5 Things We've Learned About the San Francisco Giants Through the 1st 22 Games
The San Francisco Giants have played their first 22 games, and there are some very interesting trends developing.
The Giants have played 12 one-run games and have been involved in several other very close, exciting contests.
A few years ago, Giants' announcer Duane Kuiper used the word "torture" when describing the Giants' penchant for thrilling, close games. It appears as though nothing has changed, and the Giants will be playing tight, intense games throughout the season.
With a record of 12-10, the Giants trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by one game in the NL West.
Let's take a look at five compelling things we have learned about the Giants thus far in the 2014 season.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com.
Salary data courtesy of Baseball Prospectus.
No. 5: The Giants Bench Is Weaker Than Originally Expected
When the Giants broke spring training, it looked like their bench would be a lot stronger than it was in 2013.
Through the first 22 games, however, the production from the Giants reserves has not measured up.
Hector Sanchez, the Giants backup catcher, has delivered with two game-winning hits. Most recently, Sanchez hit two home runs in the Giants' 12-10 win against Colorado. In the 11th inning, Sanchez's Grand Slam propelled the Giants to the win.
Even with the recent heroics, Sanchez is still hitting just .161 with an OBP of .206. He does lead the Giants reserves with eight RBI, five of which came in the Giants' most recent win.
The other bench players have not hit at all, and the Giants will need much more production out of them.
Fourth outfielder Gregor Blanco is hitting only .103 with an OBP of .235. Blanco has just one RBI in 35 plate appearances.
The Giants' top utility infielder Joaquin Arias is hitting a meager .143 with an OBP of .211. He has only one RBI in 38 plate appearances.
Arias, along with Blanco, are two of the Giants' main pinch hitters, so their poor performance at the plate is putting a crimp in the Giants offense.
Juan Perez, the Giants' fifth outfielder, is primarily called upon as a late-inning defensive replacement. The sample size on him is very small, but in nine at-bats, Perez has yet to record his first hit of 2014.
Shortstop Ehire Adrianza would be best served playing at the Triple-A level. He is a good defensive player, but he needs substantial improvement at the plate.
In 25 at-bats, Adrianza has four hits and is hitting .160 with an OBP of .192. Even this is misleading because two of Adrianza's hits were weak, looping pop-ups that just fell in front of the outfielders.
Adrianza's last two seasons in the minors were also nothing special offensively. In 2012, while playing at the Giants' Double-A affiliate in Richmond, Adrianza hit a paltry .220 with an OPS of .599.
In 2013, Adrianza split time between Richmond and Fresno. His average was a combined .266, although he improved his OPS to a respectable .720.
The only thing keeping Adrianza in the big leagues is the fact that he is out of minor league options. The Giants do not want to risk losing him, as they would need to expose him to waivers, if they want to send him down to Fresno.
At some point, if Adrianza is unable to contribute offensively, the Giants must take that risk.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy is a master of utilizing his entire roster, but he must get more production out of his bench players.
No. 4: Ryan Vogelsong Has 3 or 4 More Starts to Get Back on Track
After a very poor 2013 campaign, Ryan Vogelsong came into the 2014 season hoping to return to the form he displayed in 2011 and 2012. In those two seasons, Vogelsong won a total of 27 games for the Giants.
Vogelsong is now 36 years of age and will turn 37 in July. There have got to be some concerns that he may be about done.
In his four starts, Vogelsong has thrown only 16.1 innings, allowed 24 hits and eight walks, while striking out 11. His ERA is a whopping 7.71, while his WHIP is a very poor 1.959.
The Giants are paying Vogelsong $5 million this year and want to get some return on their investment. Vogelsong will likely get three or four more starts to return to good form.
No. 3: The Giants Miss Marco Scutaro's Bat
Marco Scutaro is the prototypical No. 2 hitter. He makes consistent contact, can hit the ball to all fields and is not afraid to hit with two strikes on him.
Due to a balky back, Scutaro has yet to play and there in no definitive timetable for his return. The Giants have received a surprising contribution from Brandon Hicks, but they still miss Scutaro's ability to make consistent contact.
In 2013, Scutaro played in 127 games and hit .297 with an OBP of .357 and an OPS of .726.
Scutaro is in the middle of a three-year, $20 million contract. There is substantial concern that Scutaro will be unable to consistently be in the lineup in 2014.
If Scutaro is unable to play, look for Hicks to continue to get the majority of the playing time. Hicks came to the Giants as a non-roster invitee. He tore up the Cactus League and won a job.
Hicks has more power than Scutaro, but he does not have his bat control and strikes out a lot. Hicks is currently hitting .250 with two home runs and four RBI.
Scutaro was the NLCS MVP in 2012. He was a key player when the Giants won their second World Series title in three years. Not having Scutaro in the lineup hurts the Giants offense.
No. 2: The Giants Bullpen Has Been Outstanding
The biggest strength of the 2014 Giants appears to be their bullpen. The Giants have used as many as eight different relief pitchers this season.
Already this season, the bullpen has worked 69.2 innings, allowing only 18 earned runs for an ERA of 2.33. By contrast, the starting pitchers have thrown 126.3 innings and allowed 62 earned runs for an ERA of 4.42.
The Giants bullpen has a WHIP of 1.09, while the starters are at 1.38.
The Giants relievers are a combined 7-2, while the starters are 5-8. At this point in the season, the Giants bullpen has been outstanding.
The Giants starters are averaging only 5.2 innings per game, which puts a large burden on the bullpen. So far, the relief corps has been up to the task.
If the Giants are going to make a serious bid to win the NL West, it is clear that the relievers will be critical to the team's success.
No. 1: The Giants Offense Is Very Streaky and Prone to Extended Slumps
The Giants, under general manager Brian Sabean, have improved their offensive firepower in 2014.
The Giants offense scored 66 runs in their first 13 games for an average of 5.08 runs per game. In the next eight games, prior to the 12-run explosion against Colorado in their most recent contest, the Giants scored only 15 runs for an average of only 1.88 runs per game.
After their hot start, the Giants have cooled off dramatically.
At one point early this year, the Giants led all of baseball in hitting with runners in scoring position. That has tailed off dramatically, and in recent games, the Giants have relied heavily on the home run ball to score their runs.
Prior to the Giants' 12-run outburst, their bats had gone cold and the team was slumping, with virtually everyone struggling at the plate. Angel Pagan and Brandon Belt were the only two Giants hitting over .300, and not a single other position player was hitting over .267.
The Giants seem like a team prone to slumps, and this teamwide morass would confirm that.
When the team presses, it tends to be overanxious at the plate. This leads to falling behind in the count, hitting into double plays, swinging at pitches out of the strike zone and trying to pull everything. The Giants have been doing all of these things over the past several games.
They also appear to be a team that can get hot together, as well. Bochy was kicked out of the Giants' most recent game in the fourth inning with the score tied at five.
Whether this was a strategic move or not is questionable, but it definitely woke up the team. It rallied to score 12 runs and defeat the Rockies, 12-10.
Perhaps Bochy's ejection got the Giants mad, and they stopped thinking too much at the plate. Baseball is a funny game, and when offensive momentum is there, it can carry over from game-to-game. Similarly, extended slumps can also be tough to break.
The Giants need to be more consistent at the plate, more selective and use the entire field when hitting. If they can do this, their offensive consistency will improve, and the Giants will win more games.