The Giants have played five games in September. One of them went 13 innings. That’s five games this month, and they haven’t had more than four hits in any of them.
Four hits or fewer in five straight games is a team record. There have been just seven teams in all of baseball with a five-game streak like this since 1913. I’m having a tough time fathoming that. Think of all the abysmal, wretched offensive teams that have played over the past 100 years. Think of the worst Giants lineup you can remember. Think of the 2012 Astros, the team that couldn’t reach base once against Matt Cain. Think of the 2003 Tigers. Think of the 1962 Mets, who lost 120 games. None of those teams went five straight games with four hits or fewer.
The Giants aren’t just being feckless right now. They’re being historically feckless. This is a special team. They have 16 hits in their last 49 innings, a stretch that spans 161 at-bats. They came into the game with a .106 average in September.
That average went down.
The Giants are hitting .099 in 161 at-bats in September. It used to be that we would have to qualify all of our wow-such-trash stats with "in the second half." This allows us to mix things up a bit. They’re just looking out for you.
There has never been a position player to hit below .100 for more than 100 at-bats in a season. That’s something of a self-selecting sample, considering that players who hit below .100 for more than 100 at-bats lose their jobs and/or roster spots. The Giants, as a team, are hitting far worse over their last 161 at-bats than the worst major league hitters of all time ever did.
Think the Giants sent out their postseason invoices last week or the week before. This is just a friendly reminder. You should probably get on that. Remember: They would make the postseason if the season ended today.
The strength of the 2016 Giants was supposed to be hitting, after all. They had assembled a scrappy, slappy bunch of hitters, and the 1-through-8 depth in their lineup would make up for whatever problems the pitching staff would present. They signed Jeff Samardzija for too much and too long because an average pitcher was just what the team needed. They were an offensive-minded baseball club, mmm-hmmm.
That’s what makes this so mesmerizing. This is (or was supposed to be) a quality team, yet they’re busy setting historical milestones for offensive futility. They’re hitting .099 in September. Can’t stress that enough. Like, they’re basically hitting .100, but they’re rounding it down so you think they’re even worse. Oldest marketing trick in the book. Good for them.
Also, one of those games was at Coors Field. Coooooooors Fiiiiiiield. They got two hits in Coors Field. Against a guy with an ERA in the 5s. Either he pitched the game of his life, or the Giants just made a bad pitcher look good. I'm not sure which one is worse.
We’ve arrived at the what-now? part. Ha ha ha, I don’t know. We’re on a new planet, and the rocks have legs. There’s no manual for this. I’m not going to go on a reflexive fire-Hensley kick like the first wave of callers because there’s evidence that most hitters improve when they get to the Giants, not the other way around. But I’m also not ready to attribute the fecklessness to poor luck or chance. The Giants are hitting into a lot of hard-hit outs, yes, but even if all of those hits fell in, with a couple of bloops on the side, they would still be a miserable offensive team in the second half.
The Giants in the second half (before today), ranked by OPS:
- Denard Span, .784
- Angel Pagan, .783
- Brandon Crawford, .743
- Joe Panik, .731
- Buster Posey, .730
- Eduardo Nuñez, .691
- Brandon Belt, .688
- Hunter Pence, .658
That’s a remarkable grouping of extended, boring slumps. The hottest Giants hitter in the second half would have the 85th-highest OPS in baseball if he maintained that pace for the full season. There isn’t a player who can carry them. There isn’t someone hitting home runs left and right, making up for what his teammates can’t.
It’s a team without anyone doing anything especially right. And that goes for the entire roster, from the rotation right down to the bullpen. Derek Law was doing something right, and that’s why he had to leave.
Matt Moore getting wild and giving up a grand slam for the first time in his career? Forget it, Jake. It’s Coors Field. It didn’t help that Crawford clank-mitted a sure double play (and possible triple play) right in the middle of the rally, so I’ll give him a pass. Even if Moore did walk the opposing pitcher. Which ... dammit.
Matt Cain in the bullpen? Looked sharp. One of the bright spots, and Mike Krukow spent some time on the telecast reminding the viewers that it’s not unheard of for a starting pitcher to find a second life in the bullpen, dropping names from Wade Davis to Joe Blanton. It’s true. If the Giants are stuck paying Cain $21 million for another two seasons, they had better explore every possible option.
Ty Blach made his debut! He threw harder than his stats would indicate, as expected. He showed off exquisite control, as expected. I’m still pessimistic about his ability to survive in the majors, much less thrive, with his low, low strikeout rate, but I’ve been wrong before. Like, say, with the 2016 Giants. About whom I was optimistic. Yet are apparently poison.
Nothing matters but the lineup right now, though. Buster Posey is probably more hurt than is rumored, even. Hunter Pence has been better, but he’s still in a fog. Brandon Belt looks like he’s hitting with a yardstick. Brandon Crawford ... Joe Panik ... Denard Span ... Angel Pagan ... Eduardo Nuñez ... you have confidence in exactly none of them right now.
The only thing we can cling to is that if all of them hit .400 for the next three weeks, it will be possible to say, "Well, sure they’re hitting well. They’re all kind of okay." I’ve never seen a team like this, with a lineup filled with quality players that all got sucked into the .100 black hole at the same time. The smart money suggests that a couple of them will get hot, a couple more will be average, and they’ll morph into a normal team again.
The smart money might be a trap. Don’t take it. This just might be a legendarily awful team. One with a chance to make the postseason, though they’re another bad game or two from losing that wild card spot.
At least the June was really good. The September Dismember doesn’t quite have the same ring to it.
What are you barbecuing? Gonna put on some flank steak and corn, maybe with some pearl couscous on the side. This is fine. We’ll laugh about this at the parade. This is fine.