It is the traditional midpoint (even if it isn’t the mathematical midpoint) of the season, which means there is no better time to give both Bay Area teams progress reports. Earlier today, I looked at the A’s, and now it is time to take a look at what the Giants have done.
The Giants offense hasn’t been great this season, but it is much better than the historically bad offense the team trotted out last season. In 2012, they have lifted their runs per game from 3.5 to 3.9, which has propelled them from the bottom to below the middle.
When you look around the diamond, there are league average or better players starting the majority of the games at 6 of the 8 spots. The Giants have narrowed down the offensive black holes from four to two and are slowly making this a respectable offense.
The three Giants position player All-Stars, Melky Cabrera, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey, have produced wRC+ 30 percent, which is better than the average production at their positions. The trio forms a middle of the order that is comparable to just about any other team in the National League.
Backing them up is the very respectable trio of Brandon Belt, Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco. With consistent playing time and some tweaks, Belt has solidified the first base position. Pagan’s bat has been streaky, and his defense isn’t great, but he sure beats watching Aaron Rowand swing at sliders in the dirt. Blanco has been the big surprise of the season, taking over lead off duties. In general, he has done a pretty good job (although his June slump has me a bit worried it was just a one month flash).
The disappointments on offense are not surprises: Second base and short stop.
Brandon Crawford is a glove first short stop (which took a few months to finally show up) who wasn’t expected to produce much on offense. To top it off, he has had some bad luck that has made his numbers even worse. Crawford isn’t likely to be a contributor on offense, but he can hopefully avoid being a huge negative in the second half.
As for second base, this was supposed to be Freddy Sanchez (this past off-season’s big free agent acquisition Freddy Sanchez, according to Larry Baer). After a series of set backs that culminated in season ending back surgery, Sanchez forced the Giants to use their Plan B. Problematically, Plan B was a choice between Jeff Keppinger and Mike Fontenot. Neither would make the team out of Spring Training, meaning the Giants would hedge their future on Plan C. This plan’s success was contingent upon Emanuel Burriss hitting. Burriss never did hit. And so, the Giants turned to Plan D: Hoping Ryan Theriot had something left in the tank.
It took nearly three months of bad offense, but since coming back from a stint on the Disabled List, Theriot has actually done pretty well at second. I don’t like that Bruce Bochy decides to bat him second, but there are more important things to worry about than the batting lineup.
The Giants are a team built around pitching, yet this year the starting pitching has not lived up to its billing. The Giants rank 8th in FIP and a more respectable 5th in ERA. That is still pretty far from the team that from 2009 to 2011 ranked 2nd in FIP and first in ERA.
The causes of the slip are pretty obvious: The two Cy Young awards winners on the staff have been two of the worst pitchers in the National League.
The worst part of the Lincecum struggles is that there really isn’t a solid reason for why it is happening. Just about everyone has their own theory as to what is wrong (just listen to SportsPhone680 after one of his starts). I am not a pitching coach by any stretch of the imagination (that wasn’t covered at my college), so I will not pretend that I can spot mechanical issues. That said, as a lay person, I really haven’t seen any obvious issues. When I watch him pitch, I still see a guy with plus stuff that can get a lot of swings and misses. I also see a guy that too often will miss his spots badly, which leads to very loud contact.
Switching gears to talk about the things that have gone right: Matt Cain has been way better than what I expected at the beginning of the season. He has increased his strikeout rate to a career high while lowering his walk rate to a career low. Not to mention that perfect game he threw.
Madison Bumgarner is a very good pitcher, and he is younger than a great majority of our readership and the rest of the pitchers in baseball. Think about what you were doing as a 22 year old for a minute, and his accomplishments and potential become even more amazing.
Last but not least is Ryan Vogelsong. Coming into the season my expectations were not too high for him. I didn’t expect that he would repeat last season’s success, but so far, he has picked up where he left off. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I might be waiting for a while. Maybe I should just enjoy the fun while it last and hope that it keeps going.
The relief core hasn’t been at the same level that Giants fans have come to expect over the last few years. The bullpen has been better than average, but it hasn’t been dominant like in the years past.
That regression is to be expected when you lose your closer to injury, and you trade one of your 7th inning guys in the off-season. Still, Giants fans have come to expect that Brian Sabean will be able to rebuild a bullpen on a shoe string budget. The extra arms he has acquired this year have done okay, but not well enough to replace what was lost.
Javier Lopez has regressed, Clay Hensley has been mortal and the guys from the minors haven’t picked up the slack. If there is any particular spot that the Giants are looking to upgrade at the trade deadline, it will likely be the bullpen.
The Giants have out performed their run differential this season with above average pitching and some timely hitting. They have excelled in close games and won far more than they have lost at home. This is a potential playoff team, but it has some pretty glaring holes that need to be addressed.
The offense is better than last season, but it sure can leave quite a bit to be desired at times.
The pitching isn’t as good as last year with Lincecum struggling to be even a league average pitcher.
The question marks for the second half are pretty apparent for the Giants. Can they continue to score runs at a league average rate and can they get back to be an elite run prevention team?
Right now, I don’t see much more than an 88 win team but I would love to be proven wrong.