Monday, June 1, 2015

Next Up: The San Francisco Giants

The Pirates' first west coast swing of the season continues, with three games in San Francisco following a split of a four-game series against the San Diego Padres. Gerrit Cole opposes Ryan Vogelsong tonight, A.J. Burnett vs. Chris Heston tomorrow night, and Francisco Liriano opposes Tim Hudson in the getaway (12:45 PM local start time) on Wednesday.

How Are They Doing Lately? The Giants were 21-9 in May. That's the most games won in the majors. They scored 4.9 runs per game in May, the most in the league. They allowed 3.6 runs per game, fewer than all but the Dodgers and Cardinals. In short, they've been on a roll, looking more like the team that's won the World Series in every odd-numbered year this decade than the team that didn't go to the postseason in the odd-numbered years.

What's Going Right? On offense, the team is first in batting average (.291) and on-base percentage (.348) and second in slugging percentage (.439) in May. They tied the Mets for seventh in homers but they were first in singles, second in doubles and triples, and sixth in walks while being the third-hardest team to strike out. On the mound, the starters' 3.39 ERA was fourth-best in May. The relievers' 3.80 ERA ranked only ninth in the 15-team league but the bullpen had the second-most saves in the league (ten) and were in a four-way tie for the second-fewest blows saves (two).

What's Going Wrong? Well, that bullpen ERA of 3.80 isn't anything special.

Who's Hot? On offense, the "Who's Not" list is a lot shorter. Five players compiled batting averages of .300+ and slugging percentages of .500+ during the month: catcher Buster Posey, first baseman Brandon Belt, second baseman Joe Panik, shortstop Brandon Crawford, and outfielder Gregor Blanco. On the mound, Vogelsong was 4-0 with a 1.14 ERA and World Series MVP Madison Bumgarner was 4-1 with a 2.61 ERA. Tim Lincecum also posted a 4-1 record in May, with a 2.83 ERA, but he was shelled in his last couple outings, allowing 8 earned runs in 9.1 innings. Closer Santiago Casilla had nine saves and two wins in May to go with a 2.84 ERA.

Who's Not? As noted above, the Giants got tremendous performance from four of their infielders in May. Third base, though, has been a disappointment. The team designated the opening day starter, Casey McGehee (.235/.291/.294 slash line) for assignment. This being the Giants in May, though, his replacement, Matt Duffy, hit .313 during the month. 

On the mound, some of the relievers have struggled (Jean Machi, 8.56 ERA in May; Jeremy Affeldt, 8.64) and the Pirates will face the Giants' two weakest starters in May, Heston (4.58 ERA) and Hudson (5.11).

What's the Outlook? I really don't think the Giants are as good as their May record would indicate. That being said, they're probably the second-best team, after the Cardinals, that the Pirates have faced this year. Fortunately, the Bucs have their three best starters (I'm not counting Charlie Morton, who's been fantastic but in only two starts) lined up against the underbelly of the Giants' rotation. Taking two of three would be great for the Pirates.

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