We backed the San Francisco Giants (our National League Game of the Month) in their opening game at home against the Chicago Cubs on Thursday. Manager Gabe Kapler was turning to Alex Wood who had been quite good all month after finding some extra zip on his sinker. In four July starts, the lefty has a 1.31 era and a 0.87 whip. He has struck out 25 batters yet walked only three in 20 2/3 innings.
Wood rewarded these observations from our research by taking a no-hitter into the 7th inning before he got into some trouble and gave up two hits including a two-run homer from the Cubs’ Patrick Wisdom. Yet Wood only gave up two hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings to get his seventh win of the season. For the season, he now has a 7-8 record to go along with a 4.11 era and a 1.16 whip. Yet those numbers probably fail to do Wood justice for what he can do for the Giants for the rest of the season. In his five July starts, the left-hander has a 2-1 record with a 1.65 era and a 0.80.
Yet Wood is not the only San Francisco starting pitcher who is pitching better than his season numbers would suggest. Kapler gave the starting pitching assignment to Alex Cobb in Game 2 of their weekend series with the Cubs. The right-hander had a 3-4 record with a 4.26 era and a 1.33 whip in fifteen starts. Cobb had been one of the unluckiest pitchers in MLB this season with a strand rate of 58.9%, far below the MLB average for runners left on base which usually hovers in the low 70% range. Yet he is seeing much better results lately. In his seven starts since the beginning of June, Cobb had a 2.82 era and a 1.17 whip. After striking out a career-high 24.9% of the batters he faced last season with the Los Angeles Angels last year, his velocity has been good this year and his strikeout rate of 22.8% is still the second-highest in his last eight seasons. Opposing hitters have a hard-hit rate of 23.3% against him which is the lowest mark in his career. In his nine starts at home at Oracle Park this year, Cobb had a 3.02 era.
The 34-year-old right-hander may have pitched even better than Wood did the previous night. Cobb struck out 11 batters in his six innings of work while allowing only three hits and one run. Yet Cobb did not get any run support from his team against Chicago’s Marcus Stroman. Cobb left the game with San Francisco trailing, 1-0, before the Cubs scored three times in the top of the ninth inning. The Giants rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth yet it was not enough and Cobb took the tough luck loss.
The Giants had everything go right for them last year in winning 107 games in the regular season. With a 49-51 record going into the final day in July, their management may be tempted to be sellers before the trade deadline. Yet with undervalued starting pitchers in Alex Wood and Alex Cobb joining Carlos Rodon and Logan Webb (and Jakob Junis with his 2.98 era), San Francisco might be better served by adding more bats and riding their pitching staff. With the third wildcard spot added for both leagues for the playoffs, the Giants are still only 4 1/2 games behind Philadelphia to qualify for the postseason.
Good luck - TDG.