The Giants’ day off Monday presented a perfect time to look back at the first month of the season for a club that is not short on story lines.
It’s a surprise to no one that the highlight for the club has been the pitching rotation, but the names associated with early success were not necessarily expected, based on last year’s performances.
Barry Zito has been the biggest surprise and leads all starters with a 1.67 earned run average. At this time last year, he was out of the rotation with a 6.23 ERA and finished the year at the 5.87 mark.
Sunday’s starter Madison Bumgarner has also flipped the script from last year’s start with a team-high four wins and a 2.53 ERA, after last season’s 0-6 start.
“It’s obvious we think a lot of Madison and what he’s done since he’s come up here,” said Giants manager Bruce Bochy. “He’s just gonna get better and better. ... For a kid his age, it’s impressive how well he has thrown the ball and I’m not surprised to see what he’s done this month.”
Another surprise has been the early start of Tim Lincecum, whose ERA was in double digits after his second and third starts, but has settled down in his past two, allowing just one earned run in 13 innings.
Eight of the Giants’ 10 losses have been by three runs or fewer, but their .197 average with runners in scoring position ranks 27th in the majors and has drawn the scorn of fans and media.
“The past couple of games we’ve been struggling a little bit, but I think at any time, we can hit like we did at the beginning of the year and put up six or seven runs every game,” said Giants rookie Brett Pill. “With our pitching, we only really need three or four.”
The unquestioned leaders in the lineup have been Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, who are hitting .353 and .311, respectively, top marks among regular starters.
Posey hasn’t missed a beat since returning from a gruesome broken ankle injury he sustained in May last season.
“It’s not that easy to hit major-league pitching and if you look at all the time he missed ... to do what he’s doing, I’m a little surprised, to be honest,” Bochy said.
Other bright spots include Santiago Casilla’s job replacing injured closer Brian Wilson (4-for-4 in save opportunities) and newcomer Melky Cabrera (.300 average and second on the team in runs scored), but Bochy feels the Giants are a better team than their 12-10 record.
“We haven’t quite clicked yet and our best ball is ahead of us,” Bochy said. “For us to be where we’re at, I’ll take it, considering I think the overall playing is going to get better and needs to get better if we’re going to have a successful season.”