Reversing their 1st seasonal inning exactly the Giants fought their way back to .500 by Game 36. A spectacular 10-2 thumping of the Reds in Cincy behind Bum and some bombs brought the 2nd inning to a close at 11-7, flipping the 7-11 result from the 1st.
Despite a few recent surges, the Giants still don't score a hell of a lot of runs. Currently they are at 125 for the season, second from the bottom in the NL. At 3.47 rpg, the team is about half a run away from a competent attack--the current league average is 4.16 rpg. Here are the ugly numbers: 32 GIDP to top the NL and 279 LOB, also tops. That's a lot of blown chances. The flip side is that they are putting guys on base and putting the ball in play. Here are more numbers: sixth in hits with 323, fifth in walks with 113, and 249 strikeouts, the second-fewest. What's cool is the distribution of bases on balls: 16 apiece for Buster and Aoki, 14 for Panik, 13 for Craw, 11 for Belt, and 10 for Blanco. The Giants only have one great hitter, but they have a heap o'guys who do a lot of things well. The organization likes versatility and expects their players to man their position with aplomb and be able to get a hit, work a walk, move a runner over, lay down a bunt, steal a base, etc. It's the slow, steady, attritional work of carpenter ants and not the flash and bang of a demolition crew. Either way your house can fall down, am I right?
Reasons for optimism are plenty as the team has won as many games this month (9) as they did in all of April. They rate well enough in wOBA (.312, seventh), wRC+ (100, tied with two other teams for second), and OPS+ (97, seventh) to suggest that some of the low offensive numbers are park effects. If they can hit close to the middle of the pack all season long they will be fine. I like what we are seeing from Brandon Crawford and am not surprised by his improved hitting as he has gotten better every season with astonishing regularity. Who knows how high this guy can go? I'm happy Brandon Belt has had some recent success as now his numbers are closer to expectations. He reminds me a lot of Chili Davis--I remember him going in blazing stretches where he looked like Mickey Mantle and then matching those with total blindness for a week or more. Belt has that "now-you-see-him-now-you-don't" vibe going on, but in total he's a hell of a good player. Gregor Blanco is another under-appreciated fellow, right now he is fifth on the club in OPS, ahead of Pagan, Duffy, Aoki, Maxwell, and McGehee. Speaking of Casey Without A Bat, the poor man is a black hole at .191/.248/.287 for a .535 OPS. That's negative WAR territory. With Matt Duffy playing well maybe he can create some value as a quality backup and channel Edgar Renteria if they make the post-season. Hector Sanchez was the only one doing worse at the plate and he was optioned to AAA to make room for Hunter Pence.
The Giants have allowed 135 runs. That's ten more than they've scored and why they are a .500 team. That's the fifth-best in the NL, however. Only the Cardinals, Mets, Dodgers, and Pirates are better. It seems like the pitching is worse than it is. We know both Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong have some ugly-looking numbers but we've seen that they can both still deliver strong outings. Tim Lincecum, Chris Heston, and Madison Bumgarner have been The Big Three so far. In the 'pen we've seen generally excellent work by the usual suspects. Sergio Romo perhaps embodies the feeling that things aren't 100% as he has 19 strikeouts in his 11 IP but also nine hits, five walks, and six runs. With a little more consistency from the whole squad we could see an uptick in results. Strikeouts are way low (7.0K/9, next-to-last) but walks allowed are good (2.8BB/9, fifth-best). as are hits (8.4H/9, fourth). FanGraphs saber-stats don't like the Giants much, ranking them in the middle of the pack mostly, but I think with the small sample size and the early struggles that's not a concern. There are some ugly box scores that have to get averaged out! With Jake Peavy and, we hope, Matt Cain in the wings the show will go on even if the cast changes a bit.
The 18-18 Giants find themselves 5-1/2 back of the 23-12 Los Angeles Dodgers who are killing it on both sides of the ball this month (84 RS, 44 RA, .714 win pct.) Their lineup is on a blistering home run pace (54 so far) and leading the league in OPS by 100 points. Their pitchers are leading the league in strikeouts (321) and have allowed the fewest hits (274). San Francisco has to keep pace and also has to fend off a challenge by the pesky San Diego Padres who are 19-18 and a half-game up. It's obviously very early in the season but teams can ride a hot start to a title as well the Giants know so it behooves them to avoid losing streaks and other long stretches of poor play. LA won 96 last year and it looks equally potent this year. They'll cool off naturally, all teams do. Let's hope the Giants are ready to streak past them when that time comes.
Two more in Cincinnati and then home for three with the Dodgers after on off-day Monday.