Before April gets too small in this season’s rear-view mirror, let’s take a final look at the Giants’ start to 2012.
Over the last month, the Giants finished second in the NL West with a 12-10 record, 3.5 games behind the 16-7 Dodgers. Their longest winning streak was tied between two three-game stretches, from April 12 – 14 against the Rockies and Pirates, and April 17 – 20 (minus an off day) against the Phillies and Mets.
Despite a shaky first week from the rotation, the Giants gave us plenty to smile about last month. Barry Zito emerged from the debris of an opening weekend sweep with a complete game shutout against the Rockies, backed by a hefty seven runs from Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, and Brandon Crawford. Cain pitched a complete game shutout of his own on the Giants’ Opening Day, allowing one hit and striking out 11 Pirates. Five days later, he dueled with Phillies’ ace Cliff Lee for 9 innings before Melky knocked in a single run against closer Antonio Bastardo in the 11th.
Lincecum: 1.58 WHIP, 3.20 FIP, 2.23 K/BB in 5 starts
Cain: 0.68 WHIP, 3.54 FIP, 5.00 K/BB in 4 starts
Bumgarner: 1.09 WHIP, 3.94 FIP, 2.13 K/BB in 5 starts
Zito: 0.93 WHIP, 4.01 FIP, 2.33 K/BB in 4 starts
Vogelsong: 1.19 WHIP, 3.46 FIP, 2.86 K/BB in 3 starts
In the bullpen, Santiago Casilla led Giants relievers with an 0.92 WHIP and 2.48 FIP. He notched 4 saves in 10 appearances, allowing 5 hits and a run in 8.2 IP. Clay Hensley followed close behind with a 0.95 WHIP and 2.53 FIP in 10 games and 7.1 IP. By the end of the month, over half of the ‘pen was left with a WHIP and ERA under 3.00.
Maybe I’ve just had poor luck in selecting Giants games lately, but the three facets of San Francisco’s offense that immediately came to mind were their failure to produce adequate run support, inability to capitalize on crucial moments in late innings, and refusal to climb back from one-run deficits.
Looking at the numbers, however, I can breathe a little easier. The Giants ranked in the top five National League teams for AVG (.261) and SLG (.410), dropping to 8th place in OBP (.313), just a hair under the league average of .314. They put up an average of 4.09 runs per game, with a 5-4 record in one-run games.
On the other hand, the Giants went 13-for-79 with runners in scoring position, with four missed opportunities to drive in the tying run in the 9th. In 10 losses, 144 runners were left on base; with two outs, 42 RISP were stranded.
Aubrey Huff landed on the 15-day DL with anxiety issues, and should be able to rejoin the team on May 7.
Yesterday, Jeremy Affeldt tried to play with his 4-year-old son and ended up with a sprained ligament in his right knee. Henry Schulman projects a 7-10 day recovery time, not including additional rehab games.
Belt Watch 2012
I’ll admit it: last month, I watched a grand total of four Giants games. Believe me, that estimate is a generous one. While I won’t bore you with my thoughtful and completely excusable excuses, I will say that based on the amount of #FreeBelt tweets I noticed, I figured that Brandon Belt played a lot less than he actually did. Any time Twitter told me he was chilling on the bench, I was instantly indignant.
While there are plenty of reasons to champion the Belt-as-everyday-first-baseman agenda, he still racked up the most starts at first base in April. In 22 games, this is how the 1B/LF situation played out:
Belt: 9 starts at 1B, 0 starts in LF
Huff: 6 starts at 1B, 4 starts in LF
Posey: 4 starts at 1B
Pill: 3 starts at 1B, 3 starts in LF
Belt made an additional 7 appearances as a pinch-hitter, which brings his total number of games up to 16/22. Not too shabby for someone Bochy hates to use. Now, keeping Bochy’s twisted logic in mind, let’s look at Belt’s performance when stacked against his competition:
Belt: .278/.366/.389, .400 BABIP, 0.45 BB/K in 41 PA
Huff: .182/.300/.333, .167 BABIP, 2.00 BB/K in 40 PA
Posey: .353/.413/.603, .400 BABIP, 0.50 BB/K in 75 PA
Pill: .320/.414/.520, .333 BABIP, 0.67 BB/K in 29 PA
Everything looks rosier with smaller sample sizes, but here’s the bottom line: it’s absurd to deny Belt ample time to adjust to the big leagues (again), especially given the team’s flimsy efforts at run production so far this season.
Where do the Giants go from here? Well, with the plethora of young talent coming up from Fresno and the increasing number of vets benched due to injury or illness, it’s difficult to project a clear path over these next few months. We’ll continue to track the Giants’ progress as small sample sizes become reliable patterns—hopefully starting with the team’s sixth series win over the Marlins.
Topics: Aubrey Huff, Barry Zito, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, Brett Pill, Brian Wilson, Bruce Bochy, Buster Posey, Clay Hensley, Freddy Sanchez, Jeremy Affeldt, Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Melky Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval, San Francisco Giants, San Jose Giants, Santiago Casilla, Tim Lincecum