Giants Week in Review #4: April Showers

Weekly record: 1-5

Total record: 14-11

Division standing: 4th (3.0 GB, Los Angeles)

Offensive Player of the Week: Luis Gonzalez - .315/.409/.368, 3 RBI

Defensive Player of the Week: Carlos Rodon - 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 0.83 WHIP

Sometimes, in life, it's April. Things look like they're about to get sunny, but in reality, it's still cold and gloomy outside, and it makes you want to tuck back in and worry about it another day. Hopefully you did tuck in and turn away from this week of Giants baseball, because it was enough to chill the hearts of all but the most optimistic fans.

Let's start with the positives. Luis Gonzalez and Carlos Rodon, our players of the week on each side, both had decent weeks. Gonzalez was one of the few hitters that didn't struggle consistently, and he put up a solid performance after being claimed off waivers and put on the 60-day IL. Rodon did well in his start, providing far and away the least worrying outing of the week in a tight contest against the Dodgers. Also, the Giants won a game in which they scored 9 runs, which is always fun to see.

The negatives, meanwhile, are here to show up the positives like Dan Bellino performing a substance check. They're rubbing the positive's hands for way too long, demeaning them, and then booting them out of the ballpark. If that analogy feels too forced, then congrats, you're on your way to experiencing this week in Giants baseball!

Let's start with the fact that Luis Gonzalez, our reigning OPoW, had exactly one (non-HR) extra base hit, good for an OPS of .777. While that might rightfully be considered lucky in a league collectively slashing like #ForeverGiant Ehire Adrianza, your offense is in trouble if your hottest hitter is performing perfectly mediocre. Meanwhile, Carlos Rodon's two runs allowed were enough to hand the team a loss to the Dodgers, and his strikeout total (3) just about matches the amount of good weeks collectively had by the pitching staff.

The week kicked off with a home series against the Washington Nationals, a team that the Giants had just a week ago faced and swept, stirring up some drama by continuing to play hard in games with a sizable lead. Fate has a funny sense of humor, because those same Nationals came to Oracle Park and proceeded to smack 22 hits in the first game. "Smack" might be hyperbolic here, because 17 of those hits were singles, and few of those hit particularly hard. But even a 3-hit day from Wilmer Flores wasn't enough to overcome the loss of Brandon Belt and Dominic Leone to the COVID list, and the night ended up being a parade of Nationals slowly tromping around the bases.

The next game fared better, as the Giants rebounded to take the middle game 9-3 off the back of a gritty outing by Logan Webb and standout games from Thairo Estrada, Darin Ruf, and Jason Vosler. Webb, despite giving up 11(!) hits in 6 innings, kept the damage limited to 3 runs through a combination of good sequencing and a little help from the defense, like Luis Gonzalez nailing Cesar Hernandez at the plate. Estrada brought the Giants' first two runs home with a 4th inning double, Vosler added a two-run shot in the 6th to pad the Giants' lead, and Ruf singled thrice to get his average up to... .177. Ouch.

Ruf, like a few of the Giants hitters, desperately needs reinforcement so that he can return to a platoon role that plays up his strengths, rather than trotting out every day to produce minimal results. But almost no situation has been kind to the Giants' offense this year. With so many key players out, San Francisco is reliant on call-ups like Jason Krizan, Luis Gonzalez, and Luke Williams to power their offense, and it hasn't been working. This stands out especially given the context of the new humidor-enforced balls that are meant to stabilize offense across the league, but instead have killed it as surely as a lethal injection. Ruf is perhaps the best example of this. His walk and strikeout rates over his first 100 PA are almost exactly the same as last year. His hard-hit %, exit velocity, and launch angle are even a tick better. Yet he has no home runs and a .489 OPS to show for it.

The next game set the wheels in motion for the Giants' worst stretch since the nightmarish year of 2020 (moreso the year itself than the Giants' particular performance at the time, but still). Alex Cobb, fresh off the IL, made the start. He also made it 2/3 of an inning before he left with 5 runs on his ledger. Had Jason Vosler bent down a bit further, he may have had a triple play made to order, and Cobb could have rolled through another few innings. Instead, it was yet another bullpen game, this time unplanned, and the Nationals made the most of it. They pumped out 11 runs despite going only 4-15 with RISP, scoring the game's first 8 runs. The Giants, to their credit, made it interesting with a 5-run 7th inning with some small ball of their own, but Jake McGee immediately coughed up 3 runs in the top of the 8th to put the game out of reach.

The Giants then had the wonderful opportunity to face the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers down in LA, and the less said about that series, the better. The good news is that it was only two games, but knowing how much Dodgers fans probably enjoyed it still makes it sting. Rodon, as previously mentioned, at least had a good outing, throwing six quality innings for San Francisco in the first game. Slater and Estrada both had multi-hit games, and the Giants got the leadoff runner on in the final 8(!!) innings. They never got any other runners. Shame.

Then Alex Wood came in, appearing as though he would repeat Rodon's efforts, until a Mookie Betts home run in the 6th inning knocked him off his path to a quality start, and the Giants' bullpen, so good up until this week, again failed to hold the line. Sam Long, perhaps still geared for his long-relief role that he's excelled at this season, gave up 3 runs while only recording an out in a 4-run 7th inning that put the game out of reach. It's easy to blame him, or look to the bullpen's recent failures in general, but the fact is the offense only scored one run in each of the two Dodgers games, and it's hard to win (or put yourself in a winning situation) when you only score one run.

The Giants then followed it up with another one-run performance in the series opener against the St. Louis Cardinals in a planned bullpen game. They welcomed back Mike Yastrzemski and Joc Pederson from the IL, but it's debatable whether or not either is yet in shape to play again. Pederson went 0-5 as a DH and ran noticeably slowly. Perhaps I'm being harsh on Yastrzemski, who went 3-8 with an RBI in his two games since returning. But the power stroke that powered the 2021 Giants has been missing on offense, starting pitching failed to consistently get it done, and Kapler appears to have followed the dwarves into the Mines of Moria and dug too deep into the bullpen, as the Giants' strength this season has been transmuted into something of a mess. Their losing streak sits at 4 as of Thursday night, and a return to full strength following the additions of Belt, Wade, La Stella, and Longoria still seems worryingly far off.

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