Exactly two weeks ago, the Giants were in first place by four games. Then, a lot of bad baseball happened. Now they are a full game out of first, and probably should thank the Diamondbacks for being so polite as to not run away with the division while the Giants were busy being terrible.
So, what has gone wrong? Let’s start with the obvious.
They stopped scoring runs. As promised, there’s the obvious. But the offense over the last two weeks has been terrible, even by the Giants’ already low standards. They’ve averaged 2.3 runs a game during their little streak as compared to 3.5 runs per game over the whole season. A pitching staff with five Steve Carltons and five Mariano Riveras might be able to keep an offense like that in contention, but that’s about it.
They stopped walking. Coming into the Cincinnati series, the Giants were hitting .241/.305/.359. That’s terrible, to be sure. Their batting line since then is .248/.287/.353. That’s right, the team batting average has actually gone up over the last two weeks. The Giants have hit a fraction less doubles, but they have been short about one walk per game.
They haven’t bunched up their hits. It’s kind of a neat trick, but despite having fewer base runners and a higher team batting average, the Giants have managed to strand an extra half of a base runner per game. The hits just aren’t coming at the right time.
They’ve allowed more runs. The pitching staff has basically allowed 17 extra runs. They haven’t really pitched that much worse as a whole: a few more walks than you would expect and few more homeruns, but a ton more hit batsmen.
The back of the rotation has pitched poorly. The combined line for Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito over three games: 14 innings, 15 runs, 8 walks, 14 strikeouts and 4 home runs. The Giants need their starting pitching to at least keep them in every game, because the offense is not going to bail them out. If they want to keep pace with the Diamondbacks, they can not afford to punt every fifth game.