2nd Half Questions and a Prediction

The Giants get the “second half” (66 games left) tonight against the First Place Diamondbacks. The Giants continue to stand on strange ground. 6.5 games behind the D-Backs, but 8 games under .500. What the?

Here are the pertinent questions:

  1. Buy or Sell? In or Out? Two questions, I know, but essentially the same: are the Giants really in this thing, or is the 6.5 games out just a fantastical mirage meant to befuddle and entice the weak of mind and heart? If they have a good weekend and sweep, or even take 2 of 3, from Arizona, I’d expect the Giants to think they can go for it. If, the reverse happens, then I think it’s time to bite the bullet and see what they can get for various pieces. In the end I think the Giants will straddle the fence for as long as possible, make a minor move, and see if the core crew can’t find some magic.
  2. What of Tim Lincecum? He just threw a no-hitter. Other teams want to add him to their bullpen. Maybe he wants to be a Giants for life. Maybe he wants a fresh start. My gut tells me he stays through the season, but probably not beyond that. I could be wrong here in many directions. No matter what, enjoy every opportunity to see him from here on out…it might be the last time you see him in this uniform (tear).
  3. Can the Pitching Recover? Finally, a true on-the-field baseball question! This is a huge question, not just for the rest of the season, but moving forward as well. In 2009-2012 the Giants were among the best staffs in all of baseball, not just during that span, but historically. There is no doubt the team has the talent to put together an 8-10 turn run of excellence. In order for that to happen Madison Bumgarner and Timmy need to keep at their current pace. Matt Cain needs to get it together and fix his mechanical issue out of the stretch (or whatever the heck is wrong with him). Ryan Vogelsong needs to come back soon and he needs to be 2012 playoff caliber Vogey, not early 2013 Vogey. Finally, the Giants need to leave Gaudin in the rotation and send Zito to the pen. Not only does that give the team a stronger rotation it ensures that Zito won’t hit his inning mark (thus locking him in for one more expensive year), and gives the Giants a lot more flexibility heading into next year. The reality: that’s a lot of “what-ifs”…not out of the realm of possibility, but unlikely.
  4. Who Will Hit? Pablo seemed to be getting it together in San Diego before the break, but the Giants will need Pence to get hot and they will also need the Brandon’s to continue to contribute down the stretch. I never thought this team would miss Angel Pagan so much, but they do, and they need a couple of other guys to step up and take some pressure off the pitchers.
  5. What About the Future? As uncertain as the next couple of weeks and rest of the season may seem, it still doesn’t compare to what lies ahead this off-season. 3/5 of the rotation will be up in the air. Pence is likely gone, leaving 2 outfield spots open, plus lingering questions about Pagan’s ability to stay healthy as he ages at a tough position (CF). The Giants don’t have immediate help waiting on the farm, and will have to bridge the gap somewhere. Lot’s of interesting moves lie ahead.

Bold Prediction: As crazy as it sounds, I’m going to go with my heart, and not with my head, and predict that the Giants will win 87 games and the NL West. That will require them to go 44 and 22 over the final 66 games. Seems like a tall order for this club, but IF the pitching can get on a roll it is entirely possible. This is the Giants’ version of the 2000 Yankees, the final year in their great run, where they were able to sneak in despite being an inferior version of their former selves. Bring on the second half.



Let’s Ask Some Questions

At the beginning of the off-season I asked 5 questions and tried to make predictive answers. Things have gone more or less as I thought.

The Giants got the band back together, probably paid too much to do so, but overall did well to keep the team very competitive without handicapping their future (i.e. Posey extension).

As we head into FanFest weekend, the reporting of pitchers and catchers, and Spring Training here’s a new set of questions to ponder, debate, and worry about.

1) If the key is pitching, what can we expect? Probably more of the same: really, really good pitching. But that’s a boring answer. There are a lot of questions here. Tim Lincecum: can he rebound? Will Matt Cain wear down? What’s up with Madison Bumgarner? Will Ryan Vogelsong keep it going or turn back into a pumpkin? Can Sergio Romo be the closer all season? Will the Giants bring back Brian Wilson in the end? Will Brett Bochy or Heath Hembree be the closer at the end of the season? Can Casilla, Affeldt, Lopez, and others continue to be awesome? And Barry Zito needs 200 innings to get an $18 million pay check…will the Giants let him get there?

2) Can the team stay healthy? In particular, it would be great to see Posey and Panda together for a full season. Is this that season?

3) Can the team score runs? One would think that Scutaro and Pagan will not play a whole season the way they did in the postseason. There will be a regression, but how much? Can Posey and Panda exceed expectations? Can Belt and Crawford continue to establish themselves as major league hitters? And, what up Hunter Pence? 2012 suck or 2007-2011 All-Star?

4) Can the Giants stay hungry? Two championships in three years is awesome. A third in four would make this team legendary. Will they stay motivated and eager to reach baseball immortality or will they descend into an abyss of individual greediness and self-focus?

5) What will happen in Left Field? We’ll take another post soon to ponder the rest of the division, but for now the most pressing question outside of short-haired Tim Lincecum is this: can Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres really hold down left field? Will the Giants need to make a trade? At what cost?

Answers coming soon.