By Chandler Guadagnin
Although it is early, there is no getting around it: the Giants are off to an abysmal start in 2018. Even with the win tonight, San Francisco is three games under .500 (7-10). Analysts and fans, alike, are beginning to wonder if this season is just a revamped repeat of 2017. In the first 17 games of 2017, San Francisco was 6 and 11; one game worse than the current pace. The primary concern for the Giants heading into the season was the age of the roster.
Before the season even began, analysts, statisticians and talk show hosts weren’t talking about the new talent on the roster, but instead were preoccupied with the several elder statesman of the club. While it is true that age is directly connected to a decline in production and the Giants are the oldest club in the Major Leagues (29.9); I did some digging and here is what I found: the second oldest club in Major League Baseball is the Washington Nationals. The average age of there roster is 29.3, just 0.6 years younger than the Giants. Yet somehow, by most estimates, Washington is projected to win the National League East by a hefty margin this season. So what is the difference? Likely it is that the Nats have made the postseason two straight years, and four times since 2012. San Francisco has made the postseason four times in 8 years. The speculation is also a result of the Giants’ horrific 2017 campaign; still fresh in the minds of so many. The main point of this one paragraph monologue, is that, though San Francisco is currently struggling, the Giants can indeed compete, even with an aging roster. That is the positive note. Here is what they need to improve to accomplish the feat.
Offensive production has been the main stumbling block of the Giants. Through 17 contests, San Francisco is hitting .234 as a team (9th in the National League). However, batting average is not the root of the issue. The true struggle, has been coming up with hits with runners in scoring position. The Orange and Black are a bulimic 19 for 120 with runners in scoring position (.158). An illustration of this dismal scoring slump is that the Giants have been shutout 3 times in the early going. As is often the case, however, the lack of offense is not the sole reason for the Giants early dive.
The bullpen has had its part to play. Over 55.2 total innings pitched, the Giants bullpen has accumulated a 2.91 ERA. In these 53 total appearances, the Giants have surrendered 44 hits (6 for home runs), dished out 60 strikeouts and issued 25 walks as a unit. Like batting average, the ERA does not tell the whole story. What does is that most of the hits and walks are coming in the crucial moments of games. The ‘pen’s struggles coupled with the absence of timely hits has resulted in a minus 9 run differential; as the Giants have been outscored 59 to 50. What they have failed to do at the plate, they have made up for with the glove.
In 1,386 defensive innings, San Francisco has made only 9 errors, for a fielding percentage of .986, ranking them 10th in Major League Baseball. While it is nearly impossible to quantify Gold Glove caliber plays, it is safe to say that numerous sterling plays from the Giants five Gold Glove defenders, have played a starring role in the club’s defensive success.
If only the Giants could combine their Gold Glove defense with offense, it could change the tempo of the season. With 145 games remaining on the regular season resumé, there is still plenty of time to improve. However, two things are for certain: the Giants must improve, if they have any desire to compete for a playoff spot and, I will be more than happy if, 145 games from now, I can look back on this article and realize what an overreaction it was.
Statistics courtesy of www.mlb.com and www.baseball-reference.com