Why Are The San Francisco Giants Struggling?

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The Stars Are Not The Problem

The biggest name on the Giants roster is Buster Posey. One of the best catchers of his generation, Posey having a tremendous season. He is on pace to have the highest batting average for a Giants catcher since 1903 (George Breshnahan hit .350). He still has one of the most lethal arms in the game, and has allowed only one passed ball this season.

Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner are both having good seasons. Both are premier pitchers who could be All-Stars this year. Although they pitch in a friendly ballpark, they also must make a few starts in Coors Field, and have done so admirably. They just get no run support in their starts.


Starting Pitching

The other starters are not performing up to snuff. Both Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija have been paid big money to be stalwarts in the Giants rotation. Cueto currently has an ERA of just shy of 5 (4.86) and the Shark is well over 6 (6.32). Matt Moore is far from being the stud he was in Tampa Bay for the Rays. His ERA is 6.75 and his control is not what it used to be. The back half of the starting rotation has been less than acceptable in a division where pitching is dominant.

They are the only team in the division without a shutout, and have given up the highest batting average against left handed hitters. They have the worst record from their starters in the league. Not to mention, they are 27th in ERA from their starters. It's just been a horrible start to the year.

The Bullpen

The most important thing for a championship caliber team is the back end. The ability to shut down opponents in the final three innings led Kansas City to a World Championship. Cleveland rode a strong bullpen to Game 7 of the World Series. The bullpen for San Francisco has blown five saves in 28 games, good for 2nd worst in the Majors. Their ERA is 3rd worst. They have thrown the fourth fewest innings, in large part because of the lack of trust Bruce Bochy has in the bullpen, which is one of the reasons the starters have become overworked and unreliable.

The Offense

When you are dead last in production from center field, you have a problem. When your first baseman leads your team in home runs, it’s not a bad thing. But when your team leader only has four, and no one else has more than two, it’s a problem, especially when one of those is a starting pitcher. A third baseman is normally a leading hitter, trusted to have a good batting average or to hit for power. Connor Gillaspie is hitting for .194 with no home runs. That is a problem.

The offense in general is 29th in the league home runs, slugging percentage, and OPS. They are 28th in on base percentage and runs. They are the seventh worst in drawing walks and 24th in batting average. The don’t strike out a ton (outside of Brandon Belt with 31), which means they ground out a ton and unsurprisingly they lead the league in groundouts.


Their Defense Has Slacked Off

Defensive efficiency is the definitive statistical category for measuring how good the gloves are in the field. When the Giants won the World Series in 2014, they ranked 6th. Last season, they were third. This year, they rank in the bottom third (20th). They have lost some of the premier gloves that have made defense a staple. As good as Posey is, he is not what he once was, due to injury and age. He has given up the 7th most steals in the league, but that might be from the slow to the plate delivery of the staff.

How To Fix It

In short, you can’t, at least with the roster we have right now. Time will fix some of their issues. Stars are stars because they do great things day in and day out. Cueto and Samardzija will rebound. The defense will rebound. The offense must. Joe Panik will come back and be the special player he is. However, there are holes in this team. The bullpen needs a shutdown arm to get to the closer Melancon. The outfield needs at least one more piece.

Unless San Francisco can turn it around before June, expect the Giants to be sellers at the trade deadline and fade into the background of the NL West fight.

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