As I write this, the San Francisco Giants are 33-25 and trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by four games in the NL West. The Giants have suffered their share of injuries but remain right in the thick of the race, thanks to some expert juggling of the lineup by manager Bruce Bochy.
With just over one-third of the season in the books, it's a good time to analyze and grade the performance of each player.
Buster Posey has bounced back from his 2011 injury
Buster Posey missed the last four months of the 2011 season due to a devastating injury. He endured an arduous rehab and the Giants weren't sure how much Posey would be able to play heading into the season.
To his credit, Posey has been able to start and catch roughly 80 percent of the games. This gives the pitching staff a huge boost, as they are all very comfortable throwing to Posey. Defensively, Posey has been solid calling pitches, blocking balls in the dirt and throwing.
Posey is hitting .296 with seven home runs and 33 RBI. These are very solid numbers, and the mere fact that Posey has been able to play on a regular basis is a boon for the Giants.
Posey's OBP is a robust .355 and he has an OPS of .829. These are excellent numbers for a catcher.
Hector Sanchez has been a pleasant surprise for the Giants
Hector Sanchez made the Giants roster out of spring training and has done a very solid job backing up Buster Posey.
The question about Sanchez was whether his defense was at a major league level. He is only 22 years old and the Giants were concerned about rushing him. Sanchez hit his way onto the roster with a big spring.
Once the season began, Sanchez has worked mostly with Barry Zito. He has done an admirable job both offensively and defensively.
Sanchez is a very solid hitter, currently batting .273 with two home runs and 17 RBI.
Brandon Belt is still trying to find his comfort zone
Brandon Belt has been one of the bigger disappointments of the season. Much was expected of him and he simply has not provided enough offense at first base.
Many people have consistently said that manager Bruce Bochy should just leave Belt in and let him play. However, you cannot do that when he is over-matched or you lose games. The Giants are not in a position to give away games, so Belt has to earn an every-day job.
That being said, Belt has played more games at first base than all of the Giants' other options. After 110 at-bats, Belt is hitting .236 with no home runs and only 17 RBI. In comparison, backup catcher Hector Sanchez has 17 RBI in only 77 at-bats.
Belt does do a good job getting on base, as he sports a .356 OBP. However, his inability to drive the ball with authority has to have the Giants worried. First base is a power-oriented position. The Giants can ill-afford to have a slap hitter at that spot. Belt's SLG is a mere .345.
Defensively, Belt has done a fairly good job. But he simply needs to hit more to stay in the lineup. Bochy has given Belt several opportunities to seize the job, but Belt has not stepped forward and produced.
It's been tough for Aubrey Huff since 2010
Aubrey Huff was a key player in the Giants' World Series victory in 2010. Since then, however, Huff has fallen on hard times. After signing a hefty $22 million contract, he had a poor season in 2011.
Huff has a history of playing well every other year. This being an even-numbered year and also a contract year, I fully expected Huff to rebound and put up good numbers like he did in 2010. Unfortunately, Huff got off to a slow start and was also battling a social anxiety disorder.
Huff went on the DL to get treatment and seems a lot better. Following his return to the team, Huff has played sparingly, but appears to be a supportive teammate.
I am a fan of Huff's and am hopeful that he can get hot and turn things around. The Giants still have a hole offensively at first base. If Huff can start hitting, he will see more action.
Huff has only 54 at-bats and is hitting a meager .148 with one home run and five RBI. Huff OBP is .299, somewhat remarkable, considering his low batting average. His OPS of only .539 leaves a lot to be desired.
Huff's performance obviously deserves a failing grade, but his attitude is upbeat in the dugout and he has been a positive influence from that standpoint.
Brett Pill has not hit consistently
Of all the Giants, the one player who has seen the most sporadic action and has not been given much of a chance to earn regular at-bats is Brett Pill. He won a roster spot this spring by hitting the cover off the ball, but that has not translated to success in the regular season.
Giants' manager Bruce Bochy had hoped that Pill would give the Giants a potent bat from the right side off the bench. Ideally, Pill would see a few starts and be a power threat as a pinch hitter. At this point in the season, neither objective has been achieved.
Pill is a decent first baseman defensively, but a liability if you put him at any other position. With Brandon Belt getting the majority starts at first base, and Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey also in the mix, Pill has not seen regular at-bats and his performance has suffered.
Pill is currently hitting .224, with three home runs and nine RBI in 76 at-bats. His OBP is only .280 and OPS .662.
There have been several times when Pill has come to the plate with a runner on third base and less than two outs and he has not been able to get the run in.
The only saving grace for Pill is that he has not been given much of a chance to grab hold of the starting job. In order to stay sharp, he needs regular at-bats, but it does not appear that Bochy has that in mind.
Ryan Theriot has seized the second base job
Ryan Theriot got off to a very poor start, both offensively and defensively. Then we learned he had been playing with a bad elbow and required time on the disabled list.
Since his return, Theriot has seized the second base job. He is one of the Giants' hottest hitters and his defense has also improved dramatically. Although Theriot will not use the elbow as an excuse for his poor start, it is apparent that it was hindering his play.
Theriot is hitting .284, after raising his average more than 100 points since his return from the DL only a few weeks ago.
In 102 at-bats, Theriot has no home runs and eight RBI, and an OBP of .339. His OPS is .682. Theriot has been hitting in the second spot in the order and is doing the job that the Giants had hoped Freddy Sanchez would handle.
Theriot has become a regular starter at second base. Since his return, he has helped to ignite the top of the Giants' batting order.
Giant fans are finally beginning to see why GM Brian Sabean was excited about signing Theriot this offseason. He is providing the team quality at-bats and has solidified the second base position.
Emmanuel Burriss has been relegated to a reserve role
Emmanuel Burriss won his spot on the Giants roster with a fine spring. He was also out of options, so the Giants did not want to risk losing him by placing him on waivers. His excellent spring made veteran utility infielder Mike Fontenot expendable.
Burriss had the starting job at second base and got off to a decent start. However, he was unable to sustain his hitting and is now barely hanging on to a job.
I have never been a big fan of Burriss' because he simply is not enough of an offensive threat. Defensively, he is decent at second base, but has trouble at shortstop or third base. Burriss has slumped in recent weeks. Only the lack of a quality replacement is keeping him on the roster.
Burriss is hitting .212 with no home runs and five RBI. He also has no pop in his bat. He only recently got his first extra-base hit, a double.
Burriss has a very low OBP of .278 and even weaker OPS of .499. His OPS is the lowest among any of the position players on the team. Burriss is proving that he cannot hit at a big league level.
This may sound harsh, but I believe Burriss is a 4-A player, who is best utilized as a September call-up in a pinch runner's role.
Brandon Crawford is the every-day shortstop
When the Giants gave Brandon Crawford the starting job at shortstop, they believed they had a superior glove man and hoped he could hit major league pitching. The season has been a learning process for Crawford, both offensively and defensively.
Crawford has 182 at-bats, which is the fourth-most on the team. He is hitting .225 with one home run and 17 RBI. Crawford's OBP of .283 must improve, which will also help his OPS of .596.
Crawford made the team because of his defensive prowess. However, he has had some shaky moments. He leads the team in errors with 10, but has also made some fine plays in the field. As a defensive specialist, Crawford needs to be much more consistent.
The fact of the matter is, until Pablo Sandoval returns to third base and the Giants use Joaquin Arias to fill in at shortstop, Crawford will continue to play every day.
Crawford has shown improvement both offensively and defensively in the last couple of weeks. I believe he is gaining confidence and growing more comfortable playing alongside veteran Ryan Theriot.
Joaquin Arias has played an excellent third base
One of the more pleasant surprises of the season for the Giants has been the play of Joaquin Arias. He has found a home in San Francisco and the Giants are glad they have him.
Arias is a versatile utility infielder, able to play second, short or third. With the injury to Pablo Sandoval, Arias has taken over and solidified the third base position. He has played very well defensively, which gives manager Bruce Bochy some comfort if Sandoval's weight problems affect him at third base.
At one time in his career, Arias was even more highly regarded than New York Yankees superstar Robinson Cano. He has the tools to be a solid contributor for the Giants.
Arias is hitting .233 with one home run and 12 RBI in 128 at-bats. His OBP is .273 and OPS .581. The OBP number should be better, as Arias needs to be more selective at the plate and draw a few more walks.
With Sandoval set to return in a few more days, expect Arias to see playing time subbing for Crawford at shortstop and Theriot at second base.
Pablo Sandoval was an impact hitter prior to his injury
Pablo Sandoval was off to a very good start when he went on the DL with a broken bone in his hand. He was hitting .316 with five home runs and 15 RBI. His OBP was .375 and OPS was .912.
The Giants have missed his bat in the lineup, but Joaquin Arias has filled in admirably, especially on defense. Sandoval is on a rehab assignment in Fresno and is due back early next week.
There are two issues surrounding Sandoval's return, neither of which is good. First, he is being questioned on a sexual assault charge, stemming from an incident in Santa Cruz, which allegedly occurred at around 4 a.m.
At the time, Sandoval was on a rehab assignment in San Jose and scheduled to play later that night. The investigation is still underway. The one thing I can state is that Sandoval should not be out at 4 a.m. when he is just beginning a rehab assignment.
Sandoval has also put on a lot of weight since he went on the DL. Already big at the start of the season, Sandoval is even bigger and that has not made the Giants' brass happy.
In 2010, when Sandoval gained a lot of weight, he had his worst season at the plate, hitting only .268. He was also too big and slow to be an effective third baseman. He was a major liability on defense. As the season progressed into the playoffs, Sandoval found himself on the bench more often than not.
I partially fault the Giants for not monitoring his weight more closely. They could have had him working with a trainer and nutritionist on a daily basis to ensure that he stayed in reasonable shape.
The issue is one of maturity and self-discipline. Sandoval should not be putting himself in a situation where he can be placed in a compromising position. He should also be able to have the discipline to stay in shape and not allow his weight to balloon up.
One of the endearing qualities of Sandoval is that he displays a youthful exuberance and is having fun on the field. However, he also needs to learn some self-discipline off the field.
Melky Cabrera has been the Giants' best hitter
There were a lot of questions surrounding the trade that brought Melky Cabrera to the Giants for pitchers Jonathan Sanchez and Ryan Verdugo.
Sure, Cabrera hit well in Kansas City with a team that was out of the playoff race, but could he hit at AT&T Park under the pressure of a team battling for the playoffs?
Cabrera had a poor year in the National League in 2010, hitting just .255 when he played for the Braves. Would he revert back to that level or be the player he was in Kansas City when he batted .305 and had more than 200 hits?
Would Sanchez emerge as the dominant pitcher the Giants have only seen glimpses of over his six seasons in San Francisco?
Fortunately for GM Brian Sabean, all of these questions have been answered favorably for the Giants.
Cabrera has flourished and is a legitimate All-Star candidate, while Sanchez has struggled and also been plagued by injury.
Cabrera has energized the Giants' offense and is hitting .364 with four home runs and 28 RBI. He has also stolen 10 bases and leads the majors with 87 hits. Cabrera sports an OBP of .403 and an OPS of .934, both of which lead the Giants.
The only knock on Cabrera is that his average with men in scoring position is about 90-100 points below his overall mark. This is an area where he can improve, which would help the Giants score more runs.
Cabrera has been very good defensively and has bonded with fellow outfielders Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco.
Cabrera has stated that he really enjoys playing in San Francisco. It is incumbent on the Giants to sign him to a contract extension, as he is due to be a free agent at the end of the year.
Angel Pagan has found a home in San Francisco
Angel Pagan was acquired by the Giants in a trade with the New York Mets. The Giants sent relief pitcher Ramon Ramirez and fan favorite Andres Torres, an outfielder, to the Big Apple.
Pagan started slowly but has come on strong. He is hitting .321 with five home runs and 21 RBI. Pagan has also stolen 12 bases. Pagan has provided good punch in the fifth spot in the batting order after leading off the first month of the season.
In the first seven games of the season, Pagan had three hits in his first 27 at-bats. Since then, he has been a model of consistency, hitting safely in 46 of his past 48 games.
Pagan has had some problems defensively, committing five errors, already this season. Five errors for an outfielder is too many, especially with only a third of the season gone. Most of the errors have come on fairly routine plays that can be classified as mental lapses.
Overall, Pagan has provided a major upgrade in center field for the the Giants' offense.
Gregor Blanco has energized the Giants' lineup
The biggest surprise among the Giants' position players has been Gregor Blanco. He has stepped into the leadoff spot and is a catalyst at the top of the batting order.
Blanco is hitting .288 with three home runs and 12 RBI. Showing his value as a leadoff man, Blanco has scored 31 runs in only 48 games.
Blanco's biggest assets are his speed and ability to get on base. He has an OPB of .390 and has stolen six bases. His OPS is a very strong .858, which is excellent for a leadoff man.
Defensively, Blanco is playing well and has emerged as the every-day starter in right field.
Blanco is 28 years old and has bounced around with the Braves, Royals and A's organizations prior to coming to the Giants. He seems to have found a home with the Giants.
The outfield trio of Cabrera, Pagan and Blanco genuinely like each other and enjoy playing together. They have a great chemistry and feed off each other.
Nate Schierholtz could not hold on to his starting job
Giants manager Bruce Bochy gave Nate Schierholtz the chance to start every day. However, Schierholtz has been inconsistent, susceptible to lengthy slumps.
With the emergence of Gregor Blanco, Schierholtz has been relegated to pinch-hitting duties and sometimes enters the game in the late innings as a defensive replacement.
In 98 at-bats, Schierholtz is hitting only .242 with three home runs and 10 RBI. He has an OBP of .294 and SLG of .698. Blanco has taken the job away from Schierholtz, who seems destined to be a career backup.
Schierholtz is still an outstanding defensive player and is an ideal fourth or fifth outfielder. He has never hit consistently or stayed healthy enough to be a reliable every-day player.
Tim Lincecum has struggled in 2012
Tim Lincecum has been the ace of the Giants' pitching staff and is a two-time Cy Young Award winner.
However, Lincecum has struggled with his mechanics and his command. Lincecum's velocity has dropped consistently. When he first came to the Giants, Lincecum threw in the 95-96 mph range.
His fastball is now topping out at 92-93, but usually is in the 90-91 mph range. This means that Lincecum must rely more on location, as he is no longer able to simply blow away hitters with the heat.
Lincecum still has an effective change-up, curve ball and slider, but his command has been spotty. What has been even more frustrating is Lincecum's penchant for allowing the big inning. He has not been able to stay away from the big inning, which has cost him and the Giants.
In Lincecum's 12 starts, the Giants are 2-10, which makes it even more amazing that this club is eight games over .500. With Lincecum, it seems like a matter of focus, concentration and confidence. I say this because after allowing a big inning, Lincecum has frequently settled down and pitched well.
Lincecum is 2-6 with an ERA of 5.83 and WHIP of 1.523. In 66.1 innings of work, Lincecum has struck out 72 hitters, but walked 35.
Of the five starters in the rotation, Lincecum has been the weakest link. He has a ton of pride and has shown signs of snapping out of his funk.
Madison Bumgarner is pitching very well for the Giants
Madison Bumgarner is only 22 years old, but he pitches like a veteran and perennial All-Star. Bumgarner has a record of 7-4 with an ERA of 3.26 and WHIP of 1.150.
Bumgarner has shown excellent command of his pitches. In 80 innings, Bumgarner has struck out 62 while walking only 18. His poise and maturity on the mound are amazing, considering his age.
The emergence of Bumgarner as a steady and reliable pitcher is a reason the Giants signed him to a five-year contract extension, which will keep the young lefty with the team through at least 2017. There are also options for 2018 and 2019.
Matt Cain has taken over as the staff ace
Matt Cain has been the steady, reliable pitcher while Tim Lincecum has been the exciting, dynamic one. Both are great pitchers and gave the Giants an outstanding one-two punch.
With Lincecum struggling, Cain has stepped forward as the staff ace. He has a record of 7-2 with an ERA of 2.41. Cain has struck out 82 hitters and walked only 16. In 86 innings of work, Cain has allowed only 65 hits. His WHIP is an outstanding 0.942.
Cain has been a "horse," eating up innings and giving the Giants a chance to win virtually every time out. He is well on his way to his third All-Star selection.
Barry Zito is having a resurgence
The most amazing and unexpected surprise for the Giants in 2012 has been the pitching of Bary Zito. After five abysmal seasons with the Giants, Zito seems to have found the Fountain of Youth.
He is 5-2 with an ERA of 2.98 and WHIP of 1.25. The biggest difference for Zito his ability to get all of his pitches over for quality strikes.
Over the past few years, when Zito struggled the most, he was always falling behind the hitters by nibbling or simply being unable to throw strikes. By pitching from ahead, as he is doing more now, Zito can utilize his array of pitches to keep opposing hitters off balance.
Zito's resurgence has been critical for the Giants, especially given the struggles of Tim Lincecum.
Ryan Vogelsong was the feel-good story of 2011
Ryan Vogelsong came out of near oblivion to become an All-Star pitcher in 2011. He has followed that up with a very strong start in 2012.
Vogelsong opened the season on the DL due to a bad back, but since his return in mid-April, Vogelsong has been outstanding. He is 4-2 with an ERA of 2.38 and WHIP of 1.22.
Vogelsong's ERA is actually the lowest among the Giants' starters and fifth-best in the National League. At the age of 34, Vogelsong is pitching the best of his life.
Shane Loux joined the Giants when Mota was suspended
Shane Loux is a 32-year-old journeyman, who was toiling for Fresno, the Giants' Triple-A affiliate. He had last pitched in the majors in 2009 with the Angels.
Loux was throwing the ball well and got the call to join the Giants when Guillermo Mota was suspended for testing positive for a banned substance.
In a small sample size of only 7.1 innings, Loux has an ERA of 2.45 and a WHIP of 1.09. Giants' manager Bruce Bochy has not felt comfortable using Loux in crucial situations.
For now, Loux is the Giants' long man in the bullpen. This means he doesn't get much work, given the excellence of the Giants' starting pitching.
Steve Edlefsen has been inconsistent
Steve Edlefsen did not make the Giants' Opening Day roster, but was called up when Brian Wilson went down due to injury. Edlefsen's out pitch is a hard sinker, which can induce ground balls, when needed.
Edlefsen has had some excellent outings, but has also had a few shaky ones. In order for him to gain the confidence of manager Bruce Bochy, he needs to be much more consistent.
In 14.1 innings, Edlefsen has allowed 18 hits and walked four. He has struck out nine batters.
Edlefsen's ERA is 4.40 and WHIP is 1.53. His ERA is actually the highest of any of the Giants' relief corps.
Clay Hensley has been a valuable acquisition
Giants general manager Brian Sabean made several moves this past winter. One of his most under-the-radar acquisitions was signing journeyman pitcher Clay Hensley.
Hensley struggled in 2011 when he pitched for the Florida Marlins. He had an ERA of 5.19 and was not in high demand.
However, Hensley has been the unsung hero of the Giants' bullpen. In 23 innings, Hensley has allowed 18 hits, struck out 22 and walked 13. He is 2-3 and has an impressive ERA of 1.96 and WHIP of 1.35.
With injuries to Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Brian Wilson, Jeremy Affeldt and the suspension of Guillermo Mota, Hensley has provided some outstanding relief. He has given the Giants far more than they could have hoped for when they signed him.
Javier Lopez is a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen
Javier Lopez is a left-handed relief specialist who may only come in a game to get one or two key outs. He generally will face a tough left-handed hitter in a critical situation late in the game.
Lopez's success is essential for the Giants. He has appeared in 25 games, but has only thrown 13.2 innings.
Lopez has had a couple of bad outings that have skewed his overall numbers. Outside of those appearances, Lopez has been very reliable and done his job. He is 3-0 with an ERA of 3.29 and WHIP of 1.54. He has struck out 12 and walked six.
Jeremy Affeldt injured his knee and spent time on the DL
Jeremy Affeldt is in his fourth season with the Giants. He is throwing the ball well and has stepped in nicely when Sergio Romo and Santiago Casilla each missed a few games due to injury.
Affeldt, who just turned 33 years old, has been a valuable pitcher out of the bullpen for manager Bruce Bochy. He has an ERA of 2.53 and WHIP of 1.27 in 21.1 innings of work. Affeldt has struck out 20 and walked seven.
Sergio Romo has been outstanding, when healthy
Sergio Romo has had an outstanding start to the 2012 season. He is performing at an All-Star level and is the Giants' set-up man.
Because his motion puts a lot of torque on his knees, Romo has had problems with knee strains and dislocations. For this reason, he has not been able to pitch as much as he and manager Bruce Bochy may have liked.
However, this may ultimately be a blessing in disguise. Romo has not been overworked and his arm is still fresh, which will be very important over the second half of the season.
Romo has thrown 16.2 innings, allowing only eight hits and one earned run. He has struck out 22 while walking only five. Romo has a record of 2-0 with three saves.
Romo's has an ERA of 0.54 and a WHIP of 0.78. These are incredible numbers. When healthy, Romo has been nearly automatic.
Santiago Casilla has stepped in for Brian Wilson
For the past four seasons, Brian Wilson has been the Giants' closer, averaging more than 40 saves in that period. When Wilson was lost for the season with his second Tommy John surgery, the Giants needed to either find a closer or go to a committee approach.
Santiago Casilla got the first few opportunities and came through. Manager Bruce Bochy gave him more chances and Casilla responded, seizing control of the closer's job. He has proven to be very reliable. His 15 saves lead the team.
The emergence of Casilla has been essential to the Giants' success. He has thrown 24.2 innings and allowed 20 hits. Casilla has struck out 20 and walked eight. If Casilla continues to have success closing out games, the Giants have a great chance to win the NL West.
Giants' GM Brian Sabean has built a solid team
The San Francisco Giants have weathered the loss of Brian Wilson, Freddy Sanchez and Pablo Sandoval. They have actually gained ground on the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. With Sandoval scheduled to return shortly, the Giants are excited to get his bat back in the lineup.
The Giants are built around their impressive starting pitching staff. With the stellar pitching the Giants feature, they have a chance to win every game they play.
The Giants have upgraded their offense with the return of Buster Posey and the acquisitions of Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan, Gregor Blanco and Ryan Theriot. The offense still lacks power, but they have more hitters, greater speed and find ways to score runs.
Defense is the one area that needs improvement. The Giants lead the league in errors and there are other plays that should be made that aren't. Errors and missed plays not only give the other team extra outs, but they also place a greater burden on the pitcher and force him to throw more pitches.
The Giants are, once again, playing and winning close games, much like the 2010 World Series championship team.
Giants' GM Brian Sabean may need to add another relief pitcher or two, and he may look for a power bat at first base. The Giants will be in the thick of the playoff chase for the remainder of the year. With a couple of tweaks and decent health, they have the talent to make another deep playoff run.
Overall team grade: B+