Programming note: Coverage of Giants-Rockies begins at 12:30 PT on CSN Bay Area with Giants Pregame Live.
DENVER – The Giants rotation is the strongest common thread between their two World Series titles in three seasons.
More than a quarter of the way through this season, that same rotation ranks 13th out of 15 NL clubs with a 4.81 ERA – including a 10.27 mark while losing four of five in Toronto and Colorado.
If the rotation finish the season with a 4.81 ERA … well, the defending champions almost assuredly can park themselves on the sofa for the postseason and watch someone else take their crown.
What is Giants manager Bruce Bochy seeing? Is there some explanation? At what point does reality intercede, turning confidence into denial?
These are hard questions. And Bochy was candid and expansive as he answered them, and others, in the visiting manager’s office at Coors Field Sunday morning:
(Questions have been paraphrased.)
Q: Have you and Brian Sabean talked about the state of the rotation overall, and how much the workload from last year’s playoff run might be a factor?
A: No. But now, we have had conversations, going back to spring training, about how we need to keep an eye on these guys, monitor the staff because of the workload, and not just in 2012 but 2010 too.
Q: How much do you believe fatigue and/or health has been to blame?
A: Injury, fatigue, that’s a hard one to answer because they only know how they feel. Mechanics, overall, they’ve been pretty good. Sure, Rags (pitching coach Dave Righetti) has talked to a couple pitchers about their delivery. That happens when they’re going well, too.
Is it a rough patch or a streak or a small sample? We’ll see. I will say it’s been a rough go around for those guys this week. But think we need to get further into this before we can answer that question better.
So many elements come into play. Sure, fatigue could be one of them. Mechanics, confidence, pitch selection – all of these things come into play. Timmy’s been up and down. His stuff’s been above what it was last year. The one pitcher you would have a little concern with is Vogelsong because he’s been consistently off track and trying to get there. Cain, we’ve seen him get into the seventh. Zito has been pretty good. Bumgarner has been pretty good. Timmy, the stuff’s been there and he’s been up and down. It’s been Ryan that’s had the toughest go-around from Day One.
Q: When they say they feel good, do you believe them?
A: I don’t know if you can ever trust them completely, because they want to be out there. Like the other night, Madison says, `You know I didn’t feel tired. I didn’t have my stuff, but I felt the same I did in the first inning.’ They’re honest sometimes, sure, they come in and say, `I’m there.’ And you appreciate that.
And really, I don’t like to bring that up because you can talk yourself into being tired. That’s not a subject we’ll go and ask pitchers here (on days in between starts). Hopefully you trust your eyes watching these guys. Timmy, he’s out here working out this morning, throwing, feeling fine. I had a long discussion with Vogelsong a couple days ago.
It’s a long season and we’re probably spoiled, too, because it makes you appreciate the talents that they are, that this is something we’re not used to. It also shows you why we (talk about) the importance of pitching in this game.
Q: Buster Posey said after Saturday’s loss that he does take these games home with him and bears some responsibility for the rotation’s struggles. Is that just Posey falling on his sword, or could he be doing anything differently?
A: Buster knows these guys. We’ve had a lot of success with Buster and this battery. Sure, they’re trying things on the side or with the game plan. But I think as good as they are, you can lose a little of that confidence and that can affect you.
Now, to add to that, we haven’t caught the ball, either, and they’re throwing more pitches (as a result). Part of that is their own doing – Timmy, Bumgarner (committing errors the past two games). If Timmy doesn’t throw the ball away, it’s one run (instead of three).
Q: You’ve mentioned the term “swagger” a few times over the years. What will it take for the rotation to get its swagger back?
A: Success. Good starts. I try to keep it this way, and I want them to keep it this way: Last night, we stunk. We stunk last night. We don’t stink as a club. We don’t stink as players. You’re going to be bad, and it’s a temporary thing. You don’t have the success they’ve had as pitchers … You know, these guys, they have to remind themselves how good they are.
Posey and Marco Scutaro are off as the Giants try to salvage a 2-4 trip behind Zito. Bochy had considered starting Posey, but the long games in this series changed his mind.
As for Scutaro, Bochy said “I’m not going to lie,” it’s hard for him to sit a hitter who has a .486 average in a 17-game hitting streak. But Scutaro is no spring chicken, and a 37-year-old infielder with no legs under him is not a good thing at all. The Giants will need to conserve Scutaro all season.
Scutaro’s streak will remain intact without a hit today as long as he doesn’t get an official at-bat.