Yes, we all know the answer is pitching. But even great pitching has to get some run support, right? Apparently not. The Giants are dead last in the National League in scoring. Here's how the offensive stacks up against the other sixteen National League teams in offensive production:
- Runs - 16th
- Homers - 12th
- Stolen Bases - 11th
- Walks - 14th
- Batting average - 11th
- On base percentage - 14th
- Slugging - 12th
- OPS - 12th
- Total Bases - 13th
That's a pretty ugly offense is it not? They made two huge judgement errors in the off season. One, they opted to go with Miguel Tejada as their shortstop. The guy has a 47 OPS+. The other was signing Aubrey Huff to an overvalued, multi-year contract. They made the same mistake the Twins made by re-signing Carl Pavano. The golden rule for general managers is that it's okay to buy cheap and hope to strike gold. But once you do, never re-sign that cheap buy for good money. Another mistake was to bring back Pat Burrell, although that was a cheap mistake. And yet, there they are...in first place.
Since Pablo Sandoval went down with a broken bone (and he was their best hitter at the time) after 24 games, their best hitter has been Nate Schierholtz. Who would have predicted that before the season started? Buster Posey is coming on a bit, but thus far, his numbers are no where near what they were last year. If Nate Schierholtz is your best hitter, what does that say about your offense?
It might be unfair to call the Giants, "one-dimensional." Their fielding hasn't been a weakness...sort of. They are fourth in the National League in fielding efficiency but thirteenth in the league in fielding percentage. Now that Aubrey Huff is out of right field, the fielding in the outfield is good. But that takes into consideration that Pat Burrell is given positive fielding numbers in left. That can't be right, can it? The infield? Well...Mike Fontenot has been good.
The Giants, of course, live and die with their pitching. They are third in the NL in ERA, first in hits allowed, second in runs allowed, first in homers allowed and fourth in strikeouts. Every starter, including Madison Bumgarner are above league average in ERA+. The bullpen is again fantastic. The Giants win because they rarely, if ever, beat themselves on the pitching mound. Ryan Vogelsong has been one of the best stories of 2011. His three wins and sparkling ERA have been a huge boost since taking over for Barry Zito. Yes, this team wins because of its pitching. Dave Righetti has a proven track record as a pitching coach for having his pitchers keep the ball in the park. He and his charges have been terrific.
As long as the pitching staff gives the team a chance to win every night, the smoke and mirrors routine will continue to work for the Giants. Who could bet against them? The team leaves you scratching your head. In the meantime, they are laughing all the way to the bank.