Two years ago when the San Francisco Giants were trying to defend a championship without star catcher Buster Posey, general manager Brian Sabean traded top pitching prospect Zack Wheeler for Carlos Beltran. The Giants were four games ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks when Sabean made that move.
The Giants are trying to defend another championship this year, and they have a healthy Posey in the fold. Yet they’re nowhere near as good as they were in 2011.
The Giants just lost three out of four at home to the dreadful Miami Marlins.
The offense has gone cold without the injured Pablo Sandoval and Angel Pagan. The starting rotation pitched better against the Marlins, but then, the Marlins are the worst team in baseball with the worst offense in baseball. When you grade on that curve, Matt Cain‘s quality start on Sunday suddenly doesn’t look like it provided much in the way of quality. It was a mediocre effort for a team that has been mediocre this season.
The next hitter singled in Morrison to tie the game, and the Giants ended up losing 6-3. Lincecum and Cain each had nice stat lines against the Marlins, but the Giants lost both games. Lincecum’s ERA is 4.52. Cain’s is 4.54. That’s not very ace-like for two guys that once pitched liked aces just about every fifth day.
The Giants are 38-37. They’re three games behind the Diamondbacks for first place. They should be in an even worse position than they’re in. They’ve been outscored by 15 runs.
If Sabean dealt for Beltran when the Giants were looking like a lock to make the postseason two years ago, what’s he going to do when his team looks this average? This isn’t a small sample size fluke anymore. We’re nearly at the half-way point, and this team doesn’t look very good.
The starting pitching has been pretty bad. The bullpen is now in shambles. The lineup has carried the team, but with Pagan out indefinitely, they’re an outfield bat short. That’s what happens when your left-field plan prior to the season is a platoon of fourth outfielders in Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres. Suddenly, your two fourth outfielders are both stretched as everyday players, though Blanco has been swinging the bat well recently.
A better question right now might be whether or not this team is even worth the expense in prospects it will take to acquire new blood. There’s no Beltran on the market, and there’s no Wheeler in the Giants’ system. If Wheeler was still property of the Giants, he’d be in the big league rotation right now. That he threw six shutout innings in his debut with the New York Mets last week only adds insult to the Giants injured state. Wheeler was consistently pumping fastballs in the mid-90′s, something no Giants starter is currently capable of doing. If Lincecum could still throw 95, his poorly located fastball to Morrison might have been swung through. Alas, he can’t, and it wasn’t, and Lincecum and the Giants aren’t good enough.
Changes are certainly a-coming after the Marlins came into San Francisco and shut the Giants down. Sandoval will be back on Monday. Sabean has historically been aggressive at the trading deadline. He can’t afford to let the status quo hold for much longer. If the Giants can’t even beat the Marlins with what they have, they clearly need to make changes.
Whether that means acquiring a real left fielder and another starting pitcher—or deciding that even doing that much won’t be enough—remains to be determined. It’s doubtful that the Giants would throw in the towel one season after winning it all.
Then again, it was doubtful that they would look as bad as they did all weekend against the Marlins. I’m certainly prone to exaggeration and woe-is-me and the end-of-the-world is near. However, watching the Giants get taken to the cleaners by the Marlins is a legitimate cause for concern.
Maybe this team isn’t good enough. Maybe this team won’t be good enough even with trades for a thumper in left field and a mid-rotation starter, which is probably the best they could do at the deadline. That’s a call Sabean will have to make. He’ll probably go for it. It probably isn’t going to be enough.