SF Giants: 5 Reasons It's Still Not as Bad as You Think
Before you start thinking about the 2012 edition of the San Francisco Giants, you ought to consider some key reasons why the defending world champions' four-game deficit in the NL West isn't nearly as insurmountable as it may appear.
The division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks appear invincible at the moment, but their invincibility masks vulnerability that is missed when considering the opposite directions they and the Giants have been going over the past week.
Here are five reasons why the Giants could not only close the gap over the final 28 games of the regular season, but win the division and once again reach the postseason.
1. The Diamondbacks Are a Very Streaky Club
As a result, Arizona has opened up its largest division lead of the season over San Francisco.
But a closer look at the D'Backs win-loss trends this season, especially as of late, paints the picture of a club that is extremely streaky, prone to a surge or collapse at any given moment.
Prior to their current six-game winning streak, Arizona lost six straight. Prior to that losing streak, they won seven straight.
Going further back in the season, the D'Backs have had five three-game losing streaks, a four-game losing streak, a five-game losing streak, two more six-game winning streaks and a seven-game winning streak.
While it's never a good sign for a team like the Giants to hope that the club ahead of them collapses down the stretch, that's exactly what allowed them back in the pennant race last season, and that ended in a World Series title.
2. Arizona's Pitching Staff Is Vulnerable to Regression
During their current win streak, the Diamondbacks' pitching has been nothing short of phenomenal. Arizona has yielded less than a run (0.83 runs) per game over that stretch, but this is out of the ordinary for the D'Backs.
In the first half, Arizona's team ERA was 4.08, and only with the recent stretch of pitching dominance has that come down slightly.
While ace Ian Kennedy is having a fantastic season, becoming the first pitcher in the NL to reach 17 wins with his victory on Sunday, the statistics from the rest of the staff betray the actual vulnerability of D'Backs pitching to regress in September.
The numbers for the rest of Arizona's starters:
Joe Saunders: 9-11, 3.82 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
Daniel Hudson: 13-9, 3.75 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, .270 BAA
Josh Collmenter: 8-8, 3.19 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
Wade Miley (rookie in place of injured Jason Marquis): 1-1, 4.50 ERA, 1.80 WHIP
The numbers don't favor continued dominance by Arizona starters, and while the bullpen has been excellent for the D'Backs, a regression in overall pitching performance is highly likely.
3. The Diamondbacks Aren't Hitting Well
The biggest reason for Arizona's recent surge is an uncharacteristically-dominant stretch of starting pitching over the past week.
The offense, which is normally the Diamondbacks' strength, has not been performing up to par in the second half and could prove to be Arizona's downfall if it doesn't pick up in September.
In the first half, Arizona hit .251 as a team. Since the All-Star break, the D'Backs are hitting just .239 with a .313 on-base percentage and a .392 slugging percentage.
If the pitching regresses to its normal performance levels and the hitting doesn't pick up for the Snakes, their division lead could evaporate.
4. With Six Head-to-Head Contests Left, Giants' Pitching Looms Large
With the Diamondbacks not hitting well and the Giants meeting Arizona for six head-to-head contests over the final month of the season, the Giants have a huge edge because of their greatest strength: pitching.
While San Francisco's offense has hit new lows in the second half of the season, Giants' arms have been getting better as the season has progressed.
In the first half, the Giants had a spectacular 3.19 team ERA, with opponents hitting just .231 against San Francisco pitching. But in the second half, when the bats got even more frigid, the pitching staff has been amazing, even for Giants standards. Since the All-Star Break, San Francisco's team ERA is 2.95, and opponents are hitting just .226 against Giants' arms.
5. The Giants Have Been in This Position Before.
While 2011 is in so many ways nothing like 2010 for these Giants, with a plague of injuries and other challenges that weren't present during last season's title run, the Giants are used to playing catch-up late in the season.
San Francisco trailed division-leading San Diego by four games on September 1 and still managed to win the NL West and go on to win the World Series in 2010.
Surging late to overtake a division leader is nothing new for the boys in Orange and Black, and several anticipated prospects that will be called up September 1 when rosters expand are likely to give the Giants a shot in the arm as they make a final sprint to the finish line.