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Grading the Giants' first half, part II: The pitchers

In which we once again assign letter grades that are relative to expectations.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to our second, half-depressing, half-encouraging round of Giants grades for the first half. We looked the hitters on Wednesday. Now it's time to review the starting pitchers' performances relative to expectations.

That's the important part. Relative to expectations. Last year's Barry Zito would have nabbed a B with a 4.00 ERA. Prime-of-his-career Jason Schmidt with a 4.00 ERA gets a C-. You get the idea. To the grades!

Madison Bumgarner

Bumgarner's FIP: About as good as it's ever been.

Bumgarner's K/BB ratio: About as good as it's ever been.

Bumgarner's HR/IP ratio: About as good as it's ever been

Bumgarner's velocity and swinging-strike rate: A-OK.

Bumgarner's ERA+: Eh, he's an average pitcher.

If the season were to end today, this would be the highest ERA of Bumgarner's career. After eight shutout innings on June 22, it looked like he might get some Cy Young votes. Four games, 24⅓ innings, and 19 earned runs later, his ERA is almost indistinguishable from Tim Lincecum's.

Which is one of the reasons everyone's paying less attention to ERA these days. Are we going to grade Bumgarner for how he's pitched, or for how many runs he's given up? If you think they're both the same thing, then it's an easy question. I'm going to grade him on how he's pitched, which was mostly excellent until the last four starts. And for most of those four starts, he looked like the same danged pitcher.

Grade: B

Matt Cain


As long as we're evaluating pitchers on how they've looked over their last few starts, Cain's been swell lately, with three quality starts in a row. Also, if you ignore his four really awful starts, he's been great, which is fanspeak for "if you ignore the faces carved into it, Mt. Rushmore is pretty much the same as it was 300 years ago."

More homers than even last year. More walks. Fewer strikeouts.

Year Age HR% SO% BB% LD% HR/FB
2012 27 2.4% 22.0% 5.8% 19% 6.7%
2013 28 3.0% 20.8% 7.2% 25% 8.2%
2014 29 3.5% 18.7% 8.6% 22% 10.5%

Wait, wait, wait, you go that way. You stop doing that and go the other way. You too. Dammit, everyone listen to me. Do the opposite of what you're doing right now and go in the other direction.

This was the case last year, too, and Cain was magnificent in the second half. That's about all we have to hold onto.

Grade: D

Tim Hudson

He wasn't as good as his fast start, but we knew that. There were a lot of ways to go wrong this offseason, with just a few ways to go right. Hudson on a two-year deal was one of the better moves of the offseason by any team.

The best part about him other than the obvious is how quickly he works. That's such a treat. Even Cy Young Lincecum would grind in places. Same with Cain and Ryan Vogelsong. Hudson throws strikes and probably leads the world in 10-pitch innings. He'll give up hits. He'll hang sinkers. But he'll do it quickly.

Also, he's not Ricky Nolasco.

Grade: A-

Ryan Vogelsong

First you need to determine what your highest hopes were for Vogelsong. All-Star and dominant rotation cog? That dude's gone. I'm not sure if he ever existed. That didn't really happen, right?

As a competent, cost-effective starter, who allowed the Giants to spend on Michael Morse, though, he's been exactly as advertised. Like Hudson up there, there were a lot of ways to futz the great rotation rebuild completely. The Giants managed to do fine-not-swell with players they were familiar with. As with Lincecum, too, it looked a whole lot scarier about a month ago.

Note: Vogelsong has the lowest FIP of his Giants career, and he's missing more bats than ever. I'm not sure if I trust it, but it's probably the reason the Giants aren't going to trade for Bartolo Colon or someone like him. I guess Sidney Ponson would be someone like him, now that I think of it.

Between Hudson, Vogelsong, and Lincecum, the Giants got one homer and two fielder's choices to move up the runner. They could still get a sac fly! Also, there are five outs in this analogy. Also also, this analogy is horrible. But the point is that Vogelsong has been a pleasant surprise, even if the Giants' hitters hate him and want him to go home.

Grade: B-

Tim Lincecum

The mustachioed enigma. Actually, I was done with him as an enigma, moving him to "simply terrible." Then came the no-hitter and the hot streak. Lincecum's FIP is finally suggesting that he's worse than he's been pitching, which is a refreshing change. The other way around was such a tease.

No one expected Cy Young votes, so relative to expectations, Lincecum's been fantastic. I'm just not sure why those expectations were worth $18 million. The salary suggests Cy Young votes, which means he's been much worse relative to expectations, at least from the Giants' perspective. I was so scared of him throwing a no-hitter in, say, a Dodgers uniform, that I was willing to overlook that he was getting ace money when there was no chance of him being an ace. I guess there was a chance. This is an article that mentions Vogelsong and Colon without mentioning that they're freaks. No one thinks twice about that. So there was a chance Lincecum could have rediscovered how to be an ace.

It wasn't bloody likely, though, even if the Giants paid a marketing premium to keep him away from free agency. As such, how disappointed can you be with this season? It's been nice.

Grade: B-

The GPA for the five comes out to 2.67, which is eerily similar to my high school GPA. Look how I turned out! Look how I turned out. I'm the almost-B-minus of baseball writers, and the Giants are the almost-B-minus of rotations, but only if you give Bumgarner credit for being better than his statistical line.

Things are trending up with Lincecum, Vogelsong, and Cain, though. Hold on to that. Hold on to it tightly.