By Ryan Ward | @RyanJWard
There’s no sugarcoating it. The Giants have been brutal to watch, and the hits - except the ones that improve your batting average - keep on coming.
To say that the Giants have failed to live up to expectations after the first month of the 2017 season would be like saying the Warriors are good at basketball. It’s a Captain Obvious statement, and one that is a result of disappointments on the field, careless decisions off the field, and the lack of decisive action made by the front office leading up to the season.
The nightmare began on Opening Day vs Arizona, a game that can be viewed as something of a microcosm of the first month.
On that day, Madison Bumgarner proved his undisputed value to the team by opening with five perfect innings and slugging two home runs (a first for any pitcher on Opening Day). Then, with the help of some spotty defense in the outfield, new closer Mark Melancon blew the save and the Giants lost on a walk-off single after the offense failed to tack on runs throughout the game.
Flash forward to the present, and you have the following realities to face, along with a 10-18 record (last in the NL): 1) Bumgarner is out for an indefinite amount of time after a dirt biking accident, 2) Melancon has blown two saves, the Giants have blown five as a team, 3) Seven players are on the disabled list, and 4) they have received almost zero contribution from their outfielders.
Collectively, these realities lead to a 10-18 record for a team that was supposed to contend for the NL West title.
Let's start with Bumgarner. After fours starts, he was receiving some of the worst run support in baseball, and was almost certainly becoming frustrated. The Giants haven’t been scoring for any of their pitchers, but the bats were especially silent for MadBum days, which must drive a perennial All-Star and Cy Young candidate like MadBum crazy.
Then, almost as if to say, “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone," Bumgarner chose to go dirt bike riding on an off day in Denver and took a spill, resulting in injuries to his throwing shoulder that will take months to heal.
I don’t have to tell you how stupid, irresponsible, and baffling that is for a professional athlete who is in-season, let alone a superstar, but I’ll just say it anyway: what was he thinking? Apparently he wasn’t following the Giants back when Jeff Kent injured himself “washing his truck."
Next, the bullpen. The problems that plagued the 2016 Giants have persisted in 2017, and you can’t help but point some of the blame at a front office that made only one significant addition to the core area of need the Giants had in the offseason.
Mark Melancon has been so-so and will surely be fine as the season goes on, however the supporting cast has been inconsistent. The season-ending injury to Will Smith didn’t help, but overall the bullpen has been unreliable and hasn’t lived up to best-case-scenario expectations that Bochy and team were hoping for when they remained quiet in free agency.
Speaking of injuries, the Giants have them spread across their entire roster. Buster Posey lost a week of his season after being plunked in the head during his first home at-bat of the year, Jarred Parker separated his shoulder, Span has lingering shoulder issues, Crawford is currently on the DL, and of course there’s Bumgarner. The injury bug has also hit role players Aaron Hill and Trevor Brown.
Finally, the cast of outfielders that many were nervous about heading into the season has proved to be just as bad as you didn’t hope. Hunter Pence has slowly rounded into form, but the other two Opening Day starters, Parker and Span, had been horrendous before succumbing to their respective injuries. The stop gap replacements have been just as bad, with the only arguable bright spot being Michael Morse’s triumphant return to SF with a game-tying HR in his first AB.
The reality is, it’s not looking good for the Giants. Yes it’s still early, but aside from Matt Cain’s resurgence, Christian Arroyo’s emergence as a rising star, and some decent batting averages from guys you’d expect to hit, the Giants don’t have a lot to be excited about after one month.
First and foremost, they need to score runs (worst run differential in baseball). Next, they need to get healthy. Finally, they need their bullpen to quit blowing the few leads they’re given.
*Not mentioned, but not forgotten: Matt Moore and Jeff Samardzija have been flat out disappointing, and Ty Blach continues to exceed expectations as Bumgarner’s replacement.