This is going to be one of those posts that might look embarrassing in four months. After the Giants melted down against the Pirates before the All-Star Break last year, there was a temptation to write an all-is-lost post. It felt like the situation called for an all-is-lost post. It would have looked silly. All was not lost. It's a long season. There are peaks and valleys, and sometimes the Giants wake up in a strange apartment with infected cuts, and sometimes they nail the job interview they've prepped for all week. There are 162 games, y'all.
We've been patient. We've enjoyed the comebacks. We've marveled at the competent offense. The Giants have been in first place, out of first place, but always over .500. A lot of teams would trade good prospects to be over .500 right now. But if the Giants can't pitch, they don't contend.
It's simple, and it isn't a bold, new theory. If the Giants can't pitch, the Giants can't contend. When July comes around, the big talk will have to do with trading Hunter Pence. Maybe a team will give up a B prospect for Playoff Hero Super-Reliever Tim Lincecum. That's what's going to happen if the Giants can't pitch.
If you're from the future, and you're laughing while reading this, congratulations. The Giants rediscovered how to pitch, and this looks stupid. You're riding your hover-Segway to the parade and re-reading this on your mind-phone, and it's the future, and the Giants have won the World Series behind the strong, resurgent pitching. Sounds like fun!
But if the Giants can't pitch, they aren't going anywhere. That's not a bold prediction, I guess. "If the oceans evaporate, I'm not sure about this whole 'life' thing" isn't a bold prediction. It's pretty obvious. So I guess the follow-up question is simple. Will the Giants start pitching better?
That's what it feels like now, at least. Pick the pitchers who are going to improve. Bumgarner? He's been good and erratic, probably because he's a young pitcher. But, yeah, he can be good. Same goes for Cain. I'm not sold on the idea that he was stung by an awful wasp and is awful now. So I'll spot you two good pitchers.
Tim Lincecum is not around for the next seven years on a nine-figure contract. This is the silver lining. Embrace it, revel in it. The Lincecum bobbleheads aren't going anywhere, and he's already earned enough to make you get a "5" tattooed on one cheek and a "5" on the other. He's in the club. He's great. But I don't see how he's ever going to be a good pitcher again. He doesn't know where the ball is going.
Barry Zito is the same pitcher who couldn't make the 2010 rotation. He just has a better PR person now. You bought into the well-produced ad campaign, you fool. I … I kind of did, too.
The fifth pitcher is probably Shane Loux for now. Even if it isn't Shane Loux, it's Shane Loux. The rest is just semantics.
So the Giants have two pitchers who might be good, and three pitchers who might be average. If everything breaks right. Which it most certainly does not have to do. This isn't going to end well. If you're giggling from the future, good for you. You're smarter than me. I'm just a Cro-Magnon shaking his hairy fist at the moon god for making the sun go away again. But this isn't going to end well.
Not until Zack Wheeler comes up, at least.
Of course, it would help if the Giants could catch the ball, too. But that's kind of related to the pitching, I guess.
Mike Krukow mentioned a few times on the broadcast that the Giants have had just two quality starts in their last 15 tries. I know it's fashionable in some circles to make fun of the quality start as a useful stat. But I like it as a good shorthand description of how a pitching staff or individual pitcher is doing. Always have. And the low-offense era we're in now changes things a little. It's not quite as impressive these days. But if you've watched a team struggle through four- and five-inning starts and chew, chew, chew through a bullpen, you appreciate the quality start.
The Giants have had a starting pitcher go six innings and give up fewer than three runs twice in the last two weeks. They pitch in a canyon. They should be able to go six and give up three every so often by luck alone. This is an unbelievable stretch of rotten pitching.
Maybe this is a better way to put it. Over the last three-plus seasons, here's how often a Giants starting pitcher has allowed five or more earned runs in a game:
It's amazing they're even sniffing .500, much less above it.
To be placed on every seat down the foul line from now until the end of time: