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April 19, 2013

What You Need to Know

Waking Sleeping Giants

by Daniel Rathman


The Thursday Takeaway
When the Giants last finished a season with a rotation ERA north of 4.00 and outside of the league’s top 10, the year was 2008, Tim Lincecum was in his first full season, and the organization had not yet won its first world championship in San Francisco. If that streak is to live on through 2013, however, Bruce Bochy’s starting five already has work to do.

Following Thursday’s 7-2 loss to the Brewers, in which Matt Cain was charged with seven earned runs over six innings of work and saw his ERA rise to 7.15, the Giants’ rotation ERA stands at 5.07. Barry Zito, who did not allow an earned run in either of his first two starts, coughed up nine in 2 2/3 frames in the series opener, bringing his ERA for the season to 4.86. Ryan Vogelsong’s seven-inning, three-run effort in the middle match pared his ERA down to 5.89. Tim Lincecum, who did not pitch at Miller Park, sports a 5.63 mark. Put that all together, and, were it not for Madison Bumgarner’s 1.77 ERA, the quintet’s aggregate figure would shoot up to 5.99, and the team’s record might be well south of 9-7.

Cain’s clunker, which helped the Brewers to complete a sweep of the Giants and began with a first-inning, two-run homer by Ryan Braun, came 11 days after a home loss to the Cardinals, when a prolonged fourth-inning rally sent him to the showers only 11 outs into the game. That nine-run dud marked his first outing with seven-plus runs allowed since July 9, 2010. Nearly three years later, the Giants’ ace has been knocked around badly twice in three games.

The 29-year-old right-hander’s arsenal appears to be intact, with no visible difference in velocity on his Brooks Baseball player card, but Cain’s command has not been crisp in the early going. Proof?

Without delving into details of pitch type and result, the chart above, from his Pitcher Profile, shows that a hefty plurality of Cain’s offerings have found the heart of the zone—and a significant number has settled in the zone immediately above it. Breaking pitches in those spots have predictably been punished, accounting for two doubles and a home run, and bloating Cain’s ERA far above the level one might expect from a pitcher whose K:BB stands at a robust 20-to-5.

The Giants have, in recent years, been anchored not only by the quality of their rotation, but also by the health of its members. Only twice last year did Bochy turn to a starter outside of the primary five—Eric Hacker on April 27 and Yusmeiro Petit on September 23—and while the two 2012 substitutes, along with prospects Chris Heston and Mike Kickham, are available in the upper minors, San Francisco has little in the way of proven organizational depth.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (04/19)
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