The Giants had a four game lead in the NL West, they had just acquired Carlos Beltran in a huge trade that was going to shore up the middle of their lineup and they had just taken two out of three on the road from the best team in Major League Baseball.
Fast forward to Sunday night as the Giants wrapped up a four game series against the Phillies in San Francisco, or should I say Panic-ville, and most fans will tell you they should’ve traded for Hunter Pence instead of Beltran, that the team needs to trade for two new position players at first base and catcher, and that the sky is indeed falling.
Oh what a difference a couple of weeks can make. Ever since the Giants packed their bags in Philly and headed to Cincinnati to open a three game series with the Reds, they have gone 2-8 and lost every series, including getting swept by the Reds, losing two of three to their division rival Diamondbacks and, most recently, dropping three of four to the aforementioned Phillies.
In addition to their awful record, their offense has been even worse. Over the past 10 games the Giants offense has been held to two runs or fewer in seven of the games, and they have compiled a minus-25 run differential over the same period.
To make matters worse, the pitching staff has allowed five or more runs in half of those games and there are new questions about a viable fifth starter.
Add it all up and it’s pretty easy to see how the Giants are five games out with little hope of righting the ship. Another week or two of uninspired play and the Giants could be sitting at nine or ten games out and ready to focus on next year.
But the Giants aren’t five games back in the standings. In fact, they’re not in second place at all. Last time I checked, the Giants just survived their worst stretch of the season still holding a half-game lead in the NL West.
If you pay attention to radio shows, blogs or twitter accounts, many Giants fans are in full panic mode, suddenly believing it’s only a matter of time before the Arizona Diamondbacks take over first place in the division.
I would argue the Arizona Diamondbacks actually feel as bad about the last ten games as the Giants. As poorly as the Giants have been playing, the Diamondbacks must feel like they missed a huge opportunity to go ahead in the standings.
If you take a look at both of their schedules for the remainder of August, that might’ve been their last shot to gain some serious ground until the two teams play head to head in September. Of the next seven series the Giants play, only one team has a winning record (Atlanta Braves), four of the series are at home and two will come against the Houston Astros, the worst team in Major League Baseball.
While the Diamondbacks also play five teams with sub-.500 records, they have to face the top three teams in the NL East—the Mets at home, then the Phillies and Braves on the road.
It really boils down to what manager Bruce Bochy has been saying and reiterated before the game last Friday—that everyone needs to calm down and be patient. The Giants are definitely struggling at the plate, but things have already begun to improve.
Since the Beltran acquisition, Pablo Sandoval is hitting over .400 and his average has jumped to .315. Jeff Keppinger has been a hitting machine in his 17 games with the Giants, including a 4-4 performance yesterday which raised his average to .307.
While Beltran has yet to catch fire, his presence has been felt in the lineup and that will only grow as he starts to hit.
It’s probably hard for Giants fans to remember, but last August was an atrocious month for the team. The pitching staff was mired in a horrible slump, the team wasn’t hitting and everyone was up in arms but Bochy.
Bochy continued to mix and match his lineups, stay the course and prepare for the final month of the regular season. When September came around, so did the pitching staff. The team started to execute better at the plate and the rest is history.
The Giants pitching staff will remain one of the best in the league and the hitters will come around. As the new guys start to understand their role and how they fit into the lineup, Bochy will put them in the best possible situations for them to succeed, as anyone paying attention last year understands.
With Keppinger and Sandoval currently leading the charge as a potent 1-2 punch, Beltran will get hot, and that is a very daunting middle of the order. Add seasoned veterans like Cabrera and Huff and the Giants are very well equipped to make their run.
Remember, baseball is a game of streaks, and while the Giants have hit their first real slump of the season, they haven’t gone on a hot streak all year. Pay attention to the next few weeks as this lineup projects to gel and begin hitting.
Take my word for it, Giants fans—take a deep breath, calm down and enjoy the show.