Top 10 takeaways from the Giants' 13-16 record in May
The month of May was … better?
We’ll go with better. It was better than April, but just about anything would have been. The Giants won five straight at one point and had an eight-of-10 run. But, they also had a four-game losing streak and a five-game skid, and that weekend in Cincinnati was one of the worst in franchise history. May was better than April because it had to be. It was not good, though, with a 13-16 record and run differential of negative 37.
On the final day of May, Bruce Bochy was asked about Buster Posey having seven homers but just 13 RBI. Bochy pointed in part to the team’s inability to get runners on base. A .284 on-base percentage in May ranked last in the majors, nine points behind the rebuilding Padres. Here’s one way of putting the team’s May OBP in perspective: It’s not much better than the season-long .261 posted by Gorkys Hernandez.
The Giants had 234 plate appearances with a runner in scoring position in May and hit zero home runs. The Blue Jays had 254 such plate appearances and hit 17 homers. No other team in the majors had fewer than three May homers with runners in scoring position. It’s just bizarre.
This is a terribly unoriginal header for this section, but, I mean, the dude attacked the strike zone all month. Jeff Samardzija finished may with 49 strikeouts and just one walk. It was no coincidence that his ERA dropped three points from April. He’s always going to be a pitcher who gives up homers and some hard-hit balls, but limiting the free passes limited the damage. Samardzija had a 3.32 ERA in six May starts.
No Longer Blached
Young Ty Blach found an open rotation spot, and he looks like he wants to keep it. His month started with a 10-run disaster in Cincinnati, but over his next four starts he threw 28 2/3 innings and allowed just eight earned runs. He has a 3.29 ERA and 1.15 WHIP as a starter the past two seasons, which would be a godsend for an organization that needs some cost-controlled contributors going forward. His continued emergence should allow the Giants to more easily trade a starter this summer.
Pitchers Never Forget
Hunter Strickland said the right things, but there was no doubt about the intent of his pitch to Bryce Harper’s hip. You can bet that long-term, some in the organization won’t forget the cost of the pitch, either. Strickland was suspended for six games, Michael Morse was lost to a concussion, and Posey got dragged through the mud a bit nationally.
The first baseman hit six homers in May, reaching double-digits for the season. Belt’s overall numbers are still down a tick, but he’s on pace for 29 homers, which would shatter his previous high and get some fans off his back. (Maybe? Possibly? Ok, probably not.)
The Giants were seven games back at the end of April. They finished May 11 1/2 back of the Dodgers, who are going to win this division again, and 11 back of the Rockies and Diamondbacks. Could one of those latter two come back to the pack? Sure. But because the Giants have had such a packed and relatively rain-free schedule, their hole is crazy deep even in the wild card race. In the loss column, they’re eight games behind the Cardinals and six behind the Cubs.
All Is Not Right
The top of the lineup leans to the left, so in theory the Giants should fare well against righties. It’s been the opposite. The Giants had a .215 average against right-handed pitching in May, and an absurdly low WRC+ of 69. Jimmy Rollins had a WRC+ of 69 last season and he ended up getting cut midway through and doing television work. Bochy has started publicly calling on his core players to pick it up, and he’s talking mostly about the lefty hitters who start up the middle. Belt and Posey are the only Giants who have hit righties this year. Every other position player is at least 10 percent below league average.
The Big Picture
As I wrote in this piece last month, April was in many ways a continuation of the second half. When you throw May in, the Giants are now 52-75 since last year’s All-Star break. When the front office meets in the coming weeks, that record should be posted on a bulletin board. This is becoming a large sample size, and the results can’t be ignored.
All of this brings us to a trade deadline that’s now less than two months away, and trading Johnny Cueto is the organization’s best shot at bringing in a young hitter or two. Cueto was much better in his second month, dropping his ERA to 3.83 and holding opposing hitters to a .238 average, an improvement over a .271 clip in April. His strikeout rate went up and walk rate went down, so he’s getting back to his old self. He did, however, admit that he’s dealing with two blisters on his pitching hand, and the opt-out is always looming. Giants executives believe that Cueto -- with blisters and the opt-out -- is still an elite trade chip, but they have denied that he’s available or soon will be. Still, they’re much closer to making these decisions than they were at the end of April.