For the longest time – and by ‘longest time’ I mean the past 4-5 years – the Giants have followed a formula that included great pitching with just-enough-offense to win games. This is known as “Giants Baseball.” And to the uninitiated it’s often a frustrating blend of baseball, but it’s hard to feel bad for yourself when you get to see 30-plus starts of Cain, Lincecum, Vogelsong, and Bumgarner each season.
Entering September, however, a funny thing has happened: the starters have struggled to limit runs.
Here’s a graph of the starters by runs-per-nine (R/9) allowed. Because R/9 is going to factor in defense, you should keep that fact in the back of your mind, but I think the graph does a good job of displaying what’s been going on lately with the starting pitching.
The aforementioned starters’ performance in September:
Matt Cain, 17.1 IP, 16 H, 8 R, 8 ER, 9 BB, 13 SO, 4.15 ERA
Tim Lincecum, 18.2 IP, 14 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 14 BB, 22 SO, 3.38 ERA
Madison Bumgarner, 16.2 IP, 23 H, 10 R, 10 ER, 8 BB, 13 SO, 5.40 ERA
Ryan Vogelsong, 11.2 IP, 20 H, 17 R, 16 ER, 6 BB, 14 SO, 12.34 ERA
Barry Zito, 18.0 IP, 17 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 4 BB, 14 SO, 2.50 ERA
Raise your hand if thought that Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum would be the best starters for the Giants in September. I’ll just wait here quietly.
/four million years pass
Not a lot of stellar pitching in that group. Ryan Vogelsong’s ERA is 12.34; Madison Bumgarner has given up 23 hits in 16.2 innings; Tim Lincecum’s ERA looks good, but he’s walked 14 in 18.2 innings; and, while Matt Cain’s 4.15 ERA isn’t terrible, we’ve come to expect more from the right-hander.
Barry Zito, on the other hand, is actually pitching pretty well right now — can’t say I saw that one coming.
The good news is that if I had to bet on it, I would wager that the starters will turn things around. This group has been way too good for way too long for me to write off just yet. I’m stubborn like that. Weird things can happen in a handful of starts and it’s not too out of line to think that a few pitchers might be a little worn down right now. Pitching is a violent, violent thing to do for months at a time and it’s not out of the ordinary for players to hit a skid here or there.
The other good news is that the Giants are 10-5 in September and have expanded their lead in the National League West to eight games. If there was a time to throw a start to Yusmeiro Petit or have a bullpen game, it’s fast approaching.
But really, I’d love it if the starters could hit their stride, together, and hit the postseason ground running. We’ll see, but for now, I think the Giants can play it a little conservative if they want to. Just no Brad Penny starts, please.