The San Francisco Giants Look To Rebound In The NL West
The news has been all bad for the San Francisco Giants, whether it’s on the field, off the field or at the betting window. The Giants have lost 13 of their first 19 games and bring up the rear in the National League’s Western Division.
Anyone that’s bet on them in each game has lost (-$811), marking San Francisco the biggest money-burner in the National League and second in all of baseball to Toronto. That’s not the NL pennant anyone in San Francisco had in mind.
Off the field came the crowning blow—Madison Bumgarner was injured in a dirt bike accident and will be out for up to two months. As the Giants begin a four-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, it’s time to ask—is this going to be a lost season in San Francisco?
It would be easy to jump to that conclusion and the fact San Francisco is now 5-1 simply to win the NL West suggests many already have. This is a division that was seen as a two-team race between the Giants and Dodgers at the start of the year, but only Arizona and Colorado have really distinguished themselves in the first three weeks. If you think the Giants are being written off too quickly, this certainly provides opportunity to buy a stock at the right price—if, that is, there is any chance of that stock having value by October.
The positives on the Giants are this—the pitching rotation as a whole was seen as a clear strength of this team—not just Bumgarner, but Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore. None of these three are pitching well—Cueto and Moore have ERAs on the wrong side of 5, and Samardzija’s is soaring at 7.40.
In the case of Cueto, his W-L record is still 3-1. Even if you dismiss wins as being indicative of how well someone pitches, the team has been able to overcome his struggles. Not so with Samardzija and Moore, who have a combined record of 1-7. While neither one is an ace, it’s entirely probable that both will pitch significantly better the rest of the season.
That makes the offense—the source of the team’s late season fade last year, which cost them a division title and relegated them to the wild-card game and a postseason path that included an early meeting with the Cubs—the bigger long-term problem.
The offense is actually a rather significant short-term problem as well, ranking 11th in the National League in runs scored, and worse than that in the key categories of on-base percentage and slugging percentage. Moreover, the poor production is coming in spite of good hitting from Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence and a needed resurgence from Joe Panik.
If you’re looking for likely places for the Giant offense to improve, you’re left banking on Brandon Crawford and Denard Span. Or that Pence and Posey can up their power contributions. It’s not unthinkable, but nor is it any sort of lock.
So taken as a whole, are the Giants a worthy investment at 5-1 to win the NL West, with Bumgarner due back by the start of July at the latest? I have to reserve my final judgment for clients, but all of the above needs to be considered and keep an eye on this coming Dodger series to see if at least the bleeding can be stopped.