One Step Forward; Two Back

Losing 10 of 13 games to in-state rivals LA and SD? Bad. Taking 2 of 3 from the always dangerous Braves, and 3 of 4 from the league best Marlins? Good. Swept by the Mets? Bad. 2 of 3 from the Reds? Er…well, a step in the right direction, again. What is up with these Giants?

It's really hard to figure out these Giants. Really, really hard. They've looked terrible against some bad teams, and they've looked unstoppable against some of the best. This is a team that scratched out only 26 runs over 7 games against a very shaky Padres pitching staff, but then nailed the (then) league best Marlins pitching staff for 30 runs in only four games! One day, you see a team that Sabean was planning when he put this team together, and the next, you'll see the fuel that feeds the Lunatic Fringe.

What gives?

This team has been a model of inconsistency since the season began, and it's showing no signs of letting up. You never know what you're going to get from one day to the next, and as much as that might sound like a dream to screw up another team's advance scouting, it's even harder on the fans.

It's getting so difficult that it's impossible to tell who's in the doghouse and who isn't on this team.

A big part of it has been the injuries this team has sustained. While last year's team rolled through injuries to pretty much every key player throughout the year, this team has been heavily affected by them. With Hermanson making a start this weekend against Cinncinati, that completed only the second time the rotation has had it's actual 1-5 starters pitching in a row all season long. That has compounded the identity issues in the bullpen, with several guys who should be big league relievers at the most right now (particularly Brian Cooper and Kevin Correia) being pulled out of the bullpen to spot start, blow said starts, and leave the bullpen with more innings to cover.

Then there's the issue with the offensive lineup. The loss of Hammonds affected the ability to platoon and replace Tucker when needed, but that wasn't big. A bigger issue has been the lack of depth at the middle infield positions, something that the injury to Durham has exposed. Cody Ransom never was a big league player, and eventually Sabean agreed and sent him down. The problem has been that, behind Perez and Durham, the Giants had no good options for players to play the middle infield, while they had a glut of guys who could play at 1B or 3B (Pedro Feliz, Brian Dallimore, and Tony Torcato, just to start with). Alou tried to compensate by moving Alfonzo, a former second baseman back to that spot, but the defense suffered in ways that cost games. Dallimore filled in better, but a mini-slump has taken him out of that position. And then there's Devii Cruz, who's batting 5-18 since being called up, but no one expects that to continue. This is a guy who was cut by the Devil Rays.

And then, there's Bonds. His absence was, is, and will always be a huge obstacle to overcome. A lot of people point to that as a problem with the way Sabean built a team, but let's face it, no one can or would be able to ‘replace' Bonds, and any team that has him in the lineup would suffer mightily if he were gone. The bottom line is that Bonds has not recovered from his infections that have kept him out of several games. Since the infection hit him, he's 0 for 12 (with 7 walks, almost all of them intentional) and anyone who's watched can tell that he is not the Bonds we all know and enjoy. He's swinging ugly, and it's not hard to see how this sinus and ear infection has affected his balance and concentration.

Any team will have problems overcoming injuries, but there are also some models of inconsistency within the team that, if they can stabilize themselves, will help this team become better than what it seems. And it all comes down to pitching.

Brett Tomko: He hasn't officially had a ‘quality' start for the Giants, but he's been the most snakebit so far, with many errors coming behind him. He started the season with two starts where he seemed to had conquered his big problem of the past: the home run. He went into Houston, a hitter's park, and not only didn't surrender a single home run, he gave up only 3 fly balls vs. 9 ground balls. Still, those translated into 3 runs in a 4 inning stint. The next start in San Diego, he gave up 3 runs on just 4 hits and no walks over 6 innings (again, no home runs), but got no win. The start after that, he was dominating Los Angeles until he suddenly gave up three home runs to three straight batters…and he hasn't been the same since. The thing is, he doesn't suck. He really doesn't. Despite him still having a reputation for being a home run magnet amongst Giant fans, he's given up only 5 all year, far off the major league lead of 12 (Hideo Nomo), and the same number as such big name offseason acquisitions as Curt Schilling and Kelvim Escobar. Even in his start in New York, he didn't give up a single earned run (thanks to Fonzi playing second). Tomko's problem seems to be that he lets things get to him on the mound. If someone can get into his head and stop that problem, he'd become a much better pitcher.

Dustin Hermanson: Who is he? The pitcher that gave up only 2 runs over almost 12 innings in his first two starts, or the one who gave up 6 earned in less than 4 in his next start? His injury notwithstanding (it didn't seem to occur until just before his next scheduled start), the pitcher that Hermanson becomes after getting back into game shape will be a big part of this rotation. If he can become a quality pitcher again, this rotation is much stronger.

Kirk Rueter: Woody simply hadn't looked the same since his stint on the DL last year, and he never seemed to find his groove this year…until his last start. Until that last start, he'd completed 6 innings in only one of six starts, and gave up at least 2 runs (and as many as 7) in each of his starts. And then he faces Cinncinati, a bad team that has a very potent offensive lineup, and absolutely dominates them for 8 innings. 3 hits and no walks, and of course, no runs, to get his first win. I doubt we'll see games like that our of Woody much this season, but hopefully he can build on that and become the same old consistent Rueter of years past.

Matt Herges: The Giants bullpen issues start with and end with the closer, and for now, that closer is Matt Herges. And his inconsistency is perhaps the most frustrating. He introduced himself as closer in the first game at Houston, going right after the heart of a playoff caliber lineup, including a nasty strikeout of Jeff Bagwell. But it was only 3 days later that he gave up 3 runs and blew a save in San Diego. Sometimes he looks like Tim Worrell from last year, and sometimes he just looks like Boston's bullpen from last year. And you never know which you're going to get. He's already had 2 outings in which he couldn't even get one out. He may have 10 saves, but the Giants fans have many more white hairs than that after watching him out there.

With no help coming in the immediate future, it's up to the Giants coaches to make these players more consistent and help the team. All of them have had steps forward or backward the past week, and watching all of them this week could be a sign of what's to come. Or then, they might just change back around the week after. Who knows?

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