Is Edgar Renteria Due for a Second Half Breakout?

Kevin O'BrienCorrespondent IJuly 22, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 08:  Edgar Renteria #16 of the San Francisco Giants hits a sacrafice fly scoring Juan Uribe in the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium on May 8, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

If you judge him on the first half of the season, then there is no doubt that Edgar Renteria has been a disappointment as the San Francisco Giants' everyday shortstop.

With a .254 batting average, .308 OBP, and only two home runs and 38 RBI through 81 games, Renteria hasn't lived up to the two-year, $18.5 million contract he signed back in December.

Yet all is not lost with the Colombian-born, former All-Star shortstop.

Ignore for a second the fact that the Giants are mired in an "out of the gate" slump that has resulted in them going 1-4 in the first five games of the second half of the season.

Ignore also for a moment that Renteria has batted three-for-19 in the first five games of the second half, and now seems to be bothered with an elbow injury.

Renteria actually might be due for a big second half offensively.

Statistically speaking, Renteria throughout his career has been a better hitter after the All-Star break than before.

In 1,092 first half games, Renteria has a career batting average of .285, .341 OBP, .397 slugging percentage, and .738 OPS.

In 849 second half games, Renteria has a batting average of .293, .351 OBP, .409 slugging percentage, and .760 OPS.

As you can see, Renteria statistically shows that he is a better player down the stretch, than out of the gate.

For a team that is trying to stay in the National League playoff race after being overtaken by the Colorado Rockies a couple of days ago, that may prove to be invaluable.

Granted, doubters will ask, "If Renteria is a better second half player than a first half, why has he got off to such a lousy start?"

Well, I'll say this succinctly...

It's only five stinking games!

Renteria's second half should not be solely judged by a poor five-game stretch in mid July.

(A side note, that goes for the Giants as a whole, who have ran into two surprisingly hot teams, since the break the Atlanta Braves are 5-1 going into Wednesday's game against the Giants, and the Pittsburgh Pirates are 4-2. The Giants need offensive help, that is certain. However, fans should not throw in the towel for the season because of these two series alone.)

Just look at Renteria's last couple of seasons by the numbers, and you'll see a pattern.

In 2007, with the Atlanta Braves, Renteria hit .358 with a .404 OBP, and a .850 OPS in only 39 games in the second half of the year.

With the Detroit Tigers in 2008, a down season in his career, Renteria was actually surprisingly effective in the second half of the Tigers' disappointing season.

Despite playing in 26 fewer games in the second half, Renteria improved in every statistical category after the break in Detroit.

He went up in batting average (.254 in the first half in comparison to .296 in the second half), OBP (.301 to .343), slugging percentage (.326 to .469), and OPS (.627 to .812).

Furthermore, Renteria totaled only eight fewer total bases (92 in the second half in comparison to 100 in the first half) despite having 119 fewer plate appearances after the All-Star break.

Therefore, the potential is there for Renteria to break out during this final 69-game stretch.

Additionally, if he can replicate the August numbers he produced last season, the Giants' offensive woes will start to heal.

Last year, in 25 games during the month of August, Renteria hit .294 with a .351 OBP, .494 slugging percentage, and .845 OPS. Furthermore, he totaled 25 hits, four home runs, 10 RBI, and 15 runs.

There hasn't been a month this year for Renteria that could touch those numbers (his best month so far was June where he had a .294 batting average and OBP, .354 slugging percentage, .649 OPS, and totaled 29 hits).

Whether that is a sign of him starting to deteriorate as a player or a sign that he is due for a hitting upswing, that depends on how optimistic of a baseball fan you consider yourself to be.

However, as a person that tries to balance pessimism and optimism, especially when it comes to sports, I think it could be a combination of both.

Has Renteria declined as a player? Absolutely. He simply doesn't have the power he used to have (as evidenced by the fact he hasn't hit a home run since April), and his age shows on the field in terms of his inconsistency making plays on ground balls.

However, even for Renteria-standards, this year has been an especially down one at the plate. I just can't see him going through the rest of year without having a big month.

Traditionally, it's around this time of the season where Renteria's offense starts to come alive, so that bodes well for the Giants who need a spark in the lineup at this point.

Granted, we don't know how bad Renteria's injury is, and we certainly don't know how it will affect him for the rest of the season.

As we have seen so many times in the past, a nagging injury can absolutely derail a player's season.

That being said, if he can get fully healthy, and mirror the August he had in Detroit, Renteria would certainly be a much needed help to a Giants' squad desperate for offensive help.

A better hitting Renteria wouldn't be a complete solution to the Giants' hitting woes, but it would be a step in the right direction for both him and the Giants, who still have a chance to make the postseason.


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