Giants Season Recap: Tipping Point
By Ashley Varela
Don’t look now, but we’re just nine days away from the All Star break and the conclusion of the first half of the 2012 season. In nine days, Melky Cabrera will be donning his National League uniform (I’m calling it, because I know you all voted at least 25 times), the Dodgers will sink more than a game behind the Giants, and it will almost have been a full month since Matt Cain threw a perfect game.
While May brought us a glimpse of the Giants’ ability to set franchise records and use Brandon Belt effectively, June surpassed even my moderately hopeful expectations. After splitting the month 17-11, the team dug themselves out of a 5-game hole, closing the gap between the division lead and the team-who-must-not-be-named with a series sweep.
The sweep represented more than the second string of four wins in June; it was the first time the Giants had harnessed a shutout against the Dodgers at AT&T Park since July 1998. It was also the first time in franchise history that the Giants managed to collect four consecutive shutouts, three against the Dodgers and one against the Reds.
In fact, the Giants celebrated Oprah-style with shutouts this month: Vogelsong put up a 3-strikeout, 7-hit performance against Clayton Kershaw, Timmy earned his first shutout and quality start of the season, Bumgarner set both personal and franchise records with a complete one-hitter against Cincinnati, Zito tried to outdo all three starters with two shutouts, and Cain triumphed with not only a shutout, but the first perfect game in club history. On the flip side, the Giants were also shut out for the first time since the season began, twice at the hands of the Rangers on 5-0 losses.
Because no Giants starter is allowed to receive more than 1.5 runs of support per start, here’s a look at the defense vs. offense in June:
Ryan Vogelsong: 4.46 SIERA, 3.66 FIP, 3.00 K/BB
Tim Lincecum: 3.94 SIERA, 3.62 FIP, 2.11 K/BB
Madison Bumgarner: 3.46 SIERA, 2.52 FIP, 5.63 K/BB
Barry Zito: 5.25 SIERA, 4.98 FIP, 1.26 K/BB
Matt Cain: 3.21 SIERA, 2.94 FIP, 4.96 K/BB
Neither Cain nor Vogelsong allowed more than three runs in any of their combined ten starts. Timmy is still shaky, having done everything from talking to his dad to consulting with specialists to starring in a slow-mo video by Red Bull where he gets to strike out Belt. Whatever unlocked vintage Lincecum on Wednesday arrived not a moment too late.
In the ‘pen, Bochy has assembled quite the hodgepodge of Triple-A relievers to complement the work done by Casilla, Romo, Lopez, Hensley, and Affeldt. George Kontos made his Giants debut on June 10, and finished the month with 6 appearances and a line of 8 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K in 8.0 IP. Right-hander Shane Loux and lefty Eric Surkamp were moved to the DL with a neck strain and elbow injury, respectively. Adding Dan Runzler to the list of the injured and rehabbing, the Giants brought up RHP Brad Penny on Friday, who made his first appearance yesterday with one strikeout in 2.1 IP.
So far, the injury bug has only bitten one more victim, resulting in a DL stint that has given a welcome boost to the infield. Following Cain’s perfecto, Aubrey Huff got a tad too excited, leapt over the dugout railing, and banged up his right knee. Although you can finish this sentence before you’ve even read it through, this allowed Brandon Belt to fill a position the fanbase has been clamoring for and the front office has been loathe to give. With Brett Pill busy hitting dingers in Fresno, Belt went on a hitting streak this month, racking up 15 hits in 11 consecutive games. It’s never pleasant to see a player hit the DL, but I can’t help wishing that this period of Belt as our almost-power-hitting everyday first baseman would extend just a little longer.
Oh, and for those wondering, he did manage to finally hit a home run; four, in fact. Not surprisingly, Ryan Theriot and Manny Burriss are still dinger-less.
Here’s how the rest of the offense shaped up this month:
182 runners left in scoring position
31 more hits for Melky, 20 fewer than his 51-hit record in May
3 games lost by one run
6 games won by one run
3.89 average runs per game
10.0 average runs per perfect game
Although I’ve barely touched on the bulk of the historical milestones, standout performances, and encouraging signs from the Giants this June, there is much more to look forward to in the month to come. The dreaded interleague series have concluded for the moment, leaving the Giants with a 24-game spread over the National League, focusing heavily on the NL East with road trips to Washington, Atlanta, and Philadelphia. Before the Giants begin locking down the NL West, however, let’s take one more look at the all-important question on our minds as the All-Star Break approaches.