San Francisco Giants: First-Quarter Team Grades
The San Francisco Giants have a record of 23-16 and stand atop the NL West as of Wednesday morning.
Manager Bruce Bochy has led the Giants to two world championships in the past three seasons, but now, he and his players are focused on bringing back-to-back World Series titles to San Francisco.
With roughly a quarter of the 2013 season now complete, let's take a look at the Giants' first-quarter grades for each positional group.
Buster Posey is the reigning NL MVP, and he is hitting .285 with five home runs and 24 RBI so far this season.
Posey has done an excellent job behind the plate and has started 31 games at catcher out of the Giants' 39 games this year. Posey has also come in during the middle of two additional games to catch.
Although Posey's batting average is down from his gaudy .336 mark in 2012, he is on track to drive in 100 runs this season. Posey leads the Giants with an OPS of .892. If we were just grading Posey, he would get an A- for his play this year.
The Giants opened the season with two reserve catchers, Hector Sanchez and Guillermo Quiroz.
Sanchez showed great promise as a young catcher in 2012, as he hit .280 with 34 RBI in 218 at-bats. He came into camp overweight this year, though, and has been a disappointment. He struggled with nagging injuries in spring training and did not swing the bat well. His weight was a big issue, as his bat looked slow and he was not moving well behind the plate.
Sanchez was recently sent to the minors, after compiling a batting average of .150. In addition to his slow start offensively, Sanchez was not playing well defensively, so his demotion was warranted.
Quiroz is now the Giants' only backup catcher. He has never been much of an offensive threat and is batting only .238. However, Quiroz delivered a highlight moment for the Giants with a walk-off home run to win a game against the Dodgers earlier this season.
Quiroz is a solid defensive player and calls a good game, too, which is something that Sanchez was still trying to learn.
Positional Grade: B+
The San Francisco Giants have a solid starting infield.
Pablo Sandoval is off to a good start this year, hitting .317 with seven home runs, and his 29 RBI leads the Giants. Sandoval also brings a fun-loving, infectious personality to the Giants' dugout.
Also, although Sandoval is probably at least 30 pounds overweight, he is a surprisingly good defensive player.
At shortstop, Brandon Crawford is a Gold Glove candidate. His defense is outstanding and he is an improving offensive player.
In 2012, Crawford hit .248 with four home runs and 45 RBI. This year, Crawford is hitting the ball with much more authority. In 133 at-bats, he is batting .271 with five home runs and 17 RBI.
The 2012 World Series MVP, Marco Scutaro signed a three-year contract to remain in San Francisco. He got off to a slow start, but has come on very strong lately at second base. Scutaro is hitting .315 and is an ideal No. 2 hitter.
First baseman Brandon Belt has a world of potential but is maddeningly inconsistent. There are times when Belt looks totally lost at the plate, and he is prone to extended slumps because of his long, loopy swing.
Belt is currently hitting .244 with five home runs and 20 RBI. He has shown promise offensively and if he can develop some consistency, Belt could have a breakout year. Defensively, Belt is outstanding.
Reserves Joaquin Arias and Nick Noonan have done a credible job in limited roles as well.
The Giants' infield is productive on offense, and they are a very good defensive group. It is their defense which also helps the Giants' pitching staff and boosts their overall grade.
Positional Grade: A-
Hunter Pence is off to a good start, hitting .288 with seven home runs and 22 RBI. He leads the team with seven steals and is playing very good defense. Pence would earn an A- as a personal grade for his efforts this year.
Pence came to the Giants just prior to the trade deadline in 2012, and he is best known for his emotional speeches to rally his team when they faced elimination. Although he hit only .219 last year for the Giants, he did have 45 RBI in 59 games.
Pence will be a free agent after this season, and he's making a good case to warrant a big contract offer from the Giants in the offseason. Pence is also a fan favorite because of his all-out hustle every time he steps onto the field.
The Giants signed center fielder Angel Pagan to a four-year, $40 million contract following the 2012 season. Pagan has been mediocre thus far in 2013, though. He is currently hitting .252 with an OBP of only .306, which is too low for a leadoff man.
Pagan's defense has been spotty, and he has also stolen only five bases while being thrown out three times. With the sizable investment they have made in him, the Giants are expecting more from Pagan.
Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres are platooning in left field. Blanco has been the better of the two, hitting .287 with an OBP of .358. Blanco is also an outstanding defensive player.
Torres is hitting only .246, and his OBP of .288 is poor. He did drive in the winning run in a recent game against the Phillies, however.
Defensively, Torres has made some mistakes, and they must be corrected. Historically, Torres has always played good defense, so there's no reason to believe that he won't improve.
Positional Grade: B
Starting pitching was supposed to be the strength of the Giants this season. Unfortunately, the starters have been very inconsistent and prone to giving up the big inning.
Opening Day starter Matt Cain got off to a slow start, but he has pitched much better of late. Cain is 2-2, but his ERA of 5.04 has been a problem. Cain's WHIP has been decent at 1.16, but he has allowed 10 home runs in only 50 innings of work.
Madison Bumgarner has been the best starting pitcher for the Giants thus far in 2013. He has compiled a record of 4-1 with a 2.18 ERA and 0.93 WHIP. In 53.2 innings of work, Bumgarner has also allowed only allowed 37 hits. Furthermore, he has struck out 54 batters while walking only 13. If Bumgarner continues to pitch well, look for him to be in the All-Star game.
Tim Lincecum has been better than last year, but he still has room for improvement. Lincecum is 3-2 with a 4.07 ERA and a 1.38 WHIP. This is a contract year for Lincecum, and he needs to have a good year if he wants to cash in this offseason.
This may be Lincecum's last year with the Giants. If he pitches well, other teams will offer him huge money and the Giants may get outbid. If, on the other hand, Lincecum pitches poorly, the Giants won't want to pay him the amount that he will ask for.
Barry Zito has pitched very well at home, allowing only two earned runs in 32 innings of work. In his five home starts, Zito is 3-0 with an 0.55 ERA and a 1.03 WHIP. Away from AT&T Park, however, Zito has struggled. In his three road starts, Zito has an ERA of 11.25 and WHIP of 2.58.
Ryan Vogelsong has struggled the most this year. In 39.1 innings, Vogelsong has allowed 53 hits and 15 walks. He has also surrendered nine home runs, which has inflated his ERA to 7.78. Vogelsong's WHIP of 1.73 is also way too high.
Positional Grade: C
Giants' closer Sergio Romo has converted 12 of his 14 save opportunities in 2013. Although not invincible with a 3.12 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, Romo has still been pretty good.
In 17.1 innings of work, Romo has allowed only 15 hits. Also, his strikeout-to-walk ratio is an impressive 19/3.
Set-up men Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla have been solid as well. Casilla owns a 2.12 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Affeldt, who comes in from the left side, has an ERA of 3.24. His WHIP of 2.04 is alarmingly high, and the issue there has been the walks, as Affeldt has walked seven hitters in only 8.1 innings of work.
The Giants' remaining stable of relievers have been good, for the most part. Javier Lopez, Chad Gaudin, George Kontos and Jose Mijares round out the Giants' bullpen.
Positional Grade: A-
Manager Bruce Bochy deserves an "A" for his management of the team this season. It's a long season, and the Giants are in first in the NL West, even though they haven't played their best baseball.
The Giants' offense has been a pleasant surprise, while their starting rotation has not lived up to expectations, as of yet.
Overall Team Grade: B+