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SF Giants: Reasons for optimism and pessimism at quarter mark

SF Giants: Reasons for optimism and pessimism at quarter mark

SAN FRANCISCO — After the Giants blew their six-run lead Tuesday night, they seemed destined for their sixth straight loss. Thanks to Joc Pederson, they staved off the inevitable questions that would have accompanied a season-long skid and rode that momentum into a series win over the Mets to finish off the home stand.

The Giants are 24-19 and in third place in the NL West, the same position they were in this time last year. There are obvious signs for optimism, particularly after salvaging the final two games of their home stand. But the same concerns that were raised as they headed toward that sixth straight loss remain. It’s clear that this team isn’t the same one that won 107 games last year, and nobody could expect them to be.

So, just past the quarter mark of the season, as the Giants embark on a 10-game East Coast swing that begins Friday in Cincinnati, let’s take a look at the reasons for optimism and pessimism the club has provided.

Pessimism: Defensive issues

At some point, what appears to be bad luck can simply be explained by poor execution.

With an increasing sample size and numerous examples of shoddy fielding over the six-game home stand, the Giants’ poor run prevention increasingly appears to be a problem that needs addressing, rather than a worm burner here and a Texas Leaguer there.

“We’re just not making enough plays,” manager Gabe Kapler said. “Nobody expects us to win Gold Gloves because it’s not the type of roster we are (and) it’s not the type of team that we’ve been, but we definitely need to make more plays that we’re making.”

The pitching staff is home to the unluckiest starter in the majors so far this season in Alex Cobb (a 4.50 gap between his actual 6.25 ERA and his expected 1.75 ERA), San Francisco’s scheduled starter Sunday against the Reds. Take a wider view and the problem becomes more glaring.

No pitching staff in the majors has a wider chasm between its ERA and its FIP (fielding independent pitching) than the Giants. Their 4.43 staff ERA is the sixth-highest in the majors, while their 3.39 FIP ranks third-lowest.

The innovative techniques deployed by defensive guru Kai Correa, San Francisco’s bench coach, helped the Giants become one of the strongest run-prevention units in the majors last season. This season, however, has been a different story.

The Giants were the fifth-best defensive team in the majors last season, according to Fangraphs’ Outs Above Average metric, and ranked ninth in defensive value. Their ranks this year: fourth-worst in OAA (minus-14) and dead last in defensive fWAR (minus-16.2).

San Francisco Giants Outs Above Average by position, 2022 (via Baseball Savant)

The issues were no more glaring than during the Mets’ seven-run eighth inning against Tyler Rogers, when the submariner induced six ground balls yet recorded only one out. Cobb’s last start was blown up by two infield singles and a pop fly that bounced fair in front of Darin Ruf, who crashed…

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