Time for an All-Star Break look at the Giants, who, as fans are well aware, are leading in the NL Wild Card race at the moment.
First question is the most obvious: do they belong at the top of that list? Probably not. They are two games ahead of Colorado, and that could easily change over the second half of the season. There are other teams poised to make a run … none of them are clearly better than the Giants, but there are enough of them that it’s an issue. Clay Davenport gives them a 27% chance of winning the wild card (and a 2% chance of winning the division), which isn’t great but is a lot higher than 0%.
What are they doing right, according to the variety of stats available at the Prospectus web site? They’re doing a good job of running the bases. Their defense is pretty good.
Hitting, position by position? Bengie Molina isn’t hitting as well as last year. Travis Ishikawa isn’t much compared to other first-basemen. None of the second-basemen have hit so far. Pablo Sandoval is the best-hitting 3B in the league. Edgar Renteria isn’t hitting. The various leftfielders are a mediocre bunch at best. Aaron Rowand is average, as is Randy Winn. Juan Uribe is hitting as well as anyone can with an OBP of .328, and may be the solution at second.
So, you’ve got good defense, smart baserunning, no offense to speak of outside of the Panda. Which leaves the pitching, which everyone expected would be good. Lincecum and Cain are a great one-two tandem, but even in the playoffs, they’ll need at least one more starting pitcher. The Big Unit won his 300th, Barry Zito shows occasional signs of being almost useful, Jonathan Sanchez threw a no-hitter, but I don’t think any of those guys have demonstrated that they will be lights out come October. The bullpen is upside down … the closer, Brian Wilson, struggles, while the unsung filler material (Justin Miller, Jeremy Affeldt, Brandon Medders, even Bobby Howry) keep the team in games. Even Wilson’s done well enough … the bullpen is very strong overall.
So, two questions: is this team good enough to get into the post-season, and can they succeed if they are still playing in October? I think they still need some help on offense. I don’t think their chances are good enough to warrant trading any of their top prospects for a bat. Sanchez’ no-hitter is a bit of a problem, actually … if he’d made a couple of solid 7-inning starts, his trade value would have gone up, but the no-hitter, while it might be good for his trade value, makes him harder to let go … can you really trade a guy so soon after such a performance? So I don’t know how they’re gonna get much to help the offense, which means the pitching will have to continue to carry them, and ultimately the bullpen will come back to earth at least a little, and the weaknesses of the rotation once you get past the big two will become more obvious. It’s been a good first half of the season, and these guys are really fun to watch, which matters. But I’d say that one-in-four chance of making the post-season sounds about right.