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The Giants: What went wrong

Much has changed since the World Series celebration photo: mayorgavinnewsom / flickr

When your team wins a World Series one year, and then the next year it loses a lot more games than it wins, the question presents itself: what happened? In the tradition of those who read wet tea leaves, I poured a plate full of ketchup and from head-height, with eyes closed, dropped a fistful of garlic fries. With a warm, fog-chill-defeating drink in hand, I pored over the resulting Jackson-Pollock-y mess to come up with the following (2013 numbers are from mid-August):

Panda is playing hurt. Though he’s showing flashes of his old self, the Panda is playing with a bunch of injuries. Every one of Pablo Sandoval’s offensive numbers is down this year. Alarmingly, his slugging percentage has nose-dived from .552 in 2011, to .447 in ’12, to .380 in ’13. A great hitter has been neutered by injuries that he is gallantly hiding.

2012 was “Much Ado About Scutaro.” In 62 games with the Giants in the regular season last year, Scooter hit .362/.385/.473. He was NLCS MVP. He’s had a good, not great, year in ’13, hitting .303/.358/.378. Late-season acquisition Cody Ross lifted the Giants in ’10; Carlos Beltran was a flop in ’11; Scooter provided the ignition in ’12; and don’t even mention Jeff Francoeur in ’13.

The Giants miss Pagan. Angel Pagan had a great year in 2012. Pagan hit .288/.338/.440 in 2012. He led the league with 15 triples. This year he hit a two-run, inside-the-park walk-off homer versus the Rockies on May 25. On May 28 he was put on the DL with a strained right hamstring. On June 24 he was carted off a minor league field, having torn the offending hamstring. Then he had surgery on the hamstring. Right now his four-year contract looks like a gamble gone wrong. The curse of Aaron Rowand?

It’s worse than it seems. In 2012, the Giants scored 69 more runs than their pitching allowed. In ’13, the Giants clock in with 72 fewer runs scored than allowed. Say it ain’t so, but right now, the Mariners, Twins and Cubs are better than our Giants.

The blame is equal parts hitting and pitching:
2012: 4.43 runs scored per game; 4.01 runs allowed per game.
2013: 3.74 runs scored per game; 4.34 runs allowed per game.

The last of Timmy in orange? Timmy seems to have been permanently infected by Barry Zito’s inconsistency bug. (A wondrous no-hitter one game! Eight runs in four innings the next.) As Timmy is a free agent after the season, I have a sick feeling that he’s going to wind up with the Cardinals or another team that has a track record of taking inconsistent pitchers and returning them to glory. In Timmy’s case, he’s potentially got another 10 years of pitching ahead of him. I’m crying into my garlic fries that his issues were not corrected by the Giants.

Naysayers of the 2010 champions said the Giants won it with smoke and mirrors. By winning in 2012, those naysayers shut up. But now that the 2013 team has underachieved so egregiously, you could say that 2012’s version of smoke and mirrors included Barry Zito’s miraculous games against the Reds, and against Verlander and the Tigers; Marco Scutaro’s hot streak during the regular season, and against the Cardinals in the NLCS; and Tim Lincecum’s transformation from erratic sixth starter to perfect relief pitcher.

The rest of the 2012 championship — Pablo’s three homers off Verlander in Game 1; excellent pitching by Cain, Bummy, and Vogey; good hitting; stellar defense; and solid relief pitching — were all real. And the two World Series trophies sure look real when we pose next to them. It was a wonderful party in 2012. But this hangover is terrible. Here’s looking to 2014.

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Steve Hermanos is the author of Orange Waves of Giants! The 2012 Championship Season. E-mail: steve@marinatimes.com