Manager Bruce Bochy's Giants are 3.5 games back in the National League West with a losing record.
As the first half of the season comes to a close, the San Francisco Giants could not be doing much worse. The Giants are racked with injury up and down the lineup, and rocky starts by a usually solid rotation have put extraordinary pressure on an already struggling offense.
The Giants have dropped nine of their last 10 and—to add insult to injury—were no-hit this week by Cincinnati’s Homer Bailey.
As the trade deadline and the midseason mark approach, the Giants will need to shake things up in order to have a fighting chance in the National League West. Only four games out of first place due to the weakness of the division, the Giants’ season is far from finished.
Here’s what to look for through the dog days of summer.
The Giants’ struggles this season have essentially stemmed from inconsistent starting pitching. Though Madison Bumgarner has pitched another solid half-season—and Matt Cain is finding his groove again—filling the other three spots in the rotation has been difficult.
With Tim Lincecum’s 4.66 ERA, Barry Zito’s inability to pitch on the road and Ryan Vogelsong’s trip to the DL, the Giants need another strong starter. Rumors have circulated about the Marlins’ Ricky Nolasco (Miami Herald) or the Astros’ Bud Norris (Fox Sports), among others.
Look for the Giants to try to add one more consistent arm to the rotation before the trade deadline.
With a new starting pitcher in the picture, Lincecum may be more suited to move to the bullpen. He has talked about being open to the idea and has a postseason in the 'pen under his belt.
In 2012, Lincecum pitched almost flawlessly in the postseason, allowing only one run on three hits in five appearances. The Giants need someone to fill the long-reliever role, and Lincecum has the arm strength and discipline to do it.
In 2012, Buster Posey won the MVP over Ryan Braun because of his incredible second half. Down the stretch, he steadily increased his average and finished the season as the National League batting champion.
This season, Posey’s numbers have followed a similar trend. Each month, the catcher’s average has steadily increased, and after hitting .280 in the month of April, he has brought his average up to .312.
And it looks like Posey’s power drought is over as well. After not homering in 15 consecutive games, Posey went deep in three straight at the end of June. He had an extra-base hit in six straight games to close out the month.
With Matt Cain not performing at his usual high standard, Madison Bumgarner has emerged as the ace of the staff this season. The young right-hander holds a 3.08 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.
Bumgarner started the season allowing two or fewer runs in his first six starts. The pitcher’s ERA is inflated by a few rough starts—a nine-run performance at Colorado and a couple of five-run games—but overall he has given the struggling rotation exactly what it needs.
Bumgarner will lead the staff in ERA and emerge as one of the top starters in the National League.
With Pablo Sandoval returning from the DL in late June, the Giants’ offense should have improved dramatically. After all, having a career .299 hitter back in the three hole was a significant addition.
However, the third baseman has not returned to from, in the field or at the plate. In the 10 games since his return, Sandoval has three hits, all singles. He has struggled with his glove and misplayed a number of balls at third base.
The Giants do not have a viable everyday third baseman to replace Sandoval. However, if his struggles continue, the front office will have to question its assumption that he will start every game regardless of his performance.
With nine home runs at the beginning of July, Brandon Belt has tied his career mark in a single season. In 2011 he went deep nine times in only 187 at-bats.
Belt has shown his potential as a power hitter, and he is more than capable of exceeding his first-half mark this season. The first baseman already has one home run in the month of July.
Though Belt’s average may not improve much over the rest of the season, he will continue to find his stroke and increase his home run total.
When Chad Gaudin returns from the disabled list, his next few starts will be crucial to his long-term role. The new starter went six innings with two earned runs in his first two appearances in the rotation.
Though Gaudin allowed four runs in his next start and was injured the following week, the Giants have not seen enough of Gaudin to decide if he has earned a place in the rotation.
With Gaudin’s consistency in the 'pen through the earlier part of the season, he has racked up a 2.60 ERA, the lowest of the starters. If he can continue to keep the Giants in the game for the first six innings, he will be allowed to stay in the rotation.
As it stands right now, the Giants are the weakest team in a weak division. Arizona—leading the West—is only two games above .500.
Though the Giants are only four games out, the division is wide open for any one of the five teams. Given the injuries the Giants are currently contending with, they are not well-equipped to make a run deep into the summer.
If playoff berths were decided today, the Giants would be six spots out of earning a wild-card spot. And if the Giants don’t win the NL West—which is looking more likely by the day—they will be hard-pressed to find their way into the postseason.