After MLB-best first half, will Giants’ bubble burst?

johnny cueto bubble

The 2016 San Francisco Giants are a confusing bunch. They started out looking like a band of sluggers, but now they’re 29th in home runs. They’re tied for the major league lead in blown saves, yet their record in close games has been outstanding. Perhaps strangest of all, they really got cooking after their list of injured players started growing.

After one of the most positive Junes this team has had in recent memory, and a July that so far has been even better, they have the majors’ best record. Nothing seems to stop these guys, yet there’s a feeling in the back of your head that the bottom could fall out at any time. They had four All-Stars and Brandon Crawford clearly should’ve made that five, but this is a team that’s counting on Grant Green and really hopes Cory Gearrin can recover from his shoulder ailment soon. There’s a fragility here that one doesn’t usually get attached to teams on pace to win 102 games. Then again, if they’re this good now …

As a second half preview of sorts, let’s check out this team’s red flags, plus the reasons why we could consider them a threat to perform even better as the days get warmer.


  • The Giants have the third-best record in one-run games (20-10). Just to show how flukey that stat can be, they’re behind the Rangers (19-7) and Phillies (20-9).
  • The Giants are 40-19 against under-.500 teams. The Dodgers are 33-17. No other team has that many wins against bad teams, in large part because the Giants and Dodgers have played more games against teams with bad records than anyone else. The bottom of the NL West is a broken septic system, by the way.
  • Conversely, the Giants (17-14) have played just 31 games against above-.500 teams, by far the fewest in the majors. The next closest are the Dodgers (18-23) and Marlins (21-20).
  • The Giants’ Pythagorean record — based on run differential — is 53-37. That’s four games worse than their actual record and just 1.5 games better than the Dodgers’ Pythagorean record.
  • San Francisco’s second half schedule won’t be nearly as easy. Of their final 72 games, 39 will be against teams with above-.500 records, including 19 of 27 games in August.
  • Cueto leads the majors in innings and Bumgarner leads in batters faced.
  • Bumgarner is on pace to pitch 232 innings, 14 more than his regular season career high. Cueto is on pace for 240 innings, the most since his MLB-leading 243.2 in 2014. (Those numbers take into account Cueto and Jeff Samardzija swapping spots in the rotation. As a result, Bumgarner can start 34 times and Cueto is slated to make 33 starts.)
  • The Giants are still “slow-playing” Matt Duffy, as his Achilles injury is keeping him from running all out in a straight line.
  • Ramiro Pena and Green probably won’t combine to hit .333/.358/.462 in the second half.
  • Crawford’s current splits: .281/.353/.447
  • Crawford’s career first half splits: .256/.324/.402
  • Crawford’s career second half splits: .240/.306/.372
  • Samardzija has allowed 10 home runs in his last 41.1 innings after giving up just 5 in his first 76 innings.


  • The travel part of their schedule isn’t too bad. They have two off days next week (before and after the two-game series at Fenway), days off before and after their nine-game eastern road swing to start August (against the Phillies, Nats and Marlins), followed by a stretch of 20 straight days in August where they don’t leave California. They get the same number of off days in the second half (eight) as they did in the first half, and their second half consists of 18 fewer games.
  • Hunter Pence could start playing minor league rehab games tomorrow.
  • Joe Panik could begin his rehab assignment a day after Pence.
  • Matt Cain should return to the rotation this week.
  • Kelby Tomlinson and Ehire Adrianza are currently rehabbing in the minors.
  • The Giants won 57 games without much of a contribution from Denard Span (0.1-0.3 WAR, depending on where you look).
  • Sergio Romo is back after almost three months off.
  • Gearrin’s shoulder strain doesn’t sound serious.
  • Javier Lopez has been poor throughout this season, but his last four outings were clean.
  • The Giants will acquire a reliever before the deadline. While many are hoping for Andrew Miller, the prospects required to land him may turn their attention to lefties on bad teams like Will Smith or Fernando Abad, or righties on a bad team (the Angels) like Joe Smith or Huston Street. One way or another, the Giants will bolster their bullpen. Perhaps with a Smith or two.
  • Posey could go into one of his mega-hot streaks in the second half. He’s been hitting .386 since June 13 (25 games), with 15 walks and 11 strikeouts over that stretch.

It’s impossible to project these things, as every baseball fan knows all too well. The 2014 title team started 43-22 and went 45-52 the rest of the way. Even the heralded 1993 team, the best non-postseason team in San Francisco Giants history, lost eight games in a row in September, all at home.

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