This is my Friday column on the Giants. WARNING: This is a baseball column. Forty-Niners fans, feel free to skip this.
SAN FRANCISCO — It was staring Brian Sabean in the face.
This Giants team, the one the Cardinals destroyed 7-2 Thursday afternoon, is no different than the team Sabean put together last season, the one that finished 10 games under .500.
How could Sabean not see that?
He added two starters during the offseason – Michael Morse and Tim Hudson. Two. And what did Sabean get? A good May. Morse hit .289 and smashed five dingers, Hudson’s ERA was 1.46 and the Giants’ record was 19-9 during that month. Last season, the Giants’ record was 14-13 during May. If Sabean’s goal was to improve the Giants’ for one month at the beginning of the season, he knocked that sucker out of the park.
Unfortunately for him, a good May doesn’t guarantee a good season. Far from it. The Marlins’ record was 21-8 during May of 2012 and they won 69 games that year.
Forget May. Take away that month and the Giants’ record this season almost is identical to the Giants’ record last season. This season, the Giants’ record during April was 16-11. Last season, the Giants’ record during April was 15-12. Almost identical.
This season, the Giants’ record during June was 10-16. Last season, the Giants’ record during June was 10-17.
Why would Sabean expect anything different?
Maybe Sabean expected Madison Bumgarner to dominate as the ace of the pitching staff. He pitched five innings Thursday afternoon and gave up four earned runs and took the loss. At AT&T Park this season, his record is 3-5 and his ERA is 5.16.
Maybe Sabean expected Matt Cain to pitch well. He did not pitch well last season – eight wins, 10 losses and a 4.00 ERA. But he pitched extremely well in 2012 – 16 wins, five losses and a 2.79 ERA. Maybe Sabean thought 2013 was a fluke year for Cain.
It was no fluke. Cain is getting worse, not better. He has one win this season, six losses and a 4.38 ERA. He throws the ball right down the pipe more often than any pitcher I can remember.
Maybe Sabean expected Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro not to get injured, but I don’t know why Sabean would expect that. Pagan and Scutaro got injured last year. This isn’t new for them. They are injury-prone players and Sabean neglected to get them good backups. Pagan has a bulging disk in his lower back. Scutaro also has a bad back. The Giants hope one or both of them return to the lineup sometime soon. The Giants are in hope-mode.
Maybe Sabean expected Brandon Belt not to get injured. He has missed the past 50 games with a broken thumb. That’s no excuse. Players get injured. The A’s lost two starting pitchers – Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin – to season-ending elbow injuries during spring training. But the A’s didn’t fall apart. They still have the second-best ERA in the American League without Parker and Griffin.
Belt was expected to return to the Giants’ lineup Friday. Can one man turn around the Giants’ season?
Maybe Sabean expected Morse and Hudson to play well for more than two months, to be consistent producers the whole season. Hasn’t happened. Opposing batters hit .293 off Hudson during June. He’s old. He turns 39 on July 14. It’s no shocker his performance would drop off as the season drags on, although Sabean might be shocked.
Morse has nine hits in his past 49 at bats and none of those hits have been homers. He doesn’t have the age excuse like Hudson. Morse just is inconsistent.
Whatever Sabean expected from this team, he was wrong. He should have known better, should have added more than merely two quality players during the offseason. He didn’t. Now, the Giants have lost six-of-its-past-seven series and 17-of-its-past-22 games. The Giants have the worst winning percentage in baseball during that stretch. Sabean’s fault.
Bruce Bochy, poor guy, made himself available for a group interview after Thursday’s loss. It should have been Sabean who made himself available. Bochy is doing the best he can with the players Sabean got for him.
“This is our group,” Bochy said. “They know that. We’ve told them that. This is a good group, a talented group. They showed that. Every day we think we’re going to come out of it. And that’s why today was a little disappointing for us, just the way we played to conclude this home stand. The only thing we can do, and you hear me say this all the time, is brush this off. But at the same time, there’s a time when you have to say, ‘Enough is enough.’ That’s where we’re at.”
Bochy has no answers. It’s Sabean’s job to have the answers. He should have seen this coming – 2013 all over again. He should have prevented it.
It was staring him in the face.
Grant Cohn writes sports columns and the “Inside the 49ers” blog for The Press Democrat’s website. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.