Something that is going to have to get figured out for the Giants if they are going to contend for the NL West crown is the starting pitching.
Madison Bumgarner has been stellar and remained consistent throughout the year. After that, the waters get a little murky. Chad Gaudin has been effective, Tim Lincecum has recently come around, Matt Cain has been inconsistent at best, and Barry Zito is well, Zito.
So what does the second half look like, and what needs to be done?
Bumgarner is clearly the ace of this staff at the moment. At 23 years old, MadBum has established himself as a force against any team and in any situation. With a 10-5 record, 3.02 ERA 122/34-K/BB ratio, a .95 WHIP and just 6.1 hits per 9, Bumgarner will continue to be the stopper for this club in the 2nd half.
After Bumgarner’s last start, a win against San Diego on July 11th, the Giants were 5-1 when he took the mound since June 14th, and just 2-18 when someone else took the hill. The start on July 11th marked the 3rd consecutive time Bumgarner stopped a 4 game losing streak.
Ok, that’s 2013 All Star Madison Bumgarner, but he can’t do it alone.
Matt Cain has been very un-Cain line thus far in 2013. Going into the break, Cain is 5-6 with a 5.06 ERA 103/37-K/BB, 1.18 WHIP, and has given up 16 HR’s (he gave up 21 in all of 2012). When analyzed closely, Cain has had 5 bad starts that have inflated his ERA, in which he gave up 9ER, 7ER, 6ER, 7ER, and 8ER. In 13 other starts Cain has given up 3ER or less, and had 1 start where he gave up 4. So in those 5 bad starts, Cain gave up a total of 37 earned runs, and has given up just 26 in the 14 others.
Questions have been raised about Cain’s health in recent days. It was revealed that he has had loose bodies in his elbow in the past but was able to pitch through it. No one is sure if that is the case this season, and the Giants and Cain maintain that he is fine. One thing is for sure though, the Giants will need Cain to find his consistency and remain healthy to contend. This team needs their horse.
To begin the season it looked like Tim Lincecum had regressed back to his 2012 form. After a stellar postseason coming out of the pen for the Giants, the beginning of 2012 was hit or miss for Tim. There would be a good start followed by a few bad starts, and repeat. However since June 4th, Lincecum has seen his ERA lower from 5.12 to its current level at 4.26.
In 8 starts since June 4th, Lincecum has had 5 quality starts and given up 4ER only once. During that stretch Lincecum has struck out 54 and walked 17, including his past two starts in which he struck out 11 and 13, respectively. Of course the 13 strikeout performance was the magnificent 148 pitch no-hitter, which can be seen out-for-out right here.
If Lincecum can continue to evolve as a pitcher and maintain this consistency, the Giants may have something close to their 2 time Cy Young winner going out there every 5th day. If that happens I don’t see Lincecum moving to the bullpen any time soon, nor being traded at the deadline (although anything is possible).
In 6 starts this season filling in for the injured Ryan Vogelsong, Chad Gaudin has gone 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA. In 33.1 innings Gaudin has struck out 27 and walked 9 posting a 1.05 WHIP. It’s safe to say Gaudin has performed well after coming into this season thinking he was the long man out of the pen.
In a small sample size, it would appear it may be difficult to move Gaudin back to the bullpen when Vogelsong returns- which brings us to Barry Zito.
What to do about Zito? The baffling home road splits are well publicized, but they need to be.
Zito is 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.27 WHIP at home.
Zito is 0-6 with a 9.89 ERA and 2.43 WHIP on the road.
Barry Zito is a completely different pitcher on the road- is it a mental thing, is it bad luck? One thing for sure is that the Giants can’t continue to take an automatic loss every time Barry Zito takes the bump in an opposing ballpark.
A solution that has been suggested when Vogelsong gets back is to have Gaudin take Zito’s road starts- sort of a two headed monster with Zito at home, Gaudin on the road- and switch them out in the bullpen as needed. I’m not sure if this is doable simply because baseball is a game of routine and this might throw that off for each guy. But, Gaudin has proven that he is adaptable, and trying anything with Zito at this point seems like a better idea than just throwing him out there on the road.
The Giants could trade for a starter, but it remains to be seen if Brian Sabean is willing to go that route with the team’s recent struggles. I don’t think anyone wants to see another rental situation a la the Beltran trade in 2011, so by my estimation it would have to be the right deal and the Giants would need to continue to get back on track for the rest of July to even consider any trade option.
Still, there is one trade that is certain- the return of Ryan Vogelsong. Most reports have him coming back in early August, but he has had a couple bullpen sessions now and could be ready sooner. When he does come back, hopefully well rested and ready to go, the Giants have some decisions to make.
A rotation of Bumgarner, Cain, Lincecum, Vogelsong, Gaudin/Zito, provided they perform, gives the Giants a shot to get back in this thing in the 2ndhalf.
Keep an eye out for these questions, which we should have answers to in the coming weeks: Will Cain find his form? Will Lincecum continue his recent success? Will Gaudin go back to the pen? Will Zito go to the Pen? How will Vogelsong look after being out for a few months? Is there a trade in the works?
The 2nd half has some intriguing story lines to watch out for Giants fans.