Believe me, I understand. The mainstream sports media needs an angle about the 2013 San Francisco Giants, so they've made it all about the problems the Giants' starting staff has experienced in April and May.
It's irresistible because these are virtually the same pitchers who led San Francisco to World Championships in 2010 and 2012.
But with 105 baseball games yet to be played it's clear what's really holding the San Francisco Giants back: a chronic lack of run production from key spots in the line-up and on the bench. And that's the real story angle about the 2013 Giants.
In their biggest back-to-back series of the year so far, the Giants just faced the Oakland A's in a four game set followed by three with the St. Louis Cardinals in Busch Stadium. San Francisco went 2-5 in those games, and it wasn't the pitching that did them in.
Over those seven games the Giants averaged 2.86 runs per game, their opponents 5.43 runs per game.
San Francisco was shut out once (8-0 by the Cards), and scored one run each in two other losses (7-1 against St. Louis and 4-1 against Oakland). And they lost another game to the A's 6-3.
Let's see, that's five runs in 36 innings.
For me, it was disheartening to see Gregor Blanco leading off playing center field, Andres Torres starting in left field, and (unbelievably) Brett Pill starting two games for Brandon Belt at 1B, and then playing half a game in left field. I realize Belt needs to have time off, but I'd rather see Posey fill in at first base and give two key players a rest.
Sure, Angel Pagan was sitting on the bench injured– but why did the Giants play short and not call up their best outfield bat when Pagan went down? Also injured during part of the week was Pablo Sandoval, again on the bench unable to play and no replacement brought up.
I understand there are a variety of issues regarding the 40 man roster but other teams seem to effortlessly work that out when they have a starter injured and unable to play, but not sent to the disabled list.
For the record, in his 11 games and 24 at-bats with the Giants the past month, Brett Pill has a .567 OPS, a .192 OBP, and is batting .167. Yikes.
In Gregor Blanco's last 10 games he's hitting .139; this season Blanco's OPS is .638 and he's batting .255. Andres Torres has a mediocre .711 OPS and his defense now looks shaky even on routine plays. Torres must lead the National League in balls fumbled, misjudged and just not thrown back to the infield on time.
[And, please, skip the anecdotal crap– i.e., "But, dude, Andres hit a home run the other day… ". That's the Nate Schierholtz defense: "I saw him hit a home run on TV the other night, so he's great. Right?"]
One more offensive stat to track this season: so far, Blanco and Torres have hit into 8 double plays.
Out of 30 MLB teams, San Francisco is tied for last place with the Twins for the least runs scored by left fielders in 2013: 20. Giant left fielders have a cumulative OPS of .693, which is 22nd out of 30 MLB teams.
The killer here is there's very good run production coming from virtually every other position on the field: Marco Scutaro at 2nd base, Buster Posey at catcher, Pablo Sandoval at 3rd base, and Hunter Pence in right. Brandon Belt at 1st and Brandon Crawford at shortstop have also been very good run contributors.
Also: let's not forget that when Angel Pagan is healthy and playing he absolutely adds to the offense at lead-off.
But your team is in trouble if:
> on a daily basis you are relying on only six productive hitters in your line-up. For 162 games;
> your bench consists of marginal older minor league players, or younger players without experience, instead of professional hitters; and,
> when one of your six quality position players is injured for a week or more you decide not to replace that player, you hope he heals quickly.
Again, I understand that if Angel Pagan will get well in 10 days you really don't want to put him on the 15 day DL. But when you do that, not only is the offense playing short for over a week, there's an expectation by management that the player (who you didn't DL) should get back on the field as soon as possible.
Which is just the kind of desperation that can lead to reaggravating the old injury or incurring a new one.
Here are three critical offensive problems the Giants need fix in the next 50 games:
1) there needs to be better management of the 25 man roster during the season from the front office, especially when a key player is injured but not put on the disabled list;
2) the everyday line-up needs to have a run-producing left fielder; and,
3) the Giants desparately need a legitimate right-handed bat off the bench. Sooner than later.
The San Francisco front office has plenty of time to address their 2013 issues. And I'll reprise Giants' President Larry Baer describing how a successful baseball season should work: the first 50 games are to assess the team you've got; the second 50 games are to make the necessary adjustments; and the final 62 games are all about wins.