Oh, those teasing Giants.
Had us going there for a second, winning four in a row like that. Almost made us think they might be able to scratch back into contention.
The starting pitching, really, is the Achilles heel of this team.
The bullpen isn't very good, but it hasn't been horrible for a while, now. Jack Taschner, and Scott Munter have both been about as good as any of us could expect. Tyler Walker has held the opposition scoreless for 12 of his last 13 outings, and now holds a k/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) of 8.49 -- a pretty good strikeout rate. Jason Christiansen, as much as I wanted him off the team, isn't as bad as his ERA would suggest (5.70). If the Giants would only use him against lefties (59 at-bats against, .589 OPS against) instead of continuously giving him substantial work against righties as well (57 at-bats against, .909 OPS against), he'd fit in just fine as the team's LOOGY. Scott Eyre's been the best reliever in that pen for a while. Jeff Fassero's been useful, but obviously is overmatched as a starter, accouting for some of his uglier numbers. This bullpen isn't really any better with LaTroy Hawkins.
So yes, it's the starting pitching. The offense isn't great, but it's middle of the pack in runs scored per game at about 4.5 runs per contest -- all without you-know-who.
What to do about it? Nothing, at this point, because the Giants aren't going to contend. Trading Jason Schmidt seems like a foregone conclusion, now, although I'll hate to see him go. Brett Tomko has been an obvious disappointment -- unless we all just admit that he got hot at the end of last year, and he was doing alright for a time this year, but simply isn't a frontline starter. Yes, yes, velocity, blah, blah, blah...so what? He's...not...a...good...pitcher. He's a 4th starter, at best. The Giants could hang onto him, but they already have a bunch of 5th starters. Kirk Rueter should be in the role that Tomko is currently in -- long relief. Another player that I love to have on the team, Rueter will find a way to pitch decently in about half of his starts, but will be utterly horrible in the other half. Noah Lowry gets a bit of a pass from me, but he's got to find a way around the home runs to right-handed hitters. He's allowed 15 home runs this season, with 14 of the 15 coming against right-handed batters (with a 263:102 disparity in at-bats respectively between righties and lefties). Every other starter the Giants have thrown out there (Fassero, Jesse Foppert, Jerome Williams) hasn't fared well, either.
This is where Brian Sabean has got to earn his keep. He's already made a useless move towards getting the starting pitching better by trading away a copule of younger prospects, and likely is attempting to trade away the Giants best starter (yes, oddly enough, despite his struggles Schmidt is still the Giants best starter). So where will the starters for next season come from? Free agency? The minors? Definitely not the latter, because Sabean will slit his own wrists before trusting a rotation of youngsters. After this past offseason of overspending for mediocre starting pitching, the market this winter may be a bit more tolerable, but it's still a minefield that'll be tough to navigate. The Giants don't just need one starter, or even two.
Far be it from me to suggest a gamble, but it seems obvious to me that the Giants must seriously consider giving Matt Cain a shot. Bring him up late this year, have him start, and then look at him again in Spring training next year. Sabean just can't count on finding three decent starting pitchers in the free agent market, and he really can't afford the cost of bringing in three starting pitchers through free agency that might be decent. So, turning to the minors is both smart and necessary.
What do all of y'all think?