I was asked to write a first-half state of the team assessment for the paper instead of a regular game story, so that’s what I’m posting here today, which is what I probably would have done on the blog anyway. Baggs will be back coming out of the break with more of a look forward, including what possible deals may be or need to be in the offing. It’s been a pleasure serving you this weekend and I’ll return down the line. Think I have a road trip coming up soon, so you haven’t heard the last from me. — Carl
SAN FRANCISCO – Befitting their recent history in odd years, the Giants’ first half of the 2015 season was, well, odd. To break the pattern, they know they’re going to have to even some things out in the second half if they to just get in the playoffs again, let alone repeat as World Series champions.
So much of what the Giants did in the first half didn’t make sense. They owned the team in front of them in the National League West, the Dodgers (9-3) including two home series sweeps against Los Angeles, one in which they didn’t allow a single run. On the flip side, they were a combined 8-14 against Arizona and Colorado, including 3-10 at home.
They led the National League in hitting at .270 but had fitful periods when they appeared inept and incapable of scoring runs. They clearly missed right fielder Hunter Pence, who opened the season on the disabled list with a forearm fracture, then spent another 30 days on the D.L. with left wrist tendinitis.
They were way way too streaky. They had an eight-game losing streak early and then a seven-gamer shortly before the All-Star break, along with a pair of five-game slides. On the plus side, they won eight in a row and 13 of 15 in May to reach their high-water mark of 30-20, but slid back to .500 before closing the half with a three-game sweep of lowly Philadelphia. Great America would love to have this kind of rollercoaster ride, but it’s not so much fun if you’re a major-league team.
That’s not to say there wasn’t some fun. The Giants didn’t miss Pablo Sandoval one bit, despite the failure of their first-choice replacement, the now departed Casey McGehee. Rookie Matt Duffy seized the job with a vengeance, and first-year right-hander Chris Heston did likewise in the rotation when Matt Cain missed the first three months of the season with elbow issues. Heston won nine games, including Sunday’s first-half 4-2 closer over the Phillies, and he even tossed a no-hitter at one point.
Their second base/shortstop duo of Joe Panik and Brandon Crawford were absolutely stellar, adding a combined 85 RBIs to their standout defensive efforts. Deservedly so, both will be heading to the All-Star team. Another two good checkmarks there.
The club was rewarded with the offseason acquisition of outfielder Nori Aoki, who was better than expected until sidelined by a leg fracture in late June. But it didn’t go as well for one of their old hands, center fielder Angel Pagan, who struggled hitting in the No. 3 spot and battled nagging knee issues throughout the half.
Even with seven starting pitching candidates in spring training, the rotation was a patchwork jumble after Madison Bumgarner and Heston up to the point Cain and Jake Peavy returned in less than two weeks ago. A solid starting five still hasn’t been sorted out as the Giants head into the second half, but it’s getting closer.
The bullpen was decidedly shaky, even though closer Santiago Casilla posted 23 saves, Javier Lopez continued to get big left-handed outs, and George Kontos didn’t allow any of his 25 inherited runners to score. But Jeremy Affeldt was injured and ineffective, while Sergio Romo struggled against left-handed hitters.
The staff as a whole tied for the lead in the N.L. with 13 shutouts, yet the Giants were just eighth overall in the N.L. in ERA at 3.84. That means they had a lot of bad games, too.
Somehow, it all computed to a 46-43 record. As defending champions, one could argue that it could have and should have been a lot better. But considering all of the injuries and the uncertainties both in the rotation and the bullpen, it could have been a lot worse.
“I think we do have to be happy with where we are right now, but know that in the years that we’ve done well, we’ve really taken off in the second half,” said catcher Buster Posey, who had a terrific first half personally, hitting .315 with 14 home runs and 58 RBIs. “Hopefully we can get everybody out there at the same time, but it’ll be important to come out strong in the second half and get off to a good start.”
The return of Pence, Cain and Peavy – and the expected return of Aoki and Affeldt shortly after the break – would seem to bode well for a club that wasn’t at full strength at any point in the first half. They’re still within striking distance of the Dodgers at 4 ½ games behind, and they are one of a handful of teams in solid contending position for a wild card if they can’t win the division.
While it’s been a trying first half for manager Bruce Bochy with so many injuries and fluctuations in performance, he came away from the first 89 games generally satisfied, particularly with the way things finished up.
“The guys really did a nice job bouncing back after a tough losing streak, and I thought it was important for us to build some momentum going into the second half,” Bochy said. “Overall, our position looks pretty good. If you look at the start, we almost buried ourselves. We’re not where we want to be, obviously, but we’ve been able to hang in there.
“If you look at what we’ve been through with injuries and schedules – not to make excuses – it’s been an OK first half,” the manager continued. “I’ll take it, to be honest. We’re close to being back to full strength with Aoki, so I expect us to be better here in the second half.”
It would help to even out some of the odd as well, beating up on some of the lesser clubs like they’ve handled the Dodgers and staying out of some of those horrific ruts. For now, though, they’re still in the hunt, healthy as they’ve been all year and on a bit of a roll as they enter the second half.
Bochy’s right. Take it.
Source : http://blogs.mercurynews.com/giants/2015/07/12/giants-deliver-a-lot-of-odd-in-the-first-half-of-another-odd-year-but-theyll-take-being-in-the-hunt/1174