San Francisco Giants: Assessing the Team Near the Halfway Point in 2013
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Three years ago, the Giants limped out of Colorado in fourth place with a record of 41-40 at the halfway point. That season's version of the Giants would go on to win the franchise's first World Series title since the team moved to San Francisco. Can the 2013 Giants rebound to win the club's third championship in four years?
It doesn't look good right now. The Giants lost three of four at home to the lowly Miami Marlins last weekend before getting swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers to begin this week. They've gone 15-25 since May 14 (h/t Alex Pavlovic, San Jose Mercury News).
In assessing the 2013 Giants as the club nears the midway point, it's clear that the team isn't doing anything particularly well.
The offense carried the team through the majority of the first half, but the loss of leadoff man Angel Pagan has proved to be a crushing blow. That Giants have averaged only 3.63 runs per game since Pagan went out with a hamstring injury that will cost him most of the season, compared to 4.51 runs per game prior to his injury (h/t Jay Jaffe, SI.com).
The offense currently ranks 15th in baseball in on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) and 16th in runs scored. The injury to Pagan coincided with the loss of Pablo Sandoval.
Sandoval is back from injury, but he's hitting just .283/.319/.414. The Giants desperately need more production from Sandoval in the middle of the lineup during the second half.
Andres Torres has been forced to become a regular in left field in the absence of Pagan, as Gregor Blanco has moved from left to center. Torres is best used only against left-handed pitching. He's hitting just .219/.260/.344 in 96 at-bats against righties. The Giants need a left-handed hitting left fielder to platoon with Torres now that Pagan is on the shelf for most of 2013.
The starting rotation has pitched better recently while the offense has gone cold. Over the last two weeks, the Giants have the fifth best rotation ERA in baseball. However, the Giants overall rotation ERA of 4.55 ranks only 24th.
The bullpen and the offense were the strengths of the team to begin the season, but those two units have slowed just as the starting rotation has started to pick things up. The Giants have yet to click on all cylinders.
The bullpen ranks ninth in baseball with a 3.14 ERA. That unit has been depleted with Chad Gaudin moving to the rotation, Santiago Casilla hitting the disabled list and Jeremy Affeldt and George Kontos regressing from last season.
Affeldt earned a three-year contract this winter in large part because of his work against right-handed hitters. He's the rare lefty reliever that can get righties out. Opposite-handed hitters batted only .244/.313/.344 against Affeldt last season. This year, they're hitting .264/.361/.415.
Affeldt has blown three leads in recent weeks by allowing damage to righties, including a crushing eighth-inning, three-run homer to Paul Goldschmidt in a 3-1 loss to the Diamondbacks on June 7.
Kontos' ERA has shot up from 2.47 last season to 5.52 this year. Like Affeldt, his problems are against opposite-handed batters. Lefties are hitting .417/.488/.861 off Kontos this year compared to just .167/.246/.222 in 2012.
The bullpen will be bolstered when Casilla comes back and when injured starter Ryan Vogelsong returns, which should allow Gaudin to return to the pen.
The pitching staff has not received much support from the defense. The Giants rank 20th in defensive efficiency—a simple measure of a team's ability to convert balls in play into outs. They rank just 25th in fielding percentage and 19th in the advanced metric Defensive Runs Saved.
The bullpen should benefit from better health in the near future, but the lineup will have to play out the string without Pagan.
For the Giants to win the division, they'll likely need to acquire an offensive upgrade in the outfield and another starting pitcher. General manager Brian Sabean has been extremely active at the trading deadline in prior seasons.
Last year, he acquired Marco Scutaro, Hunter Pence and Jose Mijares for the stretch run. In 2011, he traded for Jeff Keppinger, Carlos Beltran and Orlando Cabrera. When the Giants were struggling in 2010, he promoted Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner from the farm system, picked up Pat Burrell and Cody Ross off the waiver wire, and traded for Javier Lopez, Ramon Ramirez and Jose Guillen.
Sabean has been busy scouring the trade market, but he admitted that the Giants were in a tough situation given their current struggles. According to the San Jose Mercury News' Pavlovic, Sabean recently said:
You have to respect that the opponent knows you as well as you know yourself...When we pick up the phone or receive calls, we’re in a negative-negative situation. If somebody is going to trade somebody this early, they’re going to have to win the deal and you’re going to have to let them...We’re not going to make a deal just to make a deal...The price of doing business right now is prohibitive.
The Giants need the players currently on the roster to perform better. Sandoval needs to provide more production. Matt Cain (4.54 ERA) and Tim Lincecum (4.64) need to pitch more like the aces they once were. The defense needs to start supporting the pitching staff with better play.
If the current roster begins to play up to their capabilities, Sabean's work at the deadline will be easier. The Giants will be less desperate, and they won't have to sell the farm to try to upgrade each aspect of the team.
Things look bleak right now given the team's current 15-25 stretch. However, things looked just as bad three years ago, and the Giants ended up winning the first of two championships that season.
A lot will have to go right for the Giants to repeat this year, but there's enough talent on the roster to right the ship.
All statistics in this article are courtesy of ESPN.com.
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