I’ve always contended that the Giants are a team that, when losing, are going to look really, really, bad. Maybe even worse than they actually are. The Giants style is as follows: Hope that the offense can scrap together enough runs to support the stellar pitching. When the pitching takes the night off, we’re going to have to rely on the collective of hitters that Brian Sabean has amassed. And relying on Brian Sabean’s hitters is like relying on cement filled water wings to carry you through shark infested waters.
The Giants’ pitching has indeed been quite solid this year. The team FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) of 3.84 places the Giants as the 4th best pitching staff in baseball. Giants’ pitchers strike out more hitters (7.97 K’s per 9) than any other staff in baseball. The defense, to this point, has rated well by UZR. It’s hard to imagine that the Giants OF is ranked as the 2nd best OF in baseball at the moment by UZR — +18.3 runs above average — and we all know you can’t argue with statistics. Don’t even try it. A large part of that is Andres Torres and Nate Schierholtz. Shockingly, with the current OF setup — meaning Torres as a starter in CF — the team might be able to afford starting defensive boulder Pat Burrell in LF until his magic pixie dust wears off. Of course, with that configuration, I prefer to have Nate playing RF over Huff. Huff has looked very comfortable in the OF, but Schierholtz is still a superior fielder in every way. And Nate has done a few things this year at the dish that suggest he may have altered his approach — or at least not become so swingy. So, please give him some AB’s, Giants Brass!
I still think that the one clear area where the Giants can improve themselves is catcher. Bengie Molina’s defense has looked bad this year. His ability to get to both the high and low pitch looks diminished. He’ll cost you runs just by running the bases and his hitting hasn’t been there this year. This is the plight of being a 35-year-old catcher. Molina’s biggest problem is power. After posting an average or better ISO with the Giants in the past 3 years, Molina’s power has disappeared.
Molina’s only marketable skill (besides his super-duper game-calling abilities) is power. While on the Giants, Molina became super-aggressive by hitting a ton of flyballs in the air and hoping that they either go over the fence or fall of extra-base hits. He’s scaled back that approach some this year, no longer hitting over 50% of his BIP in the air. His current FB% of 44.3% is much more in tune with his career FB% of 41.8%. One has to wonder if this is an intentional change to his approach at hitting, or if it’s a skill-related thing — ie: diminished bat speed, vision, physical traits. Or, if it’s just bad luck. In the power department, Molina has turned into Omar Vizquel — career ISO of .082 — without any of the other benefits of speed, defense, or OBP. If Molina has altered his approach this year to become more plate approach conscious — his BB% is currently a career high at 6.3% — maybe he should consider reverting back his old let ‘er rip ways. The ZiPS rest-of-season projections have Molina hitting a .122 ISO from here on out, which probably isn’t enough to make him a starter.
We have to face the fact that Bruce Bochy is going to give Molina a huge amount of latitude as a player. That’s Bochy’s style as a manager. His veteran love knows no bounds. But the Giants front office has to seriously consider intervening. A clear upgrade exists on the roster in Buster Posey. He’s not hitting .400 like he was during his hot streak, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t carry value and a chance for a significant upgrade. His skill-set is a player with good plate discipline, moderate power, and an upside for solid-to-very-good defense behind the plate.
In order for the Giants to save themselves, they might have to stop acting, well, like themselves. It’s tragic, in the truest sense of the term. Each day the Giants play into their old habits is a day that they are shooting themselves in the foot. Or, sinking into the shark infested waters of the NL West.