Yes, things have been bad. An 8 game losing streak somewhere within your first 22 games will leave quite a large hole in your win/loss record. One as large as the one that Messenger just left on Mercury, which is quite large if you could survive standing on the face of Mercury. But the flip side is that outside of that bad stretch, the Giants were 9-5, so there was good with the bad (including a Dodger sweept!).
Yes, it will get better. In fact, it has already gotten better, as Peavy was a big problem, as well as Vogelsong, and presumably Peavy is on the mend, plus Bumgarner had his wobbliness as well and he's back he says. Since Peavy got put on the DL, there has been 10 starts, 5 QS (which is good) and only 1 disaster start, sabermetrically per PQS, which was the last Vogelsong start. If the Giants keep that up for the rest of the season, that's pretty good. And with Cain making progress, I think that is not only a fair statement, but likely if he returns to normal. Thus the crater left by the 8 losses should not look so bad in the rear view mirror, as time and distance (as well as the games, can't forget the games) moves on.
The Giants problem has been that when they have been neither good nor bad (i.e. had a MID start from their starting pitchers), they have went 2-6 (generally, should be around .500; they were .455 in MID starts last season), and part of that is bad luck on pitching, where normally there is a middling results (but has been pretty bad thus far, due to a lot of hits and homers) as well as poor offense. Add to that the lack of offense when the team gives up a lot of runs, that adds up to a bad record thus far.
If the Giants were .500 in these MID games, as I call them (per PQS), they would be 11-11 right now, and the angst people are having would not be as pronounced given that 1) we didn't have Pence, 2) we really didn't have Posey either, 3) Belt got injured and fell back down the Chutes and Ladder to Spring Training, 4) we lost Cain, 5) then we should have lost Peavy but he insisted on two horrible starts before DLing, which possibly led to 6) Vogelsong being wobbly, as he's not a spot starter, he don't know how to do that, maybe if he started out inserted as the starter over Peavy he's more comfortable and not throwing so badly. Playing .500 given these circumstances would be pretty good.
And even changing one loss MID start to a win would make us 10-12 right now, also not that bad off. This shows the volatility of feelings we are getting due to the sensitivity of our overall record, just due to one or two bad luck starts that we should have won but didn't. We are very unhappy with 9-13, but could have easily been 11-11 instead.
Which is another way of saying that this is just part of the SSS Theatre that happens every year to some team in the majors, where injuries meet poor performances, and it leads to a whack record. I don't believe their record reflects where they are right now. They have been around .500, and that's OK, Posey hasn't been himself and the pitching has been taking a while to find itself. This pitcher thing happened last year too, almost same sequence, bad to mid-month in April before end of month improvement by the entire staff, only the offense was good enough to hide this from people last season. Then the pitching got better while the offense faltered and the good times continued until June when the injuries was just too much to overcome. Not that this will necessarily happen this year, but we have good pitchers, let them pitch.
If I'm to pinpoint one area of complaint, I would say Posey has been a big area that everyone is missing. His underperformance has costed us roughly 0.2 RS in the lineup. That's roughly what McGehee has done batting 6/7, costing us 0.25 RS. Belt has cost us 0.2 RS roughly too, in the 5th position, all due to his lack of power so far, but that should be coming back soon, he just got back his hitting stroke. These drop a lineup that should average roughly 4.0 RS without Pence to one that scores 3.4 RS just due to these three influences, and in total, we have only been averaging 3.0 RS per game.
Not that the pitching has been great. But based on PQS, they are at 41% DOM/23% DIS for April, slightly bad but not horribly so, not 9-13 so. And the ship has been righting itself here, we have seen the results, they have been 6-4 during this improved stretch of 50% DOM pitching. But SSS Theatre has made that hard to see as a trend.
Silver Lining Playbook
Aoki has been the silver lining of the Pence injury, I'm not sure Bochy would have necessarily batted Aoki leadoff (where he should be) without the injury, he might have just gone Pagan leadoff because that is what Angel likes and he can be a bit of a prima donna sometimes. But he is a team player and understood the need to utilize Aoki up top and him 3rd given Pence being out.
Aoki has been everything I was hoping for. He's basically been what he has been the past two seasons with a dash of extra good luck on BA. Him batting leadoff deepens the lineup, with Pagan essentially replacing Sandoval in the 2014 lineup (and based on Sandoval overall 2014 contributions, improve on it), and Aoki taking over the leadoff spot, and probably improving it (given Pagan was out so much, we only got .314 OBP from the leadoff hitter in 2014).
And once Pence returns, Bochy can go with a relatively set lineup, adjusting for SP handedness:
- Vs. LHP: Aoki, Panik, Pagan, Posey, Pence, Belt, McGehee, Crawford (with Duffy and Maxwell getting to sub some)
- Vs. RHP: Aoki, Panik, Pagan, Posey, Belt, Pence, Crawford, McGehee (with Blanco subbing some, maybe Ishikawa, if still around)
This will improve the overall lineup by around 0.1 runs per game, which might not see like much, but that would add two wins over a full season. Two wins can make a huge difference for a team in the 88-90 win potential range, making a road wild card into a home, or perhaps winning a division. LA is the team to beat again, but they gambled hugely (given their payroll) by really having nothing solid after Kershaw and Greinke in the rotation.
Bridegrooms Might Be Left At the Altar of the Mound of the Sabers
People complain about the Giants rotation, but at least they are mostly solid in terms of pitching most of the season, with only Peavy the big question mark, much unlike the Dodgers. Ryu, despite being young, hasn't pitched a full 32+ game season yet, missing games every season, and, worse (better for us though) each season. He has already missed 5 starts this season and still not off the DL. Then they get starters like Anderson and McCarthy, guys who haven't put up a full season regularly (between the two, over roughly 10 seasons between the two, only two seasons with 30+ starts in them). Then add in Scott Baker, who has had one full season over 8 possible seasons. If Ryu don't return soon, and Urias don't come up by June, the Bridegrooms are facing two months (May and June) of 60% rotation roulette, because they don't have any proven depth nor much depth in the minors other than Urias.
Beyond Urias, there is not much (which is true for most teams, fans just don't seem to understand, even with the Giants, that there is not a lot of depth in the minors for anyone, for if they were that good, they would be pitching in the majors right now). Wieland is interesting, but he missed much of 2012 and 2013 (with another team, they got him in off-season). And he has interesting numbers, but not that dominating (low K/9; if you can't strike out minor leaguers at a huge rate, what hope do you have in the majors?). Bolsinger was another pickup, has never been all that good in the minors. Again, interesting numbers but not dominating. Much like Heston has been for us, but such pitchers basically need to prove it at each new level, and most don't.
The Dodgers has basically gambled this season on the health of their pitching staff holding up despite a history of their healthy not holding up. On top of that, they have the great offense, but pitching is what is going to get you through the playoffs, as I have shown in my Playoff PQS studies. If you don't have good pitching, no offense is going to help you much. And it is even worse for them because Kershaw has never stood tall in the saddle like Bumgarner has.
On top of that, their bullpen isn't that great. There was a number of articles in saber watering holes discussing the wonders of the Dodger's bullpen, but I popped that balloon for them by noting that if you took THEIR OWN PROJECTIONS for the relievers, collectively they were at best an average bullpen, that three of them needed to be replaced to get the unit to be above average. Part of their problem was losing their closer, but he has had health problems in the past, and, unfortunately for them and him, this looks like part of his issues for his career. And they have nobody like Strickland or Okert waiting to help out.
This Is Not Fantasy Baseball, Sabers Got IT Wrong
Ultimately, it appears to me that they dedicated this season to proving sabermetric principles. They dumped the veteran relievers who had been good before but not lately, didn't sign any real replacements, traded for promising pitchers who may or may not deliver, added veterans (on the cheap) who may or may not deliver, traded for a vet or two (don't recall or care to confirm exactly), all in line with the saber rule that relievers are fungible and easily replaceable. The A's had success with that bullpen strategy last season, so what the heck, lets gamble their $200+ Million payroll on proving this principle. They did likewise with their pitching rotation, it appears, I would think that they could have easily gotten, for example, Shields, if they wanted to.
What they and others don't realize is that this is reality. You don't get to run the simulation 1,000,000 times and say, see, this is the right move to do. This is not fantasy baseball where you can sucker another GM to give you Posey for a guy who will give you steals. If your closer isn't working, you don't necessary have a replacement easily available (see Giants B.W.: Before Wilson. And After Nen.) and trading for one could cost you one of your best prospects because the other teams got you over the barrel.
That's why you pay to keep your veteran relievers (barring poor health reports, of course). You pay them the market rate. And if you treat them well, you will have guys like Romo not even checking out the other teams, just wanted to work it out with you, because your team has been fair and even generous with their players. You don't risk your season (and it will never come back) by picking up a bushel of relievers from other teams and hope that the volume method works for you, you want a better expectation than that from your team.
And you can't buy 9 of everything and not piss off a player or three who expected to get playing time but is forced into a platoon (or worse) situation. This will affect free agent decisions going forward, you can't screw with players careers and not have it kick you in the rear at some point, the players understand that this is their one chance and they will start to avoid you or make you pay through the nose to get them. This is do or die, there is no try as Yoda sagely once noted, and that is true for teams as well as players, who get that because they live with that daily, with their careers. They only got this one career and they want to make the best of it.
Reality Setting In
And the other teams that people had been oohing and ahhing about has settled down. The Padres, Rockies, and D-backs have reverted to mean, they are all around .500 today, one game above for Rox, one game below for the two darlings of the off-season. All were praised about making their teams relevant during the off-season, yet they are only at .500, and Arizona has basically been at .500 all season long.
The Padres, in particular, has gone from 10-5 to under .500 in just 8 games, going 1-7 against the Dodgers and, gasp, the Astros, the former doormat. And they did this mostly at home (7), not on the road. The Giants are only 1.5 games behind. That can be wiped out in a week or two, and there is still around 20-22 weeks of baseball still left to play.
The Rockies also instilled some excitement as well. They were 4-0 to start the season and 7-2 at one point. But since that point, they have been 4-8. They are 2.5 games ahead of the Giants, again, not insurmountable lead.
Heck, even the Dodgers at 4.5 games ahead is not impossible. The NL West has done this dance most seasons over the past dozen years or more. One team flies ahead of the pack and leads the NL West. They then fall back to the pack, while another team flies up the standings and often take over the NL West lead. Teams jostle for the lead into August, but one team holds serve in September and win the division. So it would not surprise me to see LA fall back to the pack at some point during the season.
Susac is Posey Insurance
Frankly, I see people pointing out Susac as a trade chip (unfortunately, I got the itch to play in the MCC sandbox again and it was just too depressing, too many people just don't get it) and I don't really get it. Yes, I get the trade value part, anybody can see that.
But really, we need to think more of the long-term transition of Posey. People like to point to his statements of wanting to stay but the plain fact is that catchers don't really last that long before the tools of ignorance affect him physically in a significant way. Joe Mauer is built like a tank and he washed out of catching at age 30, forced to 1B at 31, and missed significant time at ages 28 and 30 while catching; Posey is 28 this season. Catching is a ticking time bomb of a job and Posey already had his 2011, and he don't have a classic catcher's body either. We need Susac as starting catcher's insurance.
So, no, Susac is not going anywhere. Anyway, if he was going to be traded, anyway, by the Giants, they would have done it this last off-season. They could have gotten a way better replacement at 3B with Susac as the trading chip than a couple of low level prospects (though I did like Flores). And teams were probably asking for that much.
McGehee is Not Here Forever
Giants fans do this every season. There will be one player who many hate and they wonder what is up with Bochy, and they believe that they are better than he is. It's the old Fantasy baseball GM syndrome that hits many people.
Players are human beings, and they want to be loved, if I may paraphrase some lyrics from a song I love. You sit McGehee right now and play Duffy instead, and McGehee is useless to you for the rest of the season. The manager needs to show respect and love to their players, or they end up useless.
For example, if Bochy had not treated Renteria with respect and handled him, keeping him in there when fans though he was done, Edgar would not have been the MVP of the 2010 World Series. Same with Sandoval, he could have been pissed off after 2010, and not want to play well for Bochy, especially after 2011, he could have done things to force a trade, but he came through for us in the 2012 playoffs and World Series. Same with Lincecum and Zito in the 2012 playoffs and World Series.
McGehee could be that guy later for us, treated well now, delivers later.