The San Francisco Giants find themselves at the All-Star break in a pretty good spot in the NL West. Just a half a game behind the Dodgers, the Black and Orange will hopefully be right in the thick of it right down until the end of the season. But first, Let's take a closer look at how the team has gotten to where they are, and hand out a few grades along the way.
Giants fans have gotten accustomed to having outstanding pitching all around. But this year, they've had to take their medicine a bit with the loss of Brian Wilson to another Tommy John, Guillermo Mota to a 50 game suspension, and of course Tim Lincecum (3-10, 6.42 ERA), who frankly has looked more like Todd Wellemeyer than Tim Lincecum.
Nevertheless, Santiago Casilla has done well in the closing role (21 of 25 saves, 2.84 ERA) , Barry Zito has shown signs of improvement (7-6, 4.01 ERA), and oh yeah Matt Cain threw a PEFECT FREAKIN' GAME, had an 8-game win streak, and threw in 118 strikeouts for good measure. So there's that.
Let us not forget Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner either, who have a combined 17-9 record and 176 strikeouts. Vogey enters the break second in the NL with a 2.36 ERA, while Bummy was one win shy of tying fellow lefty Shawn Estes' 1997 mark of 11 wins before the break. Lincecum did it in 2008 as well. Yeah, I'd say that's decent.
Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez continue to be solid. Brad Penny is back (yay?). There are certainly lots of pluses going on. But with Lincecum continually getting shelled, the class average is down despite Cain's perfecto.
The Giants offense has certainly been better this year as whole, entering the break fourth in the NL average (.262) and hits (758). Much of that is thanks to Melky Cabrera (.353 avg., 119 hits), who has been on fire seemingly the entire first half of the season.Still, San Francisco is 11th in runs (336), 12th in RBI's (315), and of course, dead last in home runs with 50 total.
Still, they've found the formula for base stealing with a litany of speedsters, sitting third in the league with 67 stolen bags. This has been a huge turn around from the past few (maybe more) seasons, and has certainly played a vital role this season.
Buster Posey hasn't missed a beat since returning from a year off, starting his first ever All-Star game while bringing his .289 average, 10 dingers and 43 ribbies with him. Pablo Sandoval did miss a good chunk of the first half with hamate part deux, but still is batting .307 with eight homers as well.
Brandon Belt is becoming a major league slugger before our eyes, who after a slow start is now batting .254 with four homers, but more impressive are his three triples and five stolen bags. Angel Pagan has cooled off lately but his 11, 15, and 20 game hit streaks were certainly impressive as well.
The trio of Cabrera, Posey and Sandoval have been doing the brunt of the work, which the Giants can somewhat get away with it because of the pitching. A little more output would be nice though.
The error virus that seemed the plage the team for months has subsided for the most part. The Giants are still second in the NL with 66 errors, making three of them in their loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday, but on the whole it has gotten better.
In the infield Brandon Crawford has really steadied his hands after kicking just about every ball that was hit his way i Apirl and May. Joaquin Arias has proven to be a terrific glove at just about every position possible. Ryan Theriot has filled in nicely in Freddy Sanchez's now likely permanent absence (we'll get to that), while Brandon Belt and Pablo Sandoval have had the corners on lock down.
As for the outfield, the trio of Cabrera, Pagan and Gregor Blanco have shown to be an outstanding group. Aside from the occasional mental error made by Pagan, this may be tone of he best defensive outfields the Giants have had in a while, especially when water buffaloes like Aubrey Huff aren't marooned out in left field (we'll get to him too).
I think Nate Schierholtz is still on this team somewhere too.
When they are hot with the glove, the whole team looks great. But when they go cold, they go ice cold. 66 errors in 86 games is A LOT.
There have been a number of off-field distractions for the Giants this year. From Pablo Sandoval's alleged sexual assault charges, Aubrey Huff's 'panic attack' episode/ DL stint, and of course, the aforementioned Guillermo Mota and his PED problems. The Giants handle all these possible distractions like pros and keep the team focused on the task at hand. Winning ball games.
The latest 'extracurricular' comes in the form of a sad note from Freddy Sanchez, who's Giants career is likely over after having back surgery late last week that will keep him from any baseball activities for the rest of the season. Although this likely won't be much of a distraction for the team, it still sucks big time and I wish Freddy all the best.
Grade: √ - (not all grades are representational)
Overall Grade: B
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