from having another overall disappointing day at the plate once again.

Even so, we've seen Pence struggle in the past. Upon coming over to the Giants in the latter half of the 2012 season, the right fielder posted a .219/.287/.394 slash line before putting it all together last season. He might not put up the same numbers that he did in his impressive 2013 campaign, but Pence is too consistently good to not rebound.

Since 2009, Pence has driven in more than 90 runs every season, and he hasn't hit fewer than 22 home runs in a season since his rookie season in 2007. With consistency like that, there's no reason for Giants fans to panic just yet.

 

Pablo Sandoval (.161/.278/.290)

Alex Gallardo

Sandoval appeared to have broken out of his slump a bit Saturday against the Dodgers when he clubbed his first home run of the season, but he's managed only a single over his eight at-bats since that game.

It's certainly worth expressing some concern about Panda's early-season slump. He's looked a bit lost at the plate at times, and he's struck out in all but two games this season.

With that being said, there's no reason to believe the slide should continue. For one, Sandoval ended the 2013 season on a tear, posting a .950 OPS in September, and he came into the season in better shape while also having the motivation of playing in his walk year. Additionally, Sandoval has walked five times this season, showing some promising plate discipline.

Cautious optimism would be the best course of action for Giants fans in relation to Sandoval, though if the tough stretch continues much longer, it might be time to panic a bit.

 

Ryan Vogelsong (4 IP, 9.00 ERA, 2.25 WHIP)

Jae C. Hong

While Vogelsong hasn't necessarily slumped, per se, given he's only started one game this season, his rough first start was certainly more of the same from his disappointing spring training.

Indeed, Vogey posted a 9.00 ERA in 19 innings this spring, then picked up right where he left off by allowing four runs in four innings in his first start this season.

Unfortunately, the outlook for Vogelsong really isn't great going forward. While he showcased good velocity in his start, the location troubles returned, which is especially concerning for someone like Vogelsong who relies on his command so much.

To make matters worse, the Giants don't have much in the way of a solid backup option should Vogelsong continue to struggle. Yusmeiro Petit has looked similarly rusty this season, allowing three runs and seven baserunners in just three innings this season.

Prospect Edwin Escobar looked capable of handling big league hitters this spring, and he could be a viable replacement option. David Huff also has starting experience, though he's pitched primarily out of the bullpen since the beginning of the 2012 season.

In short, the Giants are hoping it won't come to this, but with Vogelsong's struggles dating back to the beginning of 2013 and little sign of improvement since, it might be time to start formulating a "Plan B."

 

Matt Cain (11 IP, 5.73 ERA, 3 HR allowed)

Rick Scuteri

Cain is perhaps the most mysterious of all the underachieving Giants players this season.

After a tough first half of the 2013 season, the right-hander posted a 2.36 ERA in the second half, leading many to label him as a bounce-back candidate this year. However, in a pair of starts this season, Cain has allowed eight runs (seven earned) in 11 innings, and he succumbed to the issue that plagued him for much of last season: the home run ball.

Cain allowed three homers to the Dodgers Sunday, including a pair of long balls to outfielder Matt Kemp. Mistakes up in the zone proved costly in the first half of last season, and if Cain continues to miss in the strike zone, he'll continue to pay the price.

Even so, it's premature to panic with Cain so early in the season, especially given his established success for so much of his career. The right-hander has a significantly longer leash than less consistent players (like Vogelsong) as he's proven his ability to rebound in the past. Folks, Matt Cain should be just fine.

 

Ehire Adrianza (1-for-13, .297 OPS, 4 strikeouts)

Matt York

As is often the case with a team that begins the season with a 6-2 record, there simply aren't that many players with early-season struggles. The lineup is on a tear, with the Giants tied for the most runs in the majors, and the rotation has been solid as well.

Because of that, we have to pick on poor Ehire Adrianza a bit. In 13 at-bats this season, the Giants middle infielder has just one hit while striking out four times, raising some concern about the decision to allow him to start the season with the big league club.

Adrianza also struggled in his small sample size of at-bats last season, posting a .222/.263/.444 slash line, and despite exhibiting some power this spring (3 HRs), he also looked overmatched at times.

Perhaps some more time in the minors would do Adrianza some good.

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