They went from the best team in baseball to a Wild Card contender in a span of months. The Giants are currently on thin ice as their downward spiral seems to have to end.
Granted, not everything has been bad in San Francisco. Both Johnny Cueto and Madison Bumgarner have been dominating night in and night out although their team’s hitting doesn’t help their cause. Cueto still has a commanding record of 17-5 with a 2.79 ERA while Bumgarner is 14-9 but with a 2.57 ERA. However, pitching doesn’t necessarily win titles.
The Giants have never been much of a power hitting team but they were known to score when needed. However, this season, San Francisco averages almost four runners left in scoring position per game ranking them 30th in the MLB. An irritating stat considering their on base percentage ranks them seventh with .328. Along with that, they’re ranked second to last in home runs hit thanks to the anti-homerun hitting AT&T park. In other words, Giants are able to get runners on base, but struggle to get them home.
Undoubtedly the biggest flaw in the team during this second half of the season has been the bullpen. “Closer” Santiago Casilla has been an absolute nightmare in the ninth inning. His ability to lose a game that appeared winnable is just mesmerizing. He was shut down during the 2014 playoffs but has been far from it this season. He has a 2-5 record with an NL-leading nine blown saves. His 3.72 ERA is 6th worse in the MLB and has the worst ERA for closers with playoff teams. Fans on Twitter openly show their feelings towards the closer.
If you're reading this, Santiago Casilla just blew another save
— Cole Kundich (@ckundich) September 18, 2016
Kneeling in protest everytime Santiago Casilla comes into the 9th inning.
— Justin Cheng (@therealjcheng) September 18, 2016
Dear @BruceBochy: please don't let Santiago Casilla pitch ever again. Thank you.
Giants fans everywhere
— KaptainKvetch (@KaptainKvetch) September 10, 2016
But the question remains. If not Casilla, then who?
Bruce Bochy has tried Hunter Strickland for the ninth but he continues to struggle with his location. Strickland is known for his speed but his continued struggle with location leaves him vulnerable. Like Casilla, Strickland has also struggled to close throughout the season. He has a 3-3 record with five blown saves and a 3.24 ERA.
San Francisco picked up veteran closer Joe Nathan in early September but Bochy doesn’t seem to trust him just yet. He’s pitched just three innings giving up three hits but has not given up a run. As they picked up Nathan, Bochy claimed he would use him during the sixth or seventh inning but that has not been the case so far.
Last but not least, the solution to the Giants’ closer situation might be right in front of them. Eight inning specialist Sergio Romo was once the Giants’ closer. After the infamous Brian Wilson and Casilla went down in 2012, it was Romo that stepped up as the team’s closer for the playoffs. However, after struggling in August 2014, Romo was replaced by Casilla. Since then, Romo has stepped up in a major way. This season, Romo has shown lights of his 2012 self with 28 strikeouts in 25.2 innings pitched with just seven walks.
The season is (finally) coming to an end for the San Francisco Giants. There’s 11 games left to decide the future for the team. Currently five games behind the dreaded Dodgers in the NL West and in a three-way tie for the Wild Card leaves them with no room for error. There’s four games left against the Dodgers including the final three at home. If they can somehow get their bats going and the bullpen can suddenly learn how to pitch, the Giants maybe, just maybe, will forget about this second half of the season and squeak into the playoffs for another “Orange October”.