© SF Giants Production
The Giants have given us a lot of drama in the first half of the 2013 season. There were remarkable highs and crushing lows, but overall it has been a couple months of confusing, injury ridden baseball. Although most of the rational world is counting the Giants out of playoff contention, there are still a few glimmers of hope here and there. The biggest question seems to be whether or not the front office will decide to keep the reigning champions together, or play the long game and trade away some of their high-profile players for money and prospects. This, along with a division-wide slump has made each game leading up to the All Star break feel disproportionately important. The break has given us all a chance to catch out breath and reexamine a team that has been shaken up numerous times since April.
Lineup and Defense:
© CSN Bay Area
Buster Posey: .325/.395/.536
The only bad thing about Buster Posey is that he won’t be able to play forever. The Giants signed him to a lengthy contract during the offseason, but this has done little to change his amazing production on both sides of the ball. Much like last year, Posey has been the only truly consistent batter in the Giants lineup, hitting for power and racking up a team-high 56 RBIs. The only knock against him is his defensive play at first base, which is mediocre, but this isn’t surprising for someone playing out of position.
Highlight: Walk-off home run against the Dodgers.
Brandon Belt: .260/.336/.448
Belt is one of the most interesting players in baseball, in my opinion. Despite being an all-around decent hitter and excellent first baseman, he has unwittingly established himself as a lightning rod for criticism. He is one of the most hotly debated Giants; many fans see him as dead weight while others claim that there are great things in his future should the team choose to be patient with him. He always seems to come to the plate at the wrong time; if the bases are loaded with two outs, Belt will find some way to keep the Giants from scoring. I won’t speak on his potential just yet; I’d like to believe that he will hit above .300 next season but until it happens I won’t look at him as anything but a defensive asset. If you find yourself grinding your teeth thinking about Belt, just consider how well he has played his position since joining the team.
Highlight: Four-hit game against the Nationals.
Marco Scutaro: .316/.367/.400
Scutaro has proven that he can get on base with consistency, and for that reason alone he is worth having around. He has proven fallible at second base; I do not know whether it is age or just a regression to the mean but his defensive play has been middling at best. Scutaro strikes me as a player that is only as valuable as the team around him; he can reach base consistently but, when the Giants are struggling to produce runs, can do little else. If the middle of the order is hitting well, Scutaro suddenly becomes an asset, but with Sandoval and Pence struggling, he isn’t proving as useful as his .316 average indicates.
Highlight: Being awesome at his first All-Star game.
Brandon Crawford: .272/.333/.388
For whatever reason, Crawford has avoided much of the criticism leveled at his fellow Brandon for the same offensive foibles. He has definitely shown growth at the plate, but looks to be a couple of years away from becoming an offensive mainstay like Posey or Scutaro. He has made some spectacular plays alongside some boneheaded misplays; he ended the first half of the season with ten errors, the third-most in the league for shortstops. He is the prototypical high-upside player; the Giants are banking on his improvement and it seems logical that it will pay off down the road.
Highlight: Absurdly difficult grab against the Rockies.
Pablo Sandoval: .266/.317/.397
Another hotly-debated infielder, Sandoval has gone from heroically productive to groan-inducing in just a few months. Sandoval is a key batter that the Giants take their cue from; his struggles mirror those of his team and vice versa. He has proven as agile as ever at third base, but this doesn’t make up for his total lack of discipline in the batters box over the last few weeks. He will be one of the players to watch in the second half; if he comes out swinging, look for the team to follow suit. As the only true power-hitter on the team, the Giants need Sandoval healthy and productive. Fun fact: Sandoval is hitting .361 with two outs and RISP.
Highlight: Walkoff smash against the Nationals.
Andres Torres: .256/.304/.361
One of the many players harmed by the Pagan injury, Torres has been a mid-level producer and a slightly below average outfielder. He was originally brought in as a platoon outfielder, but has been seeing a large amount of playing time since Pagan went on the disabled list. His waning defensive skills have stung the Giants, and he hasn’t been able to make up for it with his speed or his bat. It is a weird case of the team basically getting the production they were expecting from a player. It is the fact that he has had to play every day that has been problematic.
Highlight: Walkoff single against the Phillies.
Angel Pagan: .262/.314/.374
Pagan’s inside the park homerun left him with a strained hamstring, forcing him off the roster for the rest of the season. He wasn’t having an amazing season before the injury, but he was a reliable leadoff hitter and a decent outfielder. He was a solid part of the team, certifiably not star calibre but someone who the Giants could depend on. His departure had more of an impact than anyone expected; the outfield hasn’t been quite the same since he left. He brings a passion to the ballclub that is sorely missed. Streaky or not, the Giants will miss him hitting leadoff in the second half of the season.
Highlight: Inside the park walkoff home run against the Rockies.
Hunter Pence: .262/.305/.455
Pence is an interesting case. He has enjoyed the adoration of Giants fans ever since arriving in San Francisco, but hasn’t really lived up to the hype that preceded him. He has a great glove and plays his heart out, but has become such a non-factor in the lineup that he looks like one of the more likely candidates for trade before the deadline. He has plenty of upside; his 48 RBIs are the second-most on the team and he has proven to be a prolific base-stealer. Like Sandoval, he will be setting the tone of the second half. If the Giants opt to keep him around, it will be for his defensive skills and reputation as a clubhouse spark plug.
Highlight: Throwing out Hanley Ramirez at third base against the Dodgers, no-hitter saving catch against the Padres.
Gregor Blanco: .277/.339/.367
Blanco is an understatedly awesome Giant. Although he hasn’t been great as a leadoff hitter, he has enjoyed another relatively productive year in San Francisco. He has great range in the outfield, and his .277 average is proof of a good return on a player the Giants brought in to complement a brand new outfield in 2012. His production has dropped since it became necessary for him to play every day, but he still represents a valuable addition to the team.
Highlight: Leadoff homer against the Braves.
Joaquin Arias: .282/.302/.327
Another low-key role player, Arias has been a great utility infielder since joining the team last season. He started the season off slowly, but had some great hits and proved that he can play any infield position with aplomb. Arias seems like a player that needs a few games as a starter before he gets locked in at the plate. He played third base and shortstop last year, replacing an injured Sandoval and a struggling Crawford and hit a respectable .270 in 79 games. He has been close to an ideal utility player for the Giants, and his stint on the DL after a hamstring strain and appendicitis has taken a good bat off of the Giants’ bench.
Highlight: Nice stop and throw against the Diamondbacks.
Callups (Nick Noonan, Guillermo Quiroz, Tony Abreu, Juan Perez, Hector Sanchez, Brett Pill, Kensuke Tanaka, Francisco Peguero, Cole Gillespie, Jeff Francoeur):
A nasty bout of the injury bug has forced the Giants to use way too many callups. As is so often the case with callups, there have been a few great moments amid a lot of disappointment. Most of the callups have looked totally outclassed by Major League pitching; Gillespie, Pill, Noonan and Quiroz surprised no one by failing to contribute at the plate. For some of them (Noonan, Perez), this is simply lack of experience, for others (Quiroz, Pill, Gillespie) it is a lack of talent. The Giants’ latest additions have been the most interesting, however. Tanaka and Francoeur both have lots of experience, and are used to the spotlight. Whether or not Tanaka can fill in adequately in left field or Francoeur not look totally lost at the plate remains to be seen, but both will be better equipped to handle the rigors of the Majors than some of the younger callups.
Highlights: Perez’ glove, arm. Tanaka’s first catch. Quiroz’ walkoff home run.
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3.02 ERA 122 SO/34 BB
Big Country has been rock solid. He has flirted with no-hitters a few times this season, and reigns as the undisputed ace of the Giants pitching staff. All of this is underlined by his remarkable youth; at 23, he has already shown a dominance and poise that takes some pitchers many years in the majors to develop. He has had a few bad games this season, but they are vastly outweighed by his ability to give the Giants a chance to win against any team. He is a good reason to be excited for the future of Giants baseball.
Highlight: Fearlessly challenging Jesus Guzman to charge him in a game against the Padres.
4.26 ERA 125 SO/48 BB
Lincecum is the most interesting member of the rotation at this point. All eyes are on the Giants to see what they decide to do with their one-time ace. Lincecum has been slowly improving his game over the course of the season, showing some really good stuff against Toronto and Atlanta and finally pitching a no-hitter against the Padres in his most recent outing. Whether or not any of this is evidence of some kind of return remains to be seen. I think Lincecum is too much of a local icon for the Giants to want to trade him this season. It would be worth it to wait and see whether or not he can use his recent success as a blueprint for further improvement. If he proves that that his recent flashes of skill can turn into something more, he may be given another chance by the Giants, or offered a big contract by another team. Until then, he will be working to shore up the Giants’ rotation in the second half.
Highlight: Pitching a no-hitter against the Padres at Petco Park.
7.19 ERA 40 SO/18 BB
Vogelsong’s injury was the most tragic moment of the season so far. After struggling mightily in almost every game since the beginning of April, Vogelsong had what was no doubt the best start of his season agains the Nationals, only to have it cut short. There isn’t much that can be said about Vogey; his recovery is on schedule, but nobody knows how he will pitch once he returns. He has proven to be a master of recovery from previous failures, but is nearing the end of his long, strange career. Should he find his way back to dominance, it would no doubt restore some life to his battered ballclub, but it isn’t something that the Giants should count on.
Highlight: Pitching lights-out against the Nationals.
4.55 ERA 103 SO/37 BB
The shocker of 2013 has been Matt Cain, who has looked pedestrian against teams that once struggled to hit his pinpoint fastballs and changeups. Whether this is a poorly-timed slump or a sign of things to come is one of the most important questions the Giants face going forward. No one will be surprised if Cain manages to salvage his season and help the Giants fight their way back into first; this is Matt Cain, after all. He has shown some signs of his old self, but not enough to keep Bochy and the rest of us from worrying. He will be another important player to watch going forward.
Highlight: Dominating for eight innings against the Rockies.
2.39 ERA 55 SO/23 BB
Terrible legal troubles aside, Gaudin has proven himself as a viable starter. Whether he can keep it up remains to be seen; the Giants need to be careful not to overuse him as he is not accustomed to long outings. It is difficult to predict what will happen to Gaudin going forward. No matter how well he pitches, the Giants should not hesitate to take him off of the roster if the accusations against him are true.
Highlight: Pitching really well in his first start against the Cardinals.
4.88 ERA 67 SO/41 BB
Zito has returned to Earth. He should be commended for his hard work and astounding effectiveness last season, but whatever was working for him in 2012 is gone. If the rest of the rotation were performing as well as we expected them to, Zito would not look like such a liability, but as it stands, he is another item on a long list of pitching problems the Giants must address. Of all the struggling Giants pitchers hoping to improve in the second half, Zito has the lowest chance of succeeding, but that doesn’t mean we should call it quits on him just yet.
Highlight: Pitching seven scoreless innings against the Cardinals.
10.61 ERA 18.2 IP 21 SO/8 BB
I have a weird vision of a highschool sports movie type scene in which Kickham comes in to close out a game against the Dodgers. He throws some wild pitches before Posey comes out and tells him to ‘trust his stuff’. Kickham steels himself and throws a gorgeous pitch right past Hanley Ramirez. Hanley goes “Woah…”, cue montage of Kickham dominating batters for the rest of the season. Yeah, its sorta weird, but Kickham has some good stuff and it wouldn’t surprise me if he manages to shave some digits off of his ERA in the games to come. He was slated to start games in two of the most hostile ballparks to the Giants, Dodger Stadium and the Oakland Colliseum, and showed some serious poise before getting knocked out of the game. I foresee good things.
2.01 ERA 22.1 IP 21 SO/9 BB
Rosario was thrown into the mix in the middle of a very rough patch for the Giants’ bullpen. He seemed content to hang sliders for the first few of his relief appearances, but has since gotten himself together and helped the Giants out a lot. Of all the new pitchers the Giants called up this season, Rosario looks the most green, but that doesn’t mean he is bad. As he gets adjusted to the Majors he should improve.
4.85 ERA 42.2 IP 40 SO/ 16 BB
Kontos was an unsung hero last season, but has struggled in his late relief role since April. Bochy gave him a few more chances than he deserved to sort out his slider before he was sent down to the minors. The window is closing fast for Kontos; the Giants have gotten enough good out of their callups that he may no longer be worth keeping around.
3.55 ERA 33.0 IP 21 SO/ 16 BB
Another rock-gone-wrong, Affeldt had an awful start to the season and hasn’t been able to replicate his 2012 dominance. Affeldt is one of the more cerebral pitchers on the Giants; he wears his failures around his neck and struggles to let things go. He is also a pitcher who steps up in high-pressure situations, and may improve as the drama of the pennant race heightens.
3.31 ERA 16.1 IP 13 SO/4 BB
Another good part of the first half of the season, Dunning has done a lot of good for the Giants in his short stint with the team. At 24, he looks like a solid long-term righty addition to the Giants bullpen. He may end up battling Sandy Rosario for a spot on the roster now that Casilla has returned.
1.80 ERA 20.0 IP 16 SO/ 13 BB
Casilla’s injury seemed to herald a decline in the overall quality of a once-dominant bullpen. He is the only true flamethrower the Giants have, and is an effective complement to Javier Lopez in late innings. If he is able to control his fastball as well as he did last season he will be a big help when the Giants try to lock down the late innings.
1.61 ERA 22.1 IP 25 SO/ 9 BB
Bochy seems to use Lopez very carefully; although his numbers are extremely good he rarely gets the chance to go after more than three batters. Whether this is warranted is hard to say; Lopez is clearly a good guy to have in the bullpen, but may not be able to maintain his stuff like Gaudin or Affeldt.
2.48 ERA 32.2 IP 37 SO/10 BB
Mijares was a great late-season addition in 2012, putting in good work against lefties and helping out the Giants in the NLCS and World Series. He is the Gregor Blanco of the bullpen; a really valuable if unheralded addition to an already solid bullpen.
2.86 ERA 34.2 IP 38 SO/7 BB
The Giants recent slump has kept Romo from getting consistent work, but he has been great as the closer. Romo is a over-thinker and perfectionist, but has managed to keep his head in a good place for most of the season. He will also benefit from the escalating intensity of the second half of the season; Romo shines under bright lights. If he should struggle, the Giants have a decent alternative in Casilla.