So this season is quickly starting to resemble 2011. And that is not a good thing. The only silver lining is Buster Posey is healthy and hitting. Otherwise, this looks a whole lot like 2011 except our pitching sucks. With Posey out in 2011, the Giants pitching was phenomenal to keep the Giants afloat even though the line-up couldn't crack a pinata. Then Sabean dealt Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran and we all know how that turned out.
Are we going to have a redux in 2013? The Giants have seen many important contributors hit the DL throughout the season. Vogelsong, Casilla, and Pagan are missing major time. And we've had Pablo's annual DL stint and subsequent grumblings about his fitness. Scutaro is playing with bendy fingers as is Brandon Crawford. Andres Torres is starting pretty much every game, which in 2010 was a great thing. In 2013, it's not so good.
So what does Sabean do? This team has fallen under .500 (unbelievable) and looks like it's about to fall off a cliff unless SOMETHING changes.
The Giants are underperforming. Their defense has been inconsistent, their offense of late has been sputtering, and the pitching? Well, the pitching is being very non-Giants like. The starters are coughing up early runs and not lasting very long in general. This is overtaxing a bullpen missing it's 8th inning setup guy and it's showing. Bochy has a penchant for mixing and matching bullpen arms and finding the right formula but right now, he's at a loss. If it's not Kontos giving it up, it's Affeldt. When not Affeldt, it's Jake Dunning (who??). When it's not Dunning, it's Sandy Rosario (wait, who??) though he's actually been the best of late.
The Giants have lost their identity. They used to be pitching and defense. Now they're... well, now they're not pitching and defense. They dig a hole for a line-up that hits well for average but poor for power and doesn't drive the ball much to score runners.
So what does Sabean do? Does he trade another top prospect (Crick?) for a rental player? Does he stand pat and wait to get healthy (at which point, the Giants might be behind the Dbacks by double digits)? Does he just go and outbid the Dodgers for Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez ? The answer by the way is no on that one because no one is going to outbid the Dodgers.
What is the biggest need? A shutdown reliever? A corner outfielder that hits for power? A starting pitcher? All of the above really, but by all accounts Sabean is looking for pitching. Starting pitching. The last time the Giants dealt for a starter? I can't even remember to be honest. They got Brad Penny in 2009 but he was on the trash heap and required no actual trade. That's how consistent the Giants pitching has been. Until now. So what's out there? Here are the top names you hear with their career numbers and age:
Ricky Nolasco (4.43 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, age 30)
Matt Garza (3.85 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, age 29)
Yovani Gallardo (3.69 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, age 27)
Bud Norris (4.30 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, age 28)
No ace numbers in that lot. But the Giants don't need an ace. They need someone who can pitch innings and pitch effectively. Nolasco is having a good season but he's been inconsistent in his career. Miami is a stadium that favors pitchers so the AT&T effect would be limited. Garza was the one time Rays ace and I like him a lot. The Cubs will deal him and I'd be happy to have him as our #3. But he's injury prone. And we don't want another Beltran case where we give away something of value and then the return gets hurt immediately. Garza is a question mark healthwise. Norris k's a lot of guys but is he really that good? I don't like the WHIP. Even if he moves to a much friendlier pitching park and plays for a contender, that 1.40 scares me. Which leaves Gallardo. Gallardo is my ideal acquisition. He's also the only one I'd be okay with giving Kyle Crick up for though I REALLY don't want to give up Crick. Gallardo is having a mediocre season but he is the Brewers ace and he eats innings and strikes out a bunch of guys. Well, normally he does. His K rate and velocity are down this year which is a red flag. But he's under control for 2.5 more seasons and would give the Giants some insurance should they allow Zito and Lincecum to leave after this season. A rotation of Cain, Bumgarner, Gallardo, and Vogelsong as the starting 4 is pretty dang good. But to be honest, I would take any of these guys right now. Watching Zito on the road and Lincecum every other start (one good, one bad) is driving me insane and taxing our bullpen. You acquire another starter and you get to put Gaudin (or Timmy) in the bullpen which hopefully solves two problems.
In the end though, the Giants need to do something. And do it quick. Otherwise they may get buried. Their only salvation has been that the NL West has become mediocre as a whole. They're lucky to only 4 games back at this juncture. Let's see what Sabean does...