The Giants are currently on pace to win 108 games. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s the second week of April, not late-August, so that means, well, less than nothing. The Giants just wrapped up a series victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks, taking two out of three at Chase Field. The Diamondbacks project to be one of the worst teams in baseball this year and feature one of the most rotten pitching cores in the National League, so this wasn’t exactly a true test of the Giants’ early season mettle. Giants fans will take it, however. It’s great to get the season off on the winning track, but they’ll face stiffer competition against the Padres this weekend in Petco, a park the Giants never seem to play well in.
It’s hot take time, which means every lazy, sleep-deprived writer’s fallback device, the list! Here are five takeaways from the Giants’ opening series win in Arizona
The Giants have a lot of injuries. Let’s see, we knew Hunter Pence would be out for the season’s first few weeks. Now Matt Cain is on the DL again, Jake Peavy is fighting a dead arm, and Brandon Belt hurt his groin chasing a foul ball in Tuesday’s game. What is this, 2013? Angel Pagan hasn’t even gone down with his annual back injury yet.
I guess if the Giants are going to get bitten by the injury bug again, they might as well get it out of the way early. It’s disheartening to see Cain hurt again. The more this goes on, the less likely it seems that the old hoss is coming back. Belt’s injury apparently isn’t serious (he’s not going to the DL), but we had enough of Constantly Injured Brandon Belt last year. This is his fifth season in the bigs and we still really don’t quite know what he is. All I ask for is a full season of health from him to lend some answers that question.
The top of the Giants’ order might be pretty good. Nori Aoki and Angel Pagan tore it up this series, and those two combined with Joe Panik and his contact-heavy stroke might make for a damned good top of the order. A lot hinges on Pagan staying healthy, obviously, but there’s some serious high-on-base potential from these three guys.
The rap on the Giants’ offense so far is the glaring lack of pop. That is a major concern, but what the Giants do have is a collection of good contact hitters who can slap singles and doubles and put the ball in play. That might seem like something we would have pooh-poohed back in the Moneyball-obsessed 2004 era, but in this day and age of historic strikeout rates, that’s pretty valuable. The Giants need to look no further than their 2014 World Series opponent to see a team that succeeded with just that approach. The top three hitters in the batting order were the catalysts this series and if they can keep it up and not be swallowed alive by the BABIP monster, the Giants should have an above-average offense despite the lack of gaudy home run numbers.
Roberto Kelly is no Tim Flannery. Okay, so this is unfair after just a couple of games, but boy did Kelly get off to an inauspicious debut as the Giants’ third base coach on Monday. In the third inning of the opener, with Aoki on first base, Panik ripped a gapper to right-center field. Aoki tore around second and looked primed to score on the play, but Kelly threw up a late…very late…stop sign. Kelly’s delayed hold sign totally discombobulated Aoki, who turned third base, put on the brakes at the last second, and then got hung up between third and home plate. It was an embarrassing moment all around and the Twitterverse was aflutter with calls for Flan Man to come out of retirement. Let’s hope this kind of thing doesn’t become a regular occurrence.
Madison Bumgarner might be in line for a Steve Carlton 1972-type season. The Giants have all kinds of issues with their pitching staff, but good lord, Madison Bumgarner is just unhittable. The ridiculous thing is that on Monday he clearly wasn’t all that sharp and yet he still basically carved up the Dback lineup (which has some pretty good hitters, mind you) for seven innings.
Again, the Giants have a lot of questions with their starting rotation, and it takes no great stretch of the imagination to see the team imploding behind an aging, injured, and suddenly ineffective pitching staff. Which means that Bumgarner might do something like win 20 games for a crappy team. The most famous example of this kind of phenomenon is Steve Carlton’s 1972 season, when he won 27 games for a miserable Phillies team that won just 59.
I’m not saying I think the Giants are going to be bad. The pitching just worries me, and if the season does spin out of control, it’ll be the starters that do the team in. If that happens, look for myriad ESPN columns comparing Bummy to 1972 Carlton.
Congratulations, Chris Heston. Chris Heston, erstwhile projected AAA lifer, earned his first major league win on Wednesday by tossing six innings without giving up an earned run. With that win, Heston passes Robin Yount’s brother on the all-time list.
Seriously, though, it was a nice moment for a pitcher who was thrown into the mix as an emergency stopgap. Heston figures to get at least another start with the Giants going two weeks before their first off day. Hell, maybe he’s the 2015 version of the 2011 version of Ryan Vogelsong, but with his yawn-inducing minor league numbers, we should all be happy if he’s simply better than Ryan Sadowski.