Welcome back, odd-year jokes. Just put your shit anywhere and ... oh, I guess you've already made yourself at home.
This has been a season of binges and strange parties, reckless and indescribable fun followed by drunk tanks, ER visits, and court dates. One minute the Giants are at the hottest club, hitting on someone famous and making everyone laugh, and the next minute they've climbed a billboard to throw up over the freeway. There is no middle ground. There is no lukewarm. There is only ecstasy and pain. The Giants are a freshman art project from the dude in the Smiths shirt, and nuance will not be tolerated.
The gravity of .500 will apparently suck the Giants back into orbit all season. It's worth it to recap the season so far, to remember just how absurd it's been.
Phase 1: Pain
The Giants started the season 3-9. They allowed three-run homers every other game. They couldn't score, and they couldn't prevent runs. It was one of the worst starts of the San Francisco era, and that was the last we heard of the 2015 Giants.
Phase 2: Ecstasy
A sweep of the Dodgers! A glorious, glorious sweep. Two straight walkoff wins, each one annoying the Dodgers more than the last. By the end of the following homestand, the Giants were at .500, a calm and orderly 16-16. It seemed impossible after the fast start, but the gravity of .500 can suck the Giants up the straw, too. The Giants didn't lose a series in May, and they swept the Dodgers again, this time not allowing a run in three games.
The 2015 Giants were contenders. And you were so stupid with your numerology and superstitions.
Phase 3: Pain
Santiago Casilla blew a save against the Braves, and instead of winning three out of four, the Giants settle for a split. That's okay, because Casilla hardly blows anything. And, really, you don't actually believe in June swoons, right?
The Giants ended up losing five straight.
Phase 4: Ecstasy
A 4-2 road trip! This team might not be ...
Phase 5: Pain
Five losses in a row, again.
Phase 6: Muted delight
Another series win against the Dodgers, this time on the road! A winning homestand after that! Why, there's nothing that could possibly ...
Phase 7: The dull ache of .500, sitting on your chest and doing a crossword puzzle
Seven losses in a row. It started when Mat Latos rubbed up against them in Miami, and it will never end. Good teams don't lose seven games in a row. They certainly don't do it twice in the same season. Do you know the last time the Giants lost seven games twice in the same season? In 2000, when they ... finished with the best record in baseball.
Well, you can't expect me to trot that out as optimism right now. I'll just leave that factlet there in case you want to smell it when no one's looking.
Seasons with four losing streaks of five games or more, AT&T Park era:
2006 (two five-games, one six-game, one nine-game)
2008 (two five-game losing streaks, two six-game)
That's it. Those teams were awful, too. The good news is the season is just a little more than half over, and there's a lot of time to chase the 1996 Giants, who hold the San Francisco record with six losing streaks of five games or more. Keep at it, fellas. We believe in you.
What's the diagnosis, then? Why is this team so streaky?
First, it's a team with scattered power. When the singles aren't stacked together, it's a feckless bunch.
Second, they can't hit at home. Remember the apocryphal (almost certainly true) story about the crab sandwiches. AT&T Park is apparently an easy park to defend if you're not worried about the other team hitting the ball 420 feet into Triples Alley. Everyone gets to play singles defense against the Giants, which is exactly what they should do.
Third, you probably did something creepy in your personal life, and you're being punished.
Fourth, the bullpen is old and tired. If they're not that old in years, their shoulders and elbows are. The core four members of the bullpen are responsible for a lot of happy fun-time memories around here, so be nice. But the snap is gone. You know, the snap. On all the breaking balls and fastballs and what have you.
Fifth, the starting pitching really is pretty lousy after Madison Bumgarner and Chris Heston, you know.
Sixth, Hunter Pence and Norichika Aoki were broken by dumb pitchers on dumb teams, and their replacements have been a collective drag.
When the hits fall in, and when they do it in bunches, the Giants are the kind of team that can make you believe. They have the best infield in baseball. They have the best catcher in baseball. They can score when they're healthy.
When the hits don't fall in, absolutely nothing else is good enough. The Giants couldn't hit Jonathan Niese, who is like the Ted Lilly of annoying left-handers -- a boring, hit-yer-spots guy who makes the Giants look completely nauseous when he hits his spots.
It didn't help that the Giants had a lineup on Monday that featured some of the worst hitters in the league (2), a broken and achey hitter (1), a green youngster who might or might not grow up to be average one day (1), and left-handers who were likely to struggle against Niese (2). The lineup was basically "SAVE US BUSTER AND MATT DUFFY" in 400-point font, taped to the front of the fridge.
They didn't get the note, and it's hard to blame anyone in particular. This team probably isn't that bad, but I'm not going to put money on that claim. They will probably win another game this year. Probably.
The last time the Giants had two losing streaks of eight games in a row or more in the same season, it was 1972. They traded Willie Mays and started a death spiral that lasted 15 years.
I'm sure this team will be fine, though.