As the Giants head home to face the Oakland Athletics, they look back on a solid roadtrip with a 4-3 record. However, many Giants players and fans saw 5-2 in their sights. However, the weak teams sit and wallow, the strong strive to learn and correct, especially one looking at a possible run to the playoffs. And a lot can be learned from a successful, yet disappointing trip.
The offense, although prolific, was inefficient and wasteful. The Giants on the roadtrip grounded into 10 doubles plays, and it took more than 10.9 hits per game to score 4.7 runs a game. By comparison, it took the Giants' opponents 9.6 hits per game to score the same amount of runs, 4.7 per game. Similarly, the Giants averaged 4.1 walks per game while opponents averaged 3.0 walks per game. All this boils down to the fact that the Giants hit 16-67 with RISP (.238) leaving 64 men on base. And these stats are being put up against the below average pitching of the Pirates and in the live yard of the Reds.
As we all might start be realizing, the bullpen is completely inconsistent. We have found ourselves a bipolar bullpen with bipolar relievers, who have the ability to be shut down but only perform to the best of their abilities on some occasions. Through the first five games, Giants' relievers only surrendered two earned runs in 15 innings, the only two runs on a blown save by Brian Wilson, which was one hung slider away from being perfect. However, in the next two games, the Giant relievers surrendered 10 runs in nine innings, failing to keep the first close and blowing two leads of four and two runs in the second.
Therefore, the short version of what can be learned from this series is that the potential is there, but we are indeed far from perfecting the Giants' act. Starting pitching is solid, the offense has increased production, and the bullpen has the potential to be shutdown dominant.
But we need to simplify the gameplan.
More focus needs to be put into playing small ball, just getting the run home. The Giants only had four sacrifice flies, less than half the number of double plays, and these were all in one game! Similarly, when a team hits into 10 double plays in a seven game set, maybe a sacrifice bunt here and there should be considered. If "Bam Bam" Muelens is supposed to be the savior of the Giants offense, then teach the team the basics of a professional at-bat.
When considering the issues facing the bullpen, it becomes the job of Dave Raghetti and Bruce Bochy to find a system that works. With the emergence of Santiago Cassilla and the decline of Jeremy Affeldt, there needs to be some restructuring. Similarly, it seems as though Bochy has an issue pulling relievers in tight situations. Although it can be argued that he needed innings, he had enough fresh relievers to consider at least a change out of Bautista or Mota when they were struggling so very mightily.
All in all, it seems as though the Giants are just a couple of steps away from the great team they will need to be to find a playoff spot in the very tough NL West. As we can see, just a couple of improvements makes what was a good road trip fantastic, which can be translated over the rest of the season.