The San Francisco Giants enter the post All-Star break portion of the season with a 52-43 record and a game back in the division race. That’s a very good thing considering how bad things were going for them the past two months. What does the second half of the season have in store and what things should we watch for?
The first thing to watch for is obvious: health. When the Giants were healthy they had the best record in baseball by quite a wide margin. When injuries hit front line
players Angel Pagan and Brandon Belt, the Giants struggled because they don’t have the necessary reserves to replace them with good players. Manager Bruce Bochy tried to mix and match to find the right combination of reserves to replace the injured players, more specifically Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez in the outfield, as well as the combination of Ehire Adrianza, Brandon Hicks and Joaquin Arias at second base, which didn’t go well.
The second thing to watch is the trade deadline. When the Giants are in contention, General Manager Brian Sabean has always made moves to improve the team and has been one of the best in baseball in doing that. The latest example of this was in 2012 when Sabean traded minor league catcher Tommy Joseph and Seth Rosin for Hunter Pence and then he traded seldom used infielder Charlie Culberson for Marco Scutaro. Both of those trades were genius on Sabean’s part. Since the Giants are in contention it means they will be extremely active in the trade market. It remains to be seen what position or positions they will address, but one thing is for certain, they will make a move sooner rather than later.
The return date of Pagan sort of ties hand in hand with the first two. Pagan is the key to the Giants. When he’s healthy the Giants win, when he doesn’t play the Giants struggle. The numbers back that up. If Pagan comes back healthy within the next week or two, the Giants should get back on track. If he doesn’t come back then that will almost certainly prompt the Giants to make a move for a centerfielder and leadoff hitter.
Consistency throughout the lineup is something that’s been lacking the whole season. When healthy, the Giants have one of the most talented lineups in the league, however, they have never been able to get on track at the same time. It’s been a story of individual hot streaks more so than the whole lineup getting going at the same time. If the Giants are able to get consistent production up and down their lineup, they will be a difficult team to contend with considering how well their starting pitching has been. There’s no reason why they wouldn’t be able to find production at the 1-8 spots because they are way too talented not to.
The pitching in general will be something to keep an eye on. The starting staff as of late has turned it on and are pitching really well. The bullpen could have rediscovered their early season form. Sergio Romo looks to be coming back as his slider is starting to get filthy again and the rest of the guys in the bullpen are still at the top level.
The final thing to watch for is simply the play of the rest of the National League. The National League is really a deep league with a lot more quality teams than the American league. Teams like the Washington Nationals, Atlanta Braves, Pittsburgh Pirates, St Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds and the Milwaukee Brewers are all teams capable of making the postseason along with the Giants and Dodgers.
It’s difficult to project how the second half of the season will play out. The Giants are certainly right there with the best teams in the National League. This again has the look of a year again where whatever team gets hot at the right time will more than likely end up going to the World Series. There’s not one dominant team, so it really suits well for the Giants. During their World Series Championships they were a team that got hot at the right time. This team certainly has that feel.