SAN FRANCISCO — If Bruce Bochy spent spring training envisioning a magical last ride as the Giants’ manager, it didn’t take long for his team to dash his hopes.
As the Giants hit the halfway point of the regular season on Friday, Bochy explained his frustration in the way the first 80 games have unfolded.
“We’re disappointed,” Bochy admitted. “We look at a lot of these games and think we should have and could have won. A mistake here or there, just not quite executing with little things. That caught up with us in the first half.”
The Giants rank at or near the bottom of the league in most meaningful hitting categories as their offense is producing at a historically poor rate. The club’s .223 batting average would be the worst mark in franchise history by 10 full points while a .290 on-base percentage is the lowest since 1902, when the New York Giants won just 48 of their 136 games.
Despite the Giants’ miserable offensive performance thus far, Bochy said Friday that his primary desire for the second half is to see his starting rotation improve.
Giants starters have posted a 5.26 ERA in 80 games this year and have been nothing short of dismal in the first inning of games. San Francisco has been outscored 75-21 in the first inning this season as nearly every starter on the staff has encountered trouble in the opening frame.
“As much as anything, starting pitching needs to be a little bit more consistent,” Bochy said. “That’s what I think our strength needs to be. The pitching to keep us in ballgames.”
The Giants’ team ERA of 4.63 is the 18th-best mark among 30 major league teams, but it’s also a historically bad number for a franchise that has consistently relied on strong pitching, especially in recent years.
If the season ended prior to Friday’s game against Arizona, the team ERA would rank as the fourth-worst in franchise history.
Bochy acknowledges that a higher team ERA is the result of changes that have been made to the composition of the baseball to create an increase in scoring, but those alterations haven’t benefitted the Giants. Many of the team’s regular starters are suffering through the worst season of their professional careers, which has been the case in each of the last three years.
“Some guys are where they’ve never been as far as numbers,” Bochy said. “Whether it’s power or slugging or on-base, that’s got to improve too. Trust me. We’ve got to get consistency there.”
What’s particularly troubling for the Giants is the fact that outside of corner infielder Pablo Sandoval, most hitters aren’t producing many hard-hit balls.
The Giants rank last in the major leagues with nine base hits on batted balls of at least 110 miles per hour and 29th in the league 328 hits on batted balls of at least 95 miles per hour. Solid contact is more likely to produce extra-base hits and home runs, but the Giants’ numbers suggest they would struggle to score at any park around the league.
Playing at Oracle Park, the most pitcher-friendly stadium in baseball, isn’t the only reason the Giants’ 2019 offense has been difficult for fans to stomach.
“The heart of our order, we haven’t done enough there,” Bochy said. “Not to put it on those guys, but those are the guys you can count on to be honest.”
Bochy remains optimistic that his starting pitchers and offense will enjoy a better second half, but making substantial improvements will be made more difficult if the Giants trade key personnel.
The club has won 18 one-run ballgames this year as closer Will Smith is 21-for-21 in save opportunities. If the Giants trade Smith and ace Madison Bumgarner, they will need to new sources of production on the mound to make the second half more enjoyable than the first for their manager and fans.