Anybody who has watched the San Francisco Giants the whole season knows what an up and down ride the season has been. The team started off great the first 63 games, going 42-21. Now seemingly in the same amount of time they’ve been below 500 by about 15 games going 21-36. They have lost their 9 and a half game division lead and now sit 5 and a half games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. Is their season over or are they bound to make another run?
The Giants are bound to make another run at some point late in the season as they have too much talent not to. The starting pitching staff has done as good of a job as anyone could have expected. They have an ERA of around 3.30 since the All-Star break. They are finally almost fully healthy and the schedule is in their favor. As bad as they’ve played they are only a half game behind the second Wild Card Spot currently held by the St Louis Cardinals and are better than any other team in Wild Card consideration.
The thing that will define whether or not this team makes a run is obviously the offense. Since about mid-June this offense has underachieved drastically. The Giants have too much offensive talent not to be a more consistent offense. They’ve had key players like Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, and Michael Morse under-performing. Angel Pagan and Brandon Belt being injured hasn’t helped.
Posey, Sandoval and Morse are the guys who need to carry the Giants. Those guys are in the middle of the order but have not been hitting with the kind of power expected. Also they haven’t driven in runs in critical situations like they were in the beginning of the season. It’s easy to look at second base or at Brandon Crawford and say those guys are the weak link, but rookie second baseman Joe Panik has been a solid hitter at around .250 since being called up and is playing really good defense. Crawford has a low average but he has a career 47 RBI’S, which isn’t bad for a number 8 hitter.
The first reason why the Giants offense is not good right now is their approach at the plate. Their approach at the plate is terrible (i.e not being patient at the plate), which falls on hitting coach Hensley ( Bam Bam) Muelens. Any Giants fan would ask the question, why is he a hitting coach, he was a career .220 hitter in his Major League career? Good question; however he seems to be loved by somebody in the organization and the Giants have found ways to defend him for the team’s consistently poor approach at the plate.
An example of a good approach is across the bay in Oakland. The A’s actually have somebody who deserves to be a hitting coach in Chili Davis. Watching the A’s, a big part of their success is their ability to work the count and force pitchers into long innings and getting good pitches to hit. That’s an approach the Giants need to look to emulate.
Another thing that’s apparent is the way the young hitters like Crawford and Belt are not developing like expected. That’s on Muelens as well. Crawford was never going to be a great hitter but at the beginning of the season after working with Barry Bonds during the Spring was hitting close to .270, now he’s hitting .228, figures. Belt has had his swing adjusted a number of times. He came up as a guy who would use all fields and work the count. The Giants want Belt to be a pull so he hits for more power. Because of that he takes less pitches as his OBP of .296 is way below his OBP of the last two season, which was .360. The Giants constant changes of Belt’s approach makes no sense whatsoever.
Raging on Muelens is not the point of this article, it’s just to point out some of the issues that face the Giants offense. Even with that they are still right in the Wild Card race and if they start to hit the way they are capable of and feast on the weaker teams they play down the stretch they will make the playoffs, most likely as Wild Card team.
It’s easy to get down on this team, but the National League has a lot of teams struggling, including the Giants, and they have enough fire power to make the postseason. Quite frankly, if they don’t make the postseason then serious changes need to happen because they are too talented not to.