Giants Rotation Loses Its Luster

Giants Rotation Loses Its Luster

In 2012, the San Francisco Giants went 94-68 and won the World Series for the second time in three seasons.  The pitching-rich Giants were seventh in MLB in ERA. But in 2013, the Giants were 21st in ERA and out of playoff contention by mid-August. On August 18, they lost to Miami and fell to 55-68, equally their 2012 loss total. Their bullpen ERA had actually gone down, from 3.56 in 2012 to 3.39 in 2013. But the starters, with almost the same cast, saw their ERA rise from 3.73 to 4.47 (statistics through August 16), which is not good for weekly fantasy baseball.

The 2012 Giants rotation was quite durable, with the five main starters – Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Ryan Vogelsong and Barry Zito – making 160 out of 162 starts.  In 2013, Vogelsong broke his pitching hand and was out 2 ½ months, during which time Chad Gaudin replaced him in the rotation. Shortly before Vogelsong returned August 9, the Giants decided to leave Gaudin in the rotation and remove Zito.  The five starters and Gaudin combined to start 116 of the Giants’ first 121 games, something to remember when it comes to weekly fantasy baseball.

San Francisco’s starters’ ERA has benefited from having Gaudin in the rotation; he had a 3.53 ERA as a starter through 12 starts.  But three of the other five Giants starters have seen their numbers dramatically decline.

In 2012, Vogelsong went 14-9 with a 3.37 ERA and 1.23 WHIP.  So far in 2013, he is 2-4 with a 6.75 ERA and 1.75 WHIP. In 9 2/3 innings over two games since return from his injury, Vogelsong has allowed five earned runs.

From 2009-2012, Cain’s highest ERA was 3.14. But through 25 starts in 2013, his ERA was 4.35. Cain’s WHIP has also risen, though it is a still-decent 1.12. While Cain’s BAA went down – from .222 to .220 – his BB/9 has jumped from 2.1 to 2.8. Cain’s HR/9 has also jumped – from 0.9 to 1.1. Cain has been much better after the All-Star break, with a 2.41 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in six starts.

As disappointing as Zito has been during his seven seasons with the Giants, during which he has had a 4.56 ERA, he did better in the Giants’ championship seasons, compiling a 4.15 ERA in both 2010 and 2012. In 2013, however, Zito has a 5.09 ERA in 21 starts (and 5.34 ERA overall). His WHIP, which has been between 1.34 and 1.40 the last four seasons, has soared to 1.69.

Lincecum is 6-12 and continues to have an up-and-down year. He pitched a no-hitter in July, but then gave up eight earned runs in his next start. He allowed one hit over eight innings in early August, but then gave up six earned runs in his next start.  But while Lincecum has a mediocre 4.38 ERA, that number is well down from last season’s 5.18, when Lincecum led the National League in runs allowed with 107.  Lincecum’s 1.28 WHIP is down from 2012’s 1.47 and his BB/9 has dropped from 4.4 to 3.3.

At least the Giants have Bumgarner, who has improved his 3.37 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 2012 to 2.87 and 1.02 in 2013, along with making his first All-Star team.

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Jon Lewin writes for a variety of fantasy sports sites.