Three Up, Three Down: San Francisco Giants Stock at the Break
San Francisco fans, put your feet up, your rally caps down, and exhale.
The Giants started the arduous last leg of their journey to the All-Star Break almost three weeks ago, and if the players can take a break, then so can the fans.
This past trip held a whirlwind of activity, from the humiliating sweep at home by the Dodgers to the exploding sweep of the Brewers at Miller Park, from the Bengie Molina trade to the Buster Posey eruption, from Dan Runzler going down to Madison Bumgarner picking the whole pitching staff up.
And now they're sitting in fourth place in the National League West, but only four games back of first-place San Diego, and only two games back of both Los Angeles and Colorado.
This last stretch was almost the season in a nutshell, as the Giants looked terrible against the Rockies, took off to Milwaukee and had an offensive explosion, got shut down by Stephen Strasburg, and then flexed some unexpected muscle to end the trip on a winning note.
This first half has definitely had its ups and downs, so let's get right into the top three and bottom three players on the Giants roster so far this year.
One Up: Buster Posey
If you haven't seen Buster Posey hit a baseball yet, you're missing out on one of the most pure swings in the game right now.
And if you haven't seen Buster Posey throw out any runners yet, then you simply don't know the joy of screaming "I AIN'T HAVIN' IT!" at your television.
Remember, this kid is only 23 years old. And all of you who are skeptical after watching 23-year-old Pablo Sandoval go through a sophomore slump, know this: Pablo's "swing-at-everything" attitude is the essence of an unorthodox hitter, while Posey's approach is exactly the opposite, embodying supreme knowledge of the hitting zone.
He might not produce like he has since being promoted this year, in which he quickly established himself as one of the best, if not the best hitter in the Giants lineup, but you won't see Posey go into too many extended slumps.
His first-half numbers (which are only about half of the first half):
.350 AVG/.389 OBP/.569 SLG, 7 HR, 25 RBI
His numbers from this past road-trip, when he won NL Rookie of the Week:
.500/.553/1.025, 6 HR, 15 RBI
Two Up: Madison Bumgarner
Giants fans have been salivating to see Buster Posey catch Madison Bumgarner since they were both drafted a couple years ago, and this year we've been able to finally see it happen.
And although he, like Posey, has only been here for a fraction of the first half, his presence at the back end of the rotation has been a godsend, especially after the ineffectiveness and subsequent injury of Todd Wellemeyer.
Since being promoted, Bumgarner continues to show why the Giants have one of the best starting rotations in the game.
Bumgarner started three games on this past road trip, hurling 21 innings of 1.74 ERA ball. His shortest outing this year has been six (strong) innings in Washington. He has 21 strikeouts against only five walks.
And that's out of the fifth spot in the Giants rotation.
This kid definitely has top of the rotation stuff, and like Posey/Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez he's only 20 years old. It looks like he's put that rough Spring behind him, and his velocity, control, and general presence on the mound make the second half for him look very exciting.
Three Up: Aubrey Huff
Aubrey Huff deserved to represent the Giants at this year's All-Star Game. I'm not saying that Tim Lincecum and Brian Wilson didn't deserve it, but I think Huff deserved it the most.
The thing is, Huff doesn't particularly care for the Mid-Summer Classic. In his words, "I like having my three days off.”
And he deserves those, too.
Huff has been an offensive force for the Giants, and he's been making the front office look like geniuses for shelling out $3 million to sign him this off-season.
It was considered a win if he returned to his 2008 form, when he hit .304/.360/.552 and blasted 32 HRS. So far, he's been right on par with that. His first half stats:
.295/.384/.544, 17 HR, 54 RBI
His stats on the road trip:
.342/.447/.868, 5 HR, 12 RBI
One Down: Edgar Renteria
Edgar Renteria began 2010 convincing us he was a new guy.
After his torrid start and then double shift on the disabled list, he's still hitting at a .299 clip. Yet this is an extremely soft .299, and his average has been declining from its high point of .346 on June 24 in Houston.
Since that date, he's been batting .208/.255/.208, which is pretty miserable, seeing as that's a 10-48 skid, all hits being singles. He's also struck out nine times and grounded into three double plays.
Renteria is still a solid defender, but check out the Bonus Down! for more info on this guy,
His first half, playing only 41 out of the teams 88 games:
.299/.350/.361, 1 HR, 13 RBI
Two Down: Bullpen
Giants relievers still have the second-lowest ERA in the National League (3.17), but their slip from last year's dominance has been felt around the rotation.
A big part of that has been the ballooning amount of walks issued by the 'pen. Giants pitchers walked 208 batters in 2009. They're on pace to walk over 260 this year. That's bad.
And aside from All-Star closer Brian Wilson, there really hasn't been anyone who has had a dominant stretch.
Jeremy Affeldt, who was arguably the best setup man in baseball last year (33 holds), and who signed a big contract in the off-season, has been supremely human this year, posting a 4.55 ERA in contrast to his 1.73 mark from last year.
Brandon Medders, who also signed a multi-million dollar deal, is at AAA. Dan Runzler, who was starting to regain his form after a shaky start, dislocated his knee in his first major league at-bat.
Denny Bautista, called upon for mop-up duty in Milwaukee a couple days ago, threw eight straight balls for his 22nd and 23rd walks of the season (he's thrown 28 innings).
Chris Ray has been great since he came over from Texas, and he has provided some stability in an otherwise shaky bullpen.
But as Giants columnist Andrew Baggarly has stated, the Giants bullpen is a lot of the same. Hard throwers, spotty stuff, lots of walks. Bautista, Casilla, and Mota are virtually the same pitcher. They need something different, a la Chad Bradford, or something of that nature.
Giants bullpen first half stats:
247 IP, 3.17 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, .251 BAA
Three Down: Pablo Sandoval
I hate to put the Panda on this list, but his offensive slide this year is too important to let go by the wayside. After hitting .330 last year, his .263 average seems very, very meager in comparison.
Yet, as I mentioned in Posey's slide, Pablo's swing was one that could very easily be broken down. This year he's off-balance more than he was last year. He's still making a lot of contact out of the strike zone, but its no longer solid contact.
And, as many baseball people know, once Major League pitchers find a hole in your swing, the whole league figures it out really quickly. It's up to the batter to adapt. The Panda hasn't adapted yet, and until he does, he won't be the force he was last year.
Luckily the Giants have had Huff and Posey step up offensively, so his absence hasn't been as glaring as it could have been if he was still the only weapon on this team.
Posey has now passed Sandoval in homers, and is swiftly catching up in RBIs as well.
Pablo's first half:
.263/.322/.382, 6 HR, 34 RBI
Bonus Up!: The Molina Effect
Let's take another look at the Bengie Molina trade.
The Rangers got the new starting catcher they needed in Molina, as well as $2 million to pay the rest of his salary for the season.
The Giants got a solid middle reliever in Chris Ray, which they needed, and a top 30 prospect from one of the best minor-league systems in the game in Michael Main.
But is that where it ends?
When Molina was on the team, Whiteside was still the backup catcher, and Buster Posey assumed the role of starting at first base. That moved Aubrey Huff to the outfield, and pushed Travis Ishikawa back down the depth chart.
Yet, with Molina gone, Posey shifted to catcher. But with Aaron Rowand struggling, Huff stayed in left, roaming the field with fellow water buffalo Pat Burrell, the fleet-footed Andres Torres, and the cannon in right, Nate Schierholtz.
On the infield, Renteria was struggling offensively, so Juan Uribe had to stay at short. When he went down with a finger injury, Renteria was back in the lineup. This left Pablo Sandoval to play third, and opened up first base for Ishikawa.
Since getting his first regular playing time of the year, Ishikawa has been just the bat the Giants needed. In the last week, Ishikawa is hitting .429/.433/.571 with a HR and 11 RBI.
So lets revisit the trade again:
Rangers get Molina and cash.
Giants get Ray and Main, AND a new starting catcher (Posey), AND a new starting first baseman (Ishikawa) who are both tearing it up since the trade.
It's not the direct trade, but the indirect effect on the roster has helped propel the Giants forward going into the break. Sure, there still might be a couple moves on the horizon, but don't expect anything drastic.
Besides, we've got pretty much everything we need (except middle infield depth) up in the majors right now.
I don't know about you, but I'm almost wishing that the Giants weren't on break right now. They're playing hot baseball, and heck, I just like seeing the kids play.