The San Francisco Giants’ 2015 season has been filled with ups and downs.
With several losing streaks of at least five games and injuries to multiple key players, it is amazing that the Giants sit at 46-43 at the All-Star break. It’s safe to say the team needs some help as it gears up for another playoff push.
San Francisco lost four games in the standings since it began that nightmarish road trip on June 30 where they went 0-6, losing seven-in-a-row overall. Even with their recent three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies, the Giants sit at 4.5 games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West.
Here are three needs the Giants should address at the MLB trade deadline.
1. Bullpen help
One constant in each of the three championship years was a solid, lockdown bullpen. This year, it has been a bit of a struggle for the relievers. The Giants are now 10th in the National League in bullpen ERA at 3.64, and the pen’s overall performance has been inconsistent.
Sergio Romo, who was automatic as a set-up man in years past (but struggled as a closer last year), now has a career-worst 5.19 ERA. He even admitted in a KNBR radio interview that hitters are not afraid of him anymore. Closer Santiago Casilla seems tired with all the innings he has logged these past two seasons, and has been getting hit harder than in years past as a result. He has a 3.16 ERA this season and a BABIP of .306, his highest in those categories since becoming a Giant in 2010. Even in Sunday’s save against the Phillies, hitters made hard contact against him, including the final out of the game, a line-drive screamer to Joe Panik.
Even Yusmeiro Petit, the super reliever of the 2015 postseason, has struggled to a 4.41 ERA this season. With the starting rotation still a question mark, the Giants need a fresh, veteran arm they can trust will hold the line in the late innings. Fortunately for the Giants, George Kontos has been an effective right-hander, stranding all 25 inherited runners this season and posting an impressive 1.67 ERA.
2. Starting pitcher
If the Giants want to make the postseason, they are going to have to solidify their starting rotation. As of Sunday night, their starters are eighth in the league in ERA (3.94) and WHIP (1.28). Every other division or Wild Card leader has better numbers in those categories.
While Matt Cain and Jake Peavy have come back strong, they will remain question marks until they have a handful of starts under their belts. Ryan Vogelsong has been up and down, and Tim Hudson is over 40 years old and cannot be relied upon to go deep into games. The other Tim…well, he hasn’t been right since 2011. Madison Bumgarner is about the only starter the Giants can count on, though the surprise emergence of Chris Heston cannot be overstated.
If Cain can return to form, the Giants will have a formidable 1-2 punch. Still, a team never can have too much pitching, so like their bullpen need, another consistent starter would be a nice measure of insurance. Before the Giants think about shelling out for a Cole Hamels or James Shields, they may want to see a couple more starts from Cain and Peavy. If those two look good, the Giants could instead go for a middle-of-the-road starter to round out the rotation, like a Mike Leake. The Giants may be in wait-and-see mode here.
In Game 5 of the 2014 National League Championship Series, Michael Morse came off the bench in the eighth inning and tied the game with a dramatic home run that stunned the St. Louis Cardinals.
In World Series games in Kansas City, Morse was a formidable designated hitter and even drove in the winning run in Game 7.
Last year’s playoff run illustrated the importance of a strong bench. This year, the Giants are lacking in bench depth, partly due to injury. Once Nori Aoki comes back, the Giants have a decent defensive bench with Gregor Blanco and Justin Maxwell filling in the outfield, but they do not have an offensive threat like Morse.
Maxwell started out flashing the power early this season, but has cooled off considerably as opposing pitchers have gone with more and more soft stuff. As a whole, Giants pinch hitters in 2015 are batting just .229 with a .284 slugging percentage and no home runs.
Fortunately, it looks like San Francisco is looking to upgrade. According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Giants are interested in Ben Zobrist. It might be tough for the Giants and Oakland A’s to reach an agreement, though, since they do not have a good trade history. They could also be looking to reunite with Michael Morse.
Both those players would certainly add some pop to a light-hitting bench unit.