Starting Pitching Is a Serious Problem For the San Francisco Giants

By John Shea
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants are one of the hottest teams in baseball right now, but you wouldn’t be able to determine that simply by looking at the orange and black’s starting rotation. Aside from staff ace Madison Bumgarner, the Giants possess a core of starters strung together by cheap box tape that temporarily banded together better than both duct tape and super glue.

The wheels could be on the verge of falling off, especially if the Giants’ suddenly explosive offense cools down.

General manager Brian Sabean was forced to trade for Jake Peavy in the wake of Matt Cain succumbing to severe elbow pain that eventually required season-ending surgery. Tim Lincecum‘s recurring struggles forced him out of the mix, granting opportunity to journeyman Yusmeiro Petit. The culmination of last-ditch changes in the Giants’ rotation isn’t exactly a formula for success, but for the most part, it’s worked.

Ryan Vogelsong is a big reason for why it’s worked.

The 37-year-old right-hander has been solid ever since the calendar flipped from July to August, allowing three runs or less in six starts during the dog days. His strong second-half performance has helped the Giants stay afloat in the NL West, but he failed to get the job done against the pitching-challenged Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on Wednesday.

Vogelsong blew up in the fifth inning of what appeared to be a rare pitcher’s duel in the Mile High City. After recording the first two outs of the inning, Vogelsong subsequently allowed four earned runs off a walk, a single and two home runs. Just like that, the score was 5-2 in favor of Colorado. Before long, another solo shot made it 6-2 in the sixth.

The Giants’ blatant inability to record strong starting pitching performances on a consistent basis is a dangerous game to play in modern day baseball. As good as the Giants have been as of late, it’s difficult to believe that a team which flaunts just one dominant starting pitcher is capable of winning the 2014 World Series.

Make no mistake: the Giants are a good team. But their lack of depth in the starting rotation is going to be problematic if San Francisco finds itself lodged in five or seven-game series against either the Washington Nationals or Los Angeles Dodgers.

Depth has been a problem for the Giants all season.

It was a problem when lead-off hitter Angel Pagan missed more than a month with a bulging disc in his back and was exacerbated when first baseman Brandon Belt suffered a concussion after returning from thumb surgery. The Giants have been fortunate that rookies Joe Panik and Andrew Susac have proven capable of being valuable contributors on offense, but they don’t boast that luxury on the pitching side of things.

The Giants remain in good standing in the playoff picture after losing the season series to the worst team in the National League, but they don’t boast a championship-caliber starting rotation.

For the Giants to win their third title in a span of five years, they need to keep chalking crooked numbers on the scoreboard. Their starting pitching just isn’t good enough to carry them through October this time around.

John Shea is an MLB writer for Follow him on Twitter @real_johnshea. Like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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