SF Giants' Biggest Winners, Losers of the First Half of the Season

Dan MoriCorrespondent IJune 28, 2013

SF Giants' Biggest Winners, Losers of the First Half of the Season

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    The San Francisco Giants are 38-40, two games under .500 for the first time this season. They trail the Arizona Diamondbacks by four games in the NL West.

    Nearly at the halfway point in the season, the Giants have floundered of late. They have lost six of their last seven games and 13 of their last 20.

    Injuries have played a big role in the Giants' skid, as key players Pablo Sandoval, Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro all missed a significant amount of action. Pagan could be out for the entire season after undergoing surgery on his torn hamstring.

    Injuries have also hit the Giants pitching staff hard, as Ryan Vogelsong, Chad Gaudin and Santiago Casilla are all currently on the DL.

    All of these injuries have put more pressure on the remaining players who are healthy, and many are showing signs of fatigue. In addition, the Giants are relying on several reserves and minor league call-ups to plug their holes.

    There is light at the end of the tunnel, as Casilla is due back very soon, and both Sandoval and Scutaro are back in the lineup.

    This has been a very tough first half of the season for the Giants, so let's take a look at some of their biggest winners and losers through the first 78 games.

     

    All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com.

Loser No. 6: Hector Sanchez

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    Hector Sanchez was one of the Giants' most pleasant surprises in 2012. He showed solid ability to hit the ball and improved throughout the year on defense.

    The same cannot be said about 2013. Sanchez arrived to spring training fat and out of shape. He proceeded to get injured, which was caused in part by him being in poor physical condition.

    After hitting .280 with three home runs and 34 RBI in 2012, Sanchez is hitting just .222 this season. The sample size is small because Sanchez was sent down to the minors earlier this year. 

    Now, back with the Giants, Sanchez has only 40 plate appearances and only three RBI. In addition to his offensive woes, Sanchez has regressed defensively. His throwing has been poor and the Dodgers exploited that by running at will on Sanchez whenever they got the chance.

    Sanchez's poor showing means the Giants are utilizing Buster Posey much more than they want. It also means that Guillermo Quiroz is still on the roster. Quiroz is a much better defensive catcher than Sanchez but is a very weak hitter. 

    Sanchez has seen his stock go way down in the eyes of  manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean.

Winner No. 5: Hunter Pence

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    The Giants acquired Hunter Pence at the trade deadline in July of 2012. Pence only hit .219 in 59 games with the Giants, but he did drive in 45 runs.

    Pence was also an emotional leader for the Giants during their postseason run. His emotional speeches rallied the Giants when their backs were against the wall.

    Now, in 2013, Pence seems to be much more comfortable and is performing well. He is currently hitting .288 with 12 home runs and 40 RBI. He has also stolen 13 bases.

    Pence is a fan favorite in San Francisco. He hustles at every opportunity and that is greatly appreciated by the Giants and their fans.

    Pence is the only Giants player to have not missed a game this season.

Loser No. 5: George Kontos

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    In 2012, just prior to the beginning of the season, the Giants traded reserve catcher Chris Stewart to the Yankees for George Kontos. It was a move that, at the time, seemed rather insignificant.

    However, Kontos pitched very well and earned his spot in the Giants bullpen. In 43.2 innings of work in 2012, Kontos fashioned an ERA of 2.72 and a WHIP of 1.05. The Giants expected more of the same from Kontos this year, but it hasn't happened.

    Kontos has not pitched well and looks as if he has lost his confidence. With the injury to Santiago Casilla, Kontos' ineffectiveness has put a huge strain on the Giants bullpen. Outside of Sergio Romo, manager Bruce Bochy has little confidence in any of his right-handed relievers.

    In 2013, Kontos has thrown 31 innings, allowed 35 hits and 11 walks. His ERA has ballooned to 5.52 and his WHIP is a very high 1.48.

Winner No. 4: Chad Gaudin

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    Journeyman Chad Gaudin came to the Giants as a non-roster invitee this spring. He pitched well enough to earn the long reliever job, as the Giants were looking for a replacement for Guillermo Mota.

    Gaudin pitched well when called upon and quickly gained the confidence of pitching coach Dave Righetti and manager Bruce Bochy.

    Then, Ryan Vogelsong was injured and the Giants needed a fifth starter. Gaudin was called upon and again, did a very credible job.

    Gaudin, who is in his 11th year in the majors, currently has career lows in ERA, at 2.60, and WHIP at 1.17.  

    Unfortunately for the Giants and Gaudin, he was hit on his pitching arm with a line drive and had to go on the disabled list. The Giants can only hope Gaudin returns throwing the ball with the same effectiveness he had prior to the injury.

Loser No. 4: Ryan Vogelsong

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    Ryan Vogelsong has had two outstanding seasons with the Giants. He helped lead the team to a World Series title in 2012.

    Following the World Series, Vogelsong got a chance to rest in November, roughly a month later than most other pitchers.

    Vogelsong also agreed to pitch in the World Baseball Classic, which meant he had to be fully ready to throw a month ahead of most other pitchers. Vogelsong will be 36 years of age in less than a month, and one must wonder if all the added workload has impacted his effectiveness.

    Vogelsong had not been pitching well but was having his best outing of the season when he was injured. On the year, Vogelsong has pitched 46.1 innings, allowing 62 hits and 18 walks while striking out 40.

    Vogelsong's ERA is alarmingly high at 7.19 and his WHIP of 1.73 is also excessive. 

    When Vogelsong returns in roughly a month, the Giants can only hope he regains his form of 2011 and 2012.

Winner No. 3: Gregor Blanco

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    Gregor Blanco is getting a chance at significant playing time and is proving that he deserves it.

    At the start of the season, Blanco was platooning with Andres Torres in left field. He was playing well when the injury to Angel Pagan occurred. This thrust Blanco into an everyday role as a starter.

    Blanco has responded well, boasting a .296 batting average, a .351 OBP and .745 OPS. He has also stolen nine bags.

    Blanco's value is far more than just on the offensive side, as he is an excellent defensive player. He made the great catch to save Matt Cain's perfect game last season and continues to make incredible plays in the outfield.

Loser No. 3: Santiago Casilla

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    Santiago Casilla underwent surgery to remove a cyst from his knee. Due back in a week, Casilla is sorely missed.

    The Giants are struggling to find consistent relief help, especially from the right side. Only closer Sergio Romo has been effective.

    Prior to his injury, Casilla had thrown 19 innings and allowed only 10 hits. His walks were too high with 13, but he did strike out 16 batters.

    Casilla had an ERA of 1.89 and WHIP of 1.211, which shows how effective he is.

Winner No. 2: Madison Bumgarner

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    Madison Bumgarner has emerged as one of the top pitchers in baseball. Still only 23 years of age, Bumgarner has been the most consistent of the Giants starters.

    In 104 innings of work, Bumgarner has allowed 74 hits and 30 walks, while striking out 102. He has a record of 7-5, along with a 3.20 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.

    Bumgarner is pitching at an All-Star level. With Bruce Bochy managing the team, Bumgarner has a chance to be selected.

Loser No. 2: Tim Lincecum

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    Tim Lincecum is pitching better than he did in 2012 but is still having some troubles. He can look great for a while, only to allow the floodgates to open and allow in a large number of runs.

    There is a lot of talk about the Giants acquiring a starting pitcher by the trade deadline, and if that happens, along with Ryan Vogelsong's healthy return, we could see Lincecum moved to the bullpen.

    In 2012, Lincecum was the worst starter in baseball but his work out of the bullpen in the postseason was outstanding. Lincecum proved he can still be a dominant pitcher for short stretches.

    The bullpen may be where Lincecum belongs and would be the most effective. That would help the Giants pitching staff.

    Lincecum is in the final year of his contract and will be a free agent following the 2013 season. He made over $22 million this year and it's very unlikely that any team would make him an offer of that magnitude.

    It's quite possible, in fact, likely, that this will be Lincecum's final year in San Francisco.

    If he has a great second half, some team will offer him a lot more money than the Giants would be willing to pay. Alternatively, if he continues to struggle, the Giants won't want to pay him.

Winner No. 1: Sergio Romo

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    Sergio Romo became the Giants closer late in the 2012 season. He continued through the postseason and helped lead the Giants to the 2012 world championship.

    When manager Bruce Bochy made Romo the closer for this season, there were a lot of naysayers. The negative comments stressed how Romo would not be able to sustain his level of success. 

    Romo has a devastating slider, but his fastball tops out around 87 mph. Those naysayers point out that you can't close with velocity at that level.

    Romo is proving all the doubters wrong. He has converted 18 of 21 save opportunities and, although not quite as dominant as 2012, is having a fine season.

    With an ERA of 2.40 and WHIP of 1.00, Romo has handled the full-time closer job quite well. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is also outstanding. In 30 innings pitched, Romo has struck out 24 hitters while walking only five.

Loser No. 1: Angel Pagan

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    On May 25 against the Rockies, Angel Pagan hit a walk-off, inside-the-park home run. He has not played for the Giants since.

    Pagan injured his hamstring and after nearly a month off, began a rehab assignment in San Jose, the Giants' Single-A affiliate. Pagan had a major setback as he tore the hamstring tendon behind his left knee.

    Pagan underwent surgery and the timetable for his return is September. In reality, Pagan may be shut down for the remainder of the season.

    The loss of Pagan puts a premium on the Giants improving their pitching. Pagan is a stronger offensive threat than Gregor Blanco, Andres Torres or Juan Perez—the three Giants who will see increased playing time.

    Pagan helped to lead the Giants to a World Series title and was subsequently signed to a four-year, $40 million contract. A huge part of Pagan's game is his speed, so if his legs are a problem, the Giants' investment in him looks very precarious.