The storm has been quelled, the alarm bells having a fit between my ears deadened—for now. It’s amazing how a bad stretch of 7 games can mess with even the most level-headed of baseball followers. It’s amazing the boost two wins can have on the same fan’s psyche.
It’s early. It’s early. It’s early in the year and, you know what, it’s early. Opening Day was only a month ago and there’s a lot more baseball left to play. If we lived in a just world, the amount of early bad breaks and injuries suffered by the bats and arms in San Francisco would mean the next month or so will be nothing but clear skies and calm seas in the Bay.
Unfortunately, that’s not how things work. A month could also just be a microcosm of a season. It was in 2021—the Giants posted a .600-plus win percentage in each month from April to September—and what happened from April 8th to May 8th 2022 for the Giants could be a reasonable forecast of things to come.
San Francisco finished their first 28 games with a 16-12 record, equal to a .571 winning percentage. That number is good for around 93 wins after a full season and if the devil at the crossroads offered me that total right now, I’d take it. Maybe not for my soul, but…well…maybe for my soul. It won’t win them the division but with the extended postseason format, there’s a good chance it will earn them a playoff spot. I like playoff spots.
93 wins is on the high end of the preseason predictions for the Giants. After a month of play, it doesn’t feel completely unreasonable to expect a total in that ballpark (though I’m weary looking at the schedule ahead that this past month was maybe one of the more forgiving).
Some things have gone right for San Francisco, but a lot hasn’t. Joc Pedersen has scorched right handed pitching. Carlos Rodón has struck out half the planet in his first 5 starts. The SF arms’ 3.22 K/BB ratio is 6th best in baseball. Their 0.61 home runs allowed per 9 innings is second best.
The Giants are checking a lot of the necessary boxes that make up a successful team—all while being punched around a bit with a COVID outbreak among the top of their lineup, injuries to their back-two starting pitchers, ungodly cold snaps, ball drama, a slump from a key right-handed hitter in Darin Ruf and the absence of another as Evan Longoria recovers from surgery.
Health is a constant opponent for every team. Injuries are not going to go away. The pandemic lingers. Brandon Belt coming back from the COVID-IL only to be yanked mid at-bat due to neck stiffness could be an ominous nod to the particular problems of the Giants fielding an aging core.
Hooray that Alex Cobb has flashed strikeout stuff while generating weak contact from opposing hitters—but those grounders aren’t going to do much good if it means one too many dashes from the mound to cover first antagonizes an already tender groin.
Jake McGee seems to have lost a tick off his fastball. He’s also not locating the pitch well, throwing it for a first pitch strike 50% of the time, down from last season’s 66.4%. Everyone knows he throws the four-seamer, but it’s a lot more compelling when he can nibble with it, or tease his secondary slider. When he’s behind in the count, he becomes even more predictable than he normally is.
He hasn’t pitched 10 innings yet. His last two appearances have inflated his stats. No one is voting McGee off the mound—but it’s something to keep an eye on as we move forward.
Evan Longoria’s return will be celebrated, but its still a big ol’ question mark what he’ll bring to the table after his shoulder injury and the surgery in the offseason.
So far, the San Francisco Giants have been able to swap out a tire or two to keep the car moving down the road—but you can’t keep pace on a spare. Relying on depth players like Jason Vosler and Luis Gonzalez will only get you so far.
As simple and obvious as it sounds, its true: the veterans need to stay healthy. The darn thing is that these players just keep getting older. The 2021 Giants grew their beards long, stuck out their tongues in defiance, and delayed the inevitable—even then the roster dealt with their fair share of maladies.
It’s impossible to completely eliminate the toll “old-ness” takes on one’s body, but it is possible to keep it at bay. Prepare to see additional days lapse between starts, greater care taken on the base-paths, more caution for minor stiffness and aches. But one can only control so much.
Age comes for us all and after this month, it feels near—floating in a kayak possibly, Budweiser in hand, pocket radio tuned to KNBR, waiting patiently in the Cove.