The Fall of The Giants: What Happened?

Last year, the Giants run had some truly remarkable moments. The Giants were able to win every crucial game and staved offf playoff elimination in both the National League Divisional and National League Championship Series. This season, nothing seemed to go San Francisco’s way. The Giants clearly did not have the same luck and have not performed nearly as well compared to last year’s run. One of the reasons for the struggles can be accredited to subpar pitching.
Pitching is one of the most significant aspects of a team’s success. A team’s offense and its ability to produce runs are also necessary, but without a quality pitching staff and bullpen, a team is at a serious disadvantage.
Although pitching may be boring for the fans at times, the Giants have utilized their dominant pitching rotation successfully over the course of their two championship runs.
The Giants have proven consistently in the past three seasons that the saying “pitching wins championships” is accurate as their flawless pitching has earned them two championship titles. They stunned baseball fans in 2010 by leading the MLB in earned run average, saves, batting average against and strikeouts.
Two years later, the Giants won yet another World Series. Unlike their previous championship year, the 2012 Giants featured productive hitting and pitching. As a whole, they were not outstanding in only one specific area, but reliable in most aspects of the game. They were third in their league in batting average, fourth in on-base percentage, third in hits and second in saves. Despite being dead last in home runs, the 2012 Giants won with good team morale and character, dominant stretches of pitching and clutch hitting.
Despite these successes, the Giants have, rather notably, struggled this past season. Although they performed much better towards the end of the season, their late season surge amounted to nothing more than a string of garbage time wins and moral victories.
So, how is it that the Giants have performed so much worse  than in previous years?
Last year, Matt Cain contributed greatly towards the Giants success. He went 16-5 with an unbelievable 2.79 Earned Run Average (ERA). His amazing consistency and extremely low ERA helped the Giants reach the postseason and continue on to win the world series. This season, however, Cain pitched significantly worse than past seasons with the Giants. With an ERA of 4.39, and a lower win-to-loss ratio, the Giants’ star pitcher is putting up disappointing numbers. With Cain struggling, the Giants are losing more games.
Like Cain, four of the five initial starters (Bumgarner, Cain, Zito, Vogelsong and Lincecum) struggled. Despite having an amazing 2012 season, in which three of the five starters had an ERA less than 4.00, this season four of the five starters had an ERA of at least 4.00 and have negative win to loss ratios. This season, the Giants had one of the highest accumulated ERAs.
One of the starters that stands out is Barry Zito. In 2012, Zito went 15-8 with an ERA of 4.03. Although these stats are good, they were perceived as great by many because Zito had not had a win-to-loss ratio over 500 percent since 2002. This season, however, Zito has pitched an all time career high 5.91 ERA with a career low winning percentage of .313. Zito has produced one of the worst pitching performances of his entire career of 13 years, which is saying something given the lacksluster nature of the beginning of his Giants’ career. In 25 games started, he has only managed to produce 6 quality starts.
Next season, the Giants likely will be without Zito and Vogelsong who are progressively getting worse due to their old pitching age and deteriorating arms. In place of Zito and Vogelsong, the Giants might look to starting younger arms in the Giants’ organization who have more raw potential. Once the Giants have a pitching rotation of Lincecum, Bumgarner, Cain, Gaudin and other younger starters, they will be able to win more games and will only improve in the future. The reason behind the Giants’ losing season is simply due to a lack of support from any of the pitchers. Teams like the Giants, who rely on pitching to win games, need to improve their pitching or else they will continue to be cellar dwellers.