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Giants' starting rotation suddenly lacking starpower

Madison Bumgarner is a standout, but Matt Cain has given up the most home runs in the majors and the days of stardom for Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum appear to be over.

May 18, 2013|By Bill Shaikin
  • San Francisco starter Matt Cain has a 5.43 ERA and has given up more home runs than anyone in the majors.
San Francisco starter Matt Cain has a 5.43 ERA and has given up more home runs… (Jack Dempsey / Associated…)

Giant vulnerability?

The San Francisco Giants rode their starting pitchers to two World Series championships in three years, and starters renowned for their health are at it again. None of the Giants' five starters has missed a turn this season.

They have not missed a lot of bats, either. Ryan Vogelsong has an 8.06 earned-run average, the worst of any major league starter. Matt Cain has a 5.43 ERA, and he has given up the most home runs in the majors.

This is stunning, considering the relative talent and the home parks involved: The Giants' starters have a higher ERA than the Colorado Rockies' starters.

Madison Bumgarner has become the best pitcher in the National League West not named Clayton Kershaw, but the reckoning for the rotation could be at hand. The guaranteed contracts for Vogelsong, Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum all expire this fall, and the days of stardom appear done for all three.

The Giants' top prospect, right-hander Kyle Crick, is at Class A San Jose — and he has missed the past month because of an oblique injury. Baseball America ranks the Giants' farm system as the worst in the NL.

Counting pitches

Kershaw threw a career-high 132 pitches last Tuesday, getting all but the last out of a 2-0 victory over the Washington Nationals. No Dodgers pitcher had thrown so many pitches in 10 years.

Kershaw threw 29 pitches in the first inning. He averaged 13 pitches in the other eight.

"It's more about stressful innings," Kershaw said. "If you have 12 innings with 12 pitches each inning, that's a lot easier on your arm than throwing 30 pitches each for five innings. After the first inning, I had some pretty quick innings. "

Two nights later, Yu Darvish of the Texas Rangers made 130 pitches in a 10-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers. In his final season in Japan, in 2011, Darvish threw that many pitches seven times. He threw 145 once.

The Rangers had a six-run lead with six outs to go on Thursday, with Darvish at 115 pitches. That Rangers Manager Ron Washington used Darvish to get Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez might say as much about Texas' bullpen as it does about Darvish.

"Yu Darvish, in my opinion, is a stud," Washington told reporters. "And I don't think we overworked him."

The chosen voice

Vin Scully doesn't chat up players very often. However, as Scully prepared for last week's Dodgers-Nationals series, he read a Washington Times story in which Bryce Harper said he wanted to meet Scully and take a picture with him.

Pretty cool, in part because of the 65-year difference in their ages. So Scully made it a point to visit Harper in the Nationals' clubhouse last Tuesday, one day after the 20-year-old outfielder crashed into the Dodger Stadium wall. Harper needed 11 stitches and, in the process, lost his beard.

"The best thing about it is, he was clean-shaven," Scully joked. "It knocked 10 years off his age."

There was no photographer in the clubhouse, so the picture will have to wait for next year.

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