A lot of surprises have come this year for the San Francisco Giants.
Some have been good, some have been bad.
Tim Lincecum? Horrible. Gregor Blanco? Great. Melky Cabrera? Fantastic. Aubrey Huff? Terrible. A lot of Giants have exceeded expectations and provided a huge boost to the club, while others have killed the team with bad performances.
And today, I'm here to recognize the heroes and put down the villains of the Giants.
Here are grades for the 25 Giants currently on the team's roster.
Let's start with the obvious.
Lincecum has been terrible. He isn't throwing the ball as hard, he is missing his spots and he is consistently allowing a ton of runs. Many people think the issues are mental, as Lincecum seems to be having a tough time recovering from his poor start.
The two-time Cy Young winner is 3-10 with a 6.42 ERA, and his ERA is the worst out of the 101 ERA qualifiers. While Lincecum has pitched well at some points (he didn't allow a run in a win against the Dodgers on June 27), he has not helped the Giants. When Lincecum pitches, the Giants are 4-14.
I think you know the range this grade will be in.
This year, Cain has been the complete opposite of Lincecum.
Despite getting little run support, Cain has dominated. He is 9-3 with a 2.62 ERA, and his record would be better if Santiago Casilla hadn't blown two saves. Cain is an All-Star for the third time, and he will start the game.
And it's hard to talk about Cain without mentioning his perfect game.
13 days later, before a Giants-Dodgers game, San Francisco mayor Ed Lee awarded Cain the key to the city (pictured above). After presenting that to Cain, he announced that June 13 would be Matt Cain Day in San Francisco.
Cain deserved the honor, and he deserved all the success that he has been having. Lincecum has been struggling, and Cain has picked up the slack. Without him, the Giants would probably be four or five games back and in third place.
Just like Cain, Vogelsong has flat-out dominated.
The 2011 All-Star and 2012 All-Star snub is 7-4 with a 2.36 ERA, and his record should be better. The Giants have failed to provide runs for him, but Vogelsong is still pitching well. At home, Vogelsong has been almost un-hittable.
I watched him pitch twice at home and he went 7+ innings both times. Once, he shut out the Dodgers in seven great innings, and the other time, he allowed just one run while going 7.2 innings in a win over Texas. Vogelsong is still comfortable with runners on base.
Usually, Vogelsong works the corners and hits his spots effectively so that batters get weak contact. He has been doing that very well this year, as opponents only have a .221 batting average against him.
While Vogelsong hasn't been getting the love directed to Cain, he has also been dominant. And, he deserves the same grade as Cain.
Just like Cain and Vogelsong, Bumgarner has stepped up for the Giants. However, he hasn't been as good as Vogelsong and Cain.
Bumgarner leads the team with ten wins, although his 3.27 ERA places third out of the five starters. In his last start Bumgarner allowed seven earned runs against the Nationals, but in the start before that, he threw a one-hit shutout against the Reds.
The lefty has dominated at some times, and he has continued to strike out a lot of guys and rarely walk anyone. However, Bumgarner has been inconsistent, and sometimes, he just doesn't throw the ball well. In his most recent start, Bumgarner made a lot of mistakes. As a result, he gave up three home runs.
Overall, Bumgarner has pitched well. However, he will have to be more consistent in the second half to really help the Giants.
Barry Zito has exceeded expectations, but he hasn't been great.
Zito is 7-6 with a 4.01 ERA, and at the beginning of the year, he was dominant. After shutting out the Chicago Cubs in early June, Zito was 5-2 with a 2.98 ERA. However, he lost three straight starts, and now his ERA is a lot higher.
In his last start, Zito allowed four earned runs in five innings. Usually, Zito allows a few runs but keeps the Giants in the game. That's what he did Friday night against the Pirates, as he scored his seventh win of the season.
Zito has been known to slump in the second half of the season, and if he does, expect the Giants to go after a starting pitcher at the trade deadline. However, for the most part Zito has pitched well, and since he has exceeded expectations (and dominated at times), he doesn't deserve a bad grade.
Romo has probably been the best pitcher for the Giants.
The star reliever has an ERA of 0.72 and a WHIP of 0.72. Romo is 5-for-5 on save opportunities and he has struck out 30 batters in just 25 innings pitched. Even though Romo has elbow problems and struggles when pitching a long time, he has still been great.
Romo's slider is arguably the best pitch in baseball. It looks the same as his fastball, so batters often have to guess. The slider slides across the strike zone right before the batter can hit it, and it's nearly impossible to hit. Oh, and he has a good change-up too.
Overall, Romo is nearly un-hittable. He is the definition of a shutdown reliever, and that's why he deserves the best grade out of the pitchers.
Sergio Romo played a big part in San Francisco's 2010 World Series win, but Javier Lopez played a bigger part.
The lefty dominated, and left-handed hitters had zero luck against him. Lopez got the win in Game 6 of the NLCS, and his pitching was a key component in the Giants' success. However, his pitching has hurt the team this year.
Lopez has a 4.00 ERA, which is terrible for a reliever. He still gets ahead of the count often, but he has been inaccurate this year. Lefties are having success against him, as he has been walking them and allowing extra-base hits to them. Lopez was called on to pitch to lefty Pedro Alvarez Friday night, and Alvarez homered off of him.
While Lopez can still strike guys out, he is walking too many guys (10 walks in 18 innings) and allowing too many hits. Oh, and he isn't dominant against lefties anymore.
If Lopez starts slow in the second half, Heath Hembree (or another reliever) could be called up and Lopez could be sent down.
Santiago Casilla has been an up-and-down pitcher this year.
He converted 20 of his first 21 save opportunities, and in mid-June Casilla had a 1.32 ERA. However, Casilla has been inaccurate recently and he has blown three of his last four save opportunities. Now, the hard-throwing righty has a 2.84 ERA.
Sometimes Casilla comes to the mound and pitches terribly. He is inaccurate, and he makes a lot of mistakes. He is very hittable, as he falls behind in the count a lot and is forced to throw a hittable pitch.
People think Casilla shouldn't close, and I agree. He has fallen behind on counts and made a lot of mistakes, and he is starting to walk batters. While Casilla exceeded my expectations at closer, he doesn't deserve a great grade for his recent performance.
I don't really know what to say about Hensley.
Hensley has been up-and-down this year. He has a 3.66 ERA, which isn't good for a reliever. However, he hasn't allowed a run in six of his last seven appearances, which is good. Hensley has walked 20 guys in 32 innings, which isn't good.
Even though Hensley has come through at big times and helped the Giants' bullpen, he isn't very consistent. He throws a lot of balls and walks a lot of batters, and his 1.50 WHIP could certainly improve.
However, for the most part, Hensley has been good for the team.
George Kontos hasn't pitched much, but when he has pitched, he has impressed.
Kontos has a 2.57 ERA and has struck out 16 batters in 14 innings. Kontos recorded his first hold of the season on Friday against the Pirates, as he pitched a perfect eighth. It seems like Bruce Bochy is preparing Kontos for a large role in the bullpen.
Kontos' WHIP is 1.14, which is good. He is one of the better pitchers in the bullpen, and he will only get better. If the Giants make the playoffs, Kontos will play a large role. But for now, he's just trying to establish himself.
And he's doing a good job.
Brad Penny was just called up from the minors, and he hasn't pitched much. However, he has pitched well.
Penny has pitched 6.1 innings as a Giant, and he has allowed two earned runs (giving him a 2.84 ERA). Since he has barely pitched this year, Bochy seems to be getting him settled in before giving him a larger role in the bullpen.
Penny hasn't walked a batter this year, and he has struck out four batters. The 34-year old has lots of experience, and if the Giants make the playoffs, the experienced Penny will play a big role.
Again, Penny hasn't pitched much so my grade won't be too accurate. But so far Penny has pitched well, and he has helped the Giants. Hitters aren't making good contact against him, and you should expect that trend to continue.
Jeremy Affeldt is hard to grade, even though he has pitched a lot.
Affeldt is 0-1 with a 2.90 ERA this year, which isn't great for a reliever. However, his career ERA is 4.07, so he is having a good season. Affeldt had pitched 10 innings without allowing a run (from June 16 to July 4), but then he was lit up by Pittsburgh and Washington.
Affeldt isn't consistent, but when he is pitching well, he is hard to hit. On June 26 against the Dodgers, Affeldt retired the top of the Dodgers order in convincing fashion. Dee Gordon, the first batter, was caught watching a fastball catch the outside corner, and Elian Herrera and Andre Ethier grounded out.
However, Affeldt will have to be more consistent. Heath Hembree could be called up when he heals from his injury (which will be soon), and Bruce Bochy's son Brett is doing well in Double-A. Affeldt could be sent down if he doesn't start the second half well, which is something he wants to avoid.
We know how well Affeldt can pitch. But he will have to pitch like the guy who dominated the Dodgers more often to pitch more down the stretch.
Any concerns about Buster Posey never returning to his old form (after his injury) were silenced after Posey dominated in April.
And those concerns haven't come back.
Posey is hitting .289 with ten homers and 43 RBI. Posey has a .362 on-base percentage and has done a great job in the clean-up spot for the Giants. Melky Cabrera hits ahead of him, so Posey has brought Cabrera home or advanced him to another base a lot of times.
Without Posey, it's hard to imagine where the Giants would be. Hector Sanchez has done a good job so far, but he isn't capable of starting every day. Posey is a great catcher, and I think he deserves to start at catcher in the All-Star game. He is very good behind the plate, as he has a strong arm (to throw out runners stealing) and calls a game very well.
Matt Cain didn't question Posey once while Posey called his perfect game.
Posey may be just 25, but he plays like an experienced veteran. After Tuesday's game, he'll have played in an All-Star game, a World Series and a perfect game.
Sanchez has done a nice job pinch-hitting and catching for the Giants.
He is now catching Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito regularly, and he is good at calling a game. Catching Lincecum is a tough task, but Sanchez has thrived. He is putting the glove at good spots, although Lincecum's inaccuracy has caused some problems.
At the plate, Sanchez has been mediocre. He has a .258 batting average and 22 RBI, which isn't terrible. However, he has only drawn two walks. Sanchez has a 24.2 percent strikeout rate, which is not good. His .264 on-base percentage could certainly improve, and I think it will take some time before he can play a large role on any team.
Because with the way Buster Posey is playing, I see no need for Sanchez to start every day for a long time. He probably won't ever be the everyday starter in San Francisco, and there's a reason for that.
One month ago, Belt's grade would have been completely different.
After June 10's loss to the Rangers, Belt had a .224 batting average, no homers and 17 RBI. Belt was struggling mightily, and the only thing he was doing well was defense. Belt is an above-average defensive first baseman, as he can snag high throws and liners with his height.
However, recently Belt has found his swing. He hit three home runs in three straight games (from June 12-14) and he hasn't been striking out much. Even though Belt struggled in the games leading up to the All-Star break, he was playing very well from mid-to-late-June.
Belt's 29.6 percent strikeout rate must improve, but he is hitting better. The "Giraffe" is playing well, but it will take another second half surge for him to solidify his spot in the starting lineup.
Belt is hitting .254 with four homers and 30 RBI, which isn't terrible. He may not have deserved to finish second in All-Star voting for NL first baseman, but he deserves to start for the Giants. And, he deserves a near-average grade.
Theriot is another Giant who is hard to grade.
Sometimes, he gets on base consistently and provides RBI opportunities for Melky Cabrera and Buster Posey. However, other times he loses his swing and takes a few games to find it again. Theriot is a very streaky hitter and, as I mentioned in my article about trade targets for the Giants, the Giants could certainly use an upgrade at second base.
On defense, Theriot is good. He made a double-error in Sunday's loss to the Pirates, but overall he is an above-average defensive second baseman. Theriot has a .981 fielding percentage, which is good. He has a lot of range and can make tough plays at second.
Theriot has a .275 batting average, but his on-base percentage, .310, needs improvement. Just like a lot of other Giants, Theriot will need to be more consistent. However, for now he is doing well in the two-hole and on defense.
I don't really know what to say about Emmanuel Burriss.
He is still on the 25-man roster, despite terrible stats. He has a .208 batting average with no homers and 5 RBI, and he rarely gets extra-base hits. Burriss is an above-average defensive second baseman, as he has a .981 fielding percentage. However, he has played shortstop and third base this year and he is not good on defense there.
In my opinion, Burriss has very little value. He has no power, and he can't hit anything other than singles. On defense he is good, but Ryan Theriot is also an above-average defensive second baseman. I think he should be sent down to the minors to make room for Hembree or another reliever.
And that's why he deserves the second-worst grade on the team.
Brandon Crawford is yet another player who is tough to evaluate, but only because of his performance.
Crawford is a great defensive shortstop, yet he leads the team in errors (most of them on easy outs). Crawford is good at hitting with RISP, which helps the team, but his .240 batting average needs improvement.
San Francisco could use an upgrade at shortstop, but for now they will stick with Crawford. He doesn't have much power and doesn't draw many walks, and he has almost as many strikeouts as he does hits. However, I think Crawford could break out in the second half and be the guy who gets on base in the top of the order or drives guys in down at the bottom of the order.
Even though Crawford has potential, he hasn't shown it. That's why his grade isn't great.
Sometimes, Pablo Sandoval looks like the Pablo Sandoval from 2009 and 2011. Sometimes, he looks like the Pablo Sandoval from 2010.
Sandoval missed more than a month with a hand injury, and he was hit in the hand the day he returned from his injury. However, Sandoval has hit home runs and continued to hit well, as he has a .307 batting average, eight homers and 30 RBI.
But does he really deserve to start at third base for the NL in the 2012 MLB All-Star Game? Maybe not.
Nonetheless, Sandoval has done well. He needs to hit better with runners on base, but he has done a nice job getting on base for the Giants. He has drawn 16 walks and struck out only 29 times (in 192 at-bats), so he is becoming more patient at the plate.
Sandoval's weight is a problem, as he doesn't run well. He isn't a good defensive third baseman, as you can see from his .966 fielding percentage. Joaquin Arias is much better at defense, although the Kung Fu Panda is a better hitter.
Even though Sandoval hustles and can make good plays at third, his weight is a problem. Sandoval needs to lose weight and hit better with RISP to make a big splash in the second half.
If Buster Posey had Joaquin Arias' stats, he would get a terrible grade. However, I have to give Arias a high grade, only because people expected nothing out of him.
Arias has a .244 batting average, one home run, 13 RBI and a .285 on-base percentage in 2012. He filled in for Pablo Sandoval when the slugger hurt his hand, and he often replaces Sandoval at third base late in games. Arias fielded a grounder by Jason Castro and threw the ball to first base to conclude Matt Cain's perfect game.
San Francisco's offense was supposed to be a lot worse with Sandoval out, but Arias did a nice job replacing him. Arias didn't play in the majors in 2011, and most people expected him to be a liability. However, he did a nice job filling in for Sandoval.
Thanks to Arias, the Giants' offense didn't struggle. He didn't post great numbers, but he certainly made an impact for the team. And even now, Arias is making an impact pinch-hitting and playing defense late in games.
Blanco will be graded the same way Arias is being graded.
No one expected Blanco to make a big impact in 2012. Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan and Nate Schierholtz started in the outfield, and Nate Schierholtz, Aubrey Huff, Justin Christian, Brett Pill and Brandon Belt got some time in the outfield. However, Blanco worked his way into the rotation and then the starting lineup.
The speedy outfielder is hitting .252, but with a .337 on-base percentage. Blanco is usually patient, as he has 30 walks. However, he sometimes chases bad pitches when runners are in scoring position, because he is eager to drive them in.
On defense, Blanco is amazing. He lays out to catch balls and he uses his speed to get to a ball quickly and throw a runner out, or hold them at a base. During Cain's perfect game, Blanco laid out and made a diving catch to save Cain's perfecto.
Blanco knows how to get on base, and he is a threat on the base paths. Blanco has 15 stolen bases, and he has only been caught three times. Overall, Blanco is a great player, and he broke out of his shell to make a big impact. He has even hit four home runs and drove in 21 runs.
That's why he deserves a good grade.
Pagan was expected to make an impact, but not as big of an impact as he has.
This year, Pagan is hitting .284 with five homers, 33 RBI and 23 walks. The center fielder has made some nice plays on defense and he, Melky Cabrera and Blanco make up a great defensive outfield.
Pagan doesn't strike out much (14.8 percent strikeout rate) and he gets walked a lot. His on-base percentage is .330 and he gets on base a lot in the bottom of the lineup. Pagan usually hits fifth or sixth, although I think he should hit second and get on base for Cabrera, Posey and Sandoval.
San Francisco traded Ramon Ramirez and Andres Torres to the Mets for Pagan, and it looks like they got the better end of the deal. Pagan is a much better hitter than Torres, and he is also better on the base paths (15-for-17 stealing). Ramon Ramirez helped the Giants during their World Series run, but he isn't a great reliever.
Overall, Pagan has played well this year. He has done a great job getting on base in the middle and bottom of the lineup, and he has made a big impact for the Giants.
Thanks to Gregor Blanco, Schierholtz hasn't played much this year. However, he hasn't really deserved much playing time.
Schierholtz is hitting .246 with three homers and 12 RBI. "Nate the Great" has a .309 on-base percentage, which isn't terrible but fellow outfielders Gregor Blanco, Angel Pagan and Melky Cabrera have better stats.
Schierholtz is a good outfielder, but it has become clear that Gregor Blanco is better. Blanco is faster than Schierholtz and he is more of a threat on the base paths. Schierholtz is still a good pinch-hitter, but he will need to get more extra-base hits.
In 134 at-bats, Schierholtz has just nine extra-base hits. He has 24 singles, but he will need to get more hits to see more playing time. While Schierholtz hasn't been terrible, he doesn't deserve to start for the Giants. As a result, all he will be doing is pinch-hitting and starting occasionally.
And that's why his grade isn't very good.
Just like Brad Penny and George Kontos, it's hard to give Christian a grade.
He is fast and can get hits, as he has a .313 batting average (5-for-16). Christian is patient, and he doesn't chase pitches often. He has been walked twice, and in one at-bat it took nine pitches to get him out.
Christian hasn't done much yet, but he could play a large role. Gregor Blanco has been great, but he is struggling lately. Christian will need some more playing time, but once he gets settled in he could play a large role in the team's playoff run.
Against the Nationals on Thursday, Christian showed off his potential by going 3-for-5 with three runs. He is fast and will probably take over the starting job this year or next year. He hasn't had much of an opportunity, but he has taken advantage of the opportunities he has received.
I had to save the best for last.
Cabrera has flat-out dominated this year. He has the second-best batting average in the MLB (.353) and he is the reason the Giants are just half a game back of the Dodgers. The star has eight homers and 44 RBI this year and he leads the team with 55 runs.
Throughout the first half, Cabrera has seen the ball well and made good contact with all pitches. He is hitting the ball to the gaps, and he is also hitting home runs
And it's not just hitting. Cabrera has a .981 fielding percentage and can lay out to make a catch. The "Melk Man" is great in left field, as he gets to balls very quickly. Cabrera can gun guys down at the plate and can hold runners with his speed.
Melky doesn't seem to be slowing down. He keeps getting hits, and he keeps scoring for the Giants. If the Giants didn't trade Jonathan Sanchez for Cabrera (don't ask me why the Royals agreed to that trade), just imagine where they would be right now.
I can tell you this: they wouldn't be doing well. That's why Cabrera deserves the best grade out of anyone on the team.