Changes the San Francisco Giants Must Make to Excel Down the Stretch

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Changes the San Francisco Giants Must Make to Excel Down the Stretch
Associated Press
Angel Pagan's return is a big step in the right direction.

The San Francisco Giants, with a record of 63-57, trail the Los Angeles Dodgers by 5.5 games. They are only four out in the all-important loss column, however.

Although winning the division is still within reach for the Giants, it is becoming more and more unlikely, based on the play of those two teams. 

The Giants must realistically focus on the wild-card race, and even that may not end positively unless they start playing better baseball. 

With the Giants, the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals in the hunt for only two playoff spots, one team will be left out in the cold. In addition, the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds are one hot streak away from getting into this race.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
We will never know what deals Brian Sabean passed on at the trade deadline.

A main concern for Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy is whether there's anything the Giants can do to enhance their roster for a run at the playoffs. 

Unfortunately, now that the trade deadline has passed, any trade or acquisition will be very difficult to accomplish. A player must now pass through waivers before he can be traded.

With several teams battling for a playoff spot, any club below the Giants in the standings can put a waiver claim on the player, and the Giants will not be able to make the trade.

It is very unlikely the Giants will see any major additions to the roster. It's now a case of hoping the players already on the team can produce and generate wins, because there probably is no outside help on the horizon.

Jason O. Watson/Getty Images
Matt Cain had surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow.

Injuries have exposed a weak bench and a poor farm system. With Angel Pagan, Matt Cain, Brandon Belt, Marco Scutaro and Hector Sanchez all missing significant portions of the season, the Giants have been unable to maintain the stellar play they had earlier in the year.

There has not been enough quality depth to overcome these injuries.

The return of Pagan should help the offense, even though the Giants lost the first five games he played in upon his return. Pagan typically energizes the team, and if he can stay healthy for the remainder of the season, it bodes well for the Giants.

Sanchez, the Giants' backup catcher, is doing a rehab assignment and, barring any further setbacks, should be back soon. He was not doing a lot prior to his concussion, so although his return could help, it is not a major difference-maker.

In 163 at-bats prior to his DL stint, Sanchez was hitting just .186, with an OBP of .237 and an OPS of .538. These are dismal numbers, although Sanchez did drive in some clutch runs, with 28 RBI.

The Giants would be foolish to count on anything from Scutaro at this point, so we will be seeing a lot of Joe Panik and Matt Duffy for the remainder of the season. When rosters expand in September, look for Ehire Adrianza to also join the mix at second base.

Unfortunately, none of the Giants' options have worked out all that well. In addition to Panik, Duffy, Adrianza and Scutaro, the Giants tried Brandon Hicks, Joaquin Arias and Dan Uggla at second base, and all have struggled.

Panik looks like the most polished option at this stage, but even he could benefit from another season in the minors.

USA TODAY Sports
Jake Peavy won his first game in a Giants uniform this past Wednesday.

Cain will not be back, but the acquisition of Jake Peavy mitigates that loss. Peavy has thrown the ball well in his four starts since joining the Giants. 

The one player who could make a huge difference for the Giants is Belt. He had a recurrence of concussion symptoms and is back on the DL.

This has been a lost season for Belt, as a broken finger sidelined him for several weeks earlier this year. Then, just when he was returning to form, he suffered a concussion.

Belt has played in 51 games this year and has only 186 at-bats. He is hitting a lowly .237 with an OBP of .296 and an OPS of .742. 

Early in the year, Belt displayed an impressive run of power, blasting 11 home runs. However, his 24 RBI are far too low, especially considering the number of home runs he has hit.

USA TODAY Sports
The Giants need Brandon Belt to add some firepower to the offense.

The Giants desperately need Belt to return to top formand sooner rather than later. His presence lengthens the batting order and gives the Giants another threat in the middle of the lineup. Adam Duvall and Gregor Blanco (when Michael Morse plays first base) are not the answers.

Outside of Peavy, the Giants did not make any other trades. The pitching has been decent, but the offense has not produced at a playoff-caliber level.

Whether it was unwillingness to part with top prospects or other teams demanding too much, Sabean elected not to pull the trigger on any deals to fortify the Giants offense.

In reality, there is little the Giants can do at this point except hope their current players get and stay healthy. Then, they must produce up to their potential. 

Now, what you see is basically what you get. It remains to be seen whether the current cast of characters has enough to get the Giants into the playoffs.

With 42 games left on the schedule, the Giants have their collective backs up against the wall.

It is, however, a group that has a lot of pride and team chemistry. Whether that is enough to get the Giants into the postseason is highly questionable.

Hoping beyond hope is where this squad has left its fanbase, and that is never a good feeling.

 

All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com.

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