Giants: midseason report card


Giants: midseason report card

Perfection and deep flaws. A beard in the recovery room and a merry band of Melk Men. Another thorn for the Panda, four shining All-Stars in the firmament -- and one more disabling, domestic injury for Jeremy Affeldt.

The Giants have seen and done much in the first half of 2012, none of it more memorable or historic than the cool night of June 13, when Matt Cain threw the 22nd perfect game in major league history.

Cain is one of four All-Stars. The other three -- All-Star Game MVP Melky Cabrera, and his cascade of multiple-hit games, Pablo Sandoval, who has no more hamate bones to break, and Buster Posey, the comeback kid -- were voted to start by a fully stoked and technologically savvy fan base.

Yes, the Giants have everyones attention in the Bay Area -- even if no one can figure out what in holy hell happened to Tim Lincecum.

The Giants are 46-39 at the All-Star break, a half-game behind the Los Angeles Dodgers and very much expecting to play postseason baseball -- especially with an extra wild-card berth this season.

They could be -- and by all rights should be -- better off in the standings as they begin the unofficial second half Friday with the Houston Astros. But the Giants also havent forgotten they were 7 out in late May. And theyve kept from imploding in the ninth inning without Brian Wilson, who went to get a new arm.

So it could be worse. Aside from Wilson and Freddy Sanchez, the Giants are healthy. And they have much more baseball to play.

Even though Lincecums shocking 6.42 ERA is the worst among all qualified major league starters, the Giants still rank fourth in the majors in rotation ERA. Yes, the other guys have been that good. From May 6 to June 18, the Giants were 17-0 in games started by Cain and Ryan Vogelsong. They even managed a 9-8 record in Barry Zitos starts, which is not bad for a de facto No.5 guy who was wearing a hit-me sign at the end of spring training. And we havent even mentioned bull-strong 10-game winner Madison Bumgarner, who doesnt need a calf-sitter for the All-Star break even though both he, and especially Vogelsong, had the numbers to go to Kansas City.

The Giants lost closer Wilson to Tommy John surgery and Guillermo Mota to childrens cough syrup. Their bullpen ERA ranks in the middle of the pack, well below where the relievers are accustomed to performing. But considering the casualties, including Wilson on the season-opening road trip, the 'pen has little of which to be ashamed. Closer Santiago Casilla dominated while converting 19 of his first 20 opportunities before slipping in his final six outings. The Giants found fresh blood in Brad Penny and George Kontos, and they maintain the leagues best righty-lefty specialist combo in Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez. The next few weeks will be critical as management ascertains whether to stay with Casilla or grab a more established saves earner such as Jonathan Broxton or Huston Street.

A flunk-tastic April weighs down the grade. The Giants, most especially young shortstop Brandon Crawford, have been much, much better afield in the last two months -- and perfect for one glorious night behind Matt Cain. Still, only the Colorado Rockies have committed more errors among NL clubs. Going forward, the outfield defense -- despite Angel Pagans occasional gulps in center -- looks to be solidly above average and the infield appears to have stabilized with Ryan Theriot and Crawford forming a regular middle-infield tandem.

No major league team has hit fewer home runs than the Giants, yet they are scoring almost a half-run per game more than they did last season. GM Brian Sabean envisioned a more athletic lineup and his acquisition of Cabrera was one of baseballs best offseason moves. While Posey might be a little light to be a true cleanup presence, his return has meant everything to the clubs psyche -- now and going forward. The lack of power is a big concern, though. In addition to hitting the fewest home runs in the majors, the Giants have gone deep just 14 times in 42 games at AT&T Park.

Nate Schierholtz is handy to have around and Joaquin Arias gets credit for handling the Giants most important 27th out since Wilson struck out Nelson Cruz in Arlington. Still, a .161 average by pinch hitters wont get it done. Some right-handed power would be nice. And it aint gonna come from Emmanuel Burriss.

You might give the front office a C if anyone there knew how to turn on a computer. All jests aside, no computer program couldve told you that Gregor Blanco and Theriot would be smart pickups on minor league deals this winter. Deals for Cain and Bumgarner got done, ensuring -- especially in the case of Cain, who wouldve been an impending free agent -- that they wont be distractions during the season. Manager Bruce Bochy had to feel his way through myriad lineups in the first two months and was subjected to daily pitchforks over his handling of Belt, but the team was able to survive 40 games without Sandoval. The real test lies ahead. With few shiny baubles in the minor leagues, itll be a challenge for Sabean to acquire top talent at the trade deadline. And the Lincecum situation is delicate, to say the least.

Familiar faces trying to find success, health with Giants' Triple-A affiliate


Familiar faces trying to find success, health with Giants' Triple-A affiliate

SACRAMENTO -- A young man named Clayton Blackburn walked into the home clubhouse at Raley Field on Tuesday decked out in Round Rock gear. 

"You're here for my start?" he said, smiling.

Sorry, Clayton, I was on Panda Watch for two days. But it was fun watching Blackburn, DFA’d in a weird move earlier this year, face former teammates. Blackburn hasn't had a great season with Texas, but he is still just 24 and he has gotten into terrific shape. Given what happened during his call-up last year, you should root for him to get a second chance. 

Blackburn gave up three runs over six innings against his former team. The River Cats won on Jarrett Parker’s walk-off homer to dead center with two outs in the ninth. Parker was one of many familiar faces in the lineup Tuesday. Here are some thoughts on guys you know, and guys you will: 

--- Trevor Brown is the backup catcher in Sacramento, which is certainly a fall from his run as Buster Posey's backup. Brown is batting .168 in what has been a very frustrating season for him. The groin injury that slowed him early lingered, he had a concussion, and he hasn't been able to find any BABIP luck. This year seems a lost one for a guy who was a big part of 2016. I’m still intrigued by his versatility.

--- Chris Shaw is the latest podcast guest. You can stream it here. We talked about his power, his move to left, thinking he was a Ray, and more. I didn't see many at-bats, but I saw enough in left field to be confident he'll be fine out there. 

--- Parker started in center field and made a nice running catch at the wall. He wouldn't hold up as a big league center fielder, but perhaps the Giants should throw him out there a few times down the stretch to see if he can be a backup option next season. Parker said he finally found his swing over the past few games. His rehab assignment ends in about a week, and he’s expected back in San Francisco. 

--- Reyes Moronta, who spent a day in the majors in May, was promoted to Triple-A. In his first inning, Drew Stubbs took him deep. I found that quirky. It's been a long season with far too many transactions. 

--- If Steven Duggar would stay healthy, he would probably make it up to SF in September. Unfortunately, his hamstring was tight again this week, keeping him out of San Jose’s lineup for a few days. Speaking of health: Tyler Beede’s groin injury will keep him out longer than just the standard DL time … Melvin Upton Jr. is still in Sacramento rehabbing a shoulder injury, but he’s not throwing yet so it’s hard to picture him making any noise before September call-up time …Christian Arroyo is in Arizona rehabbing from hand surgery. 

--- Derek Law was smiling because Derek Law is always smiling. He has a 4.32 ERA but said he feels much better than those results. “My slider is back,” Law said. He should be, too, when the Giants expand their roster. There are some other interesting relievers in Sacramento. A first baseman told me opposing hitters grumble about facing D.J. Snelten (1.84 ERA) and Tyler Rogers has a 1.94 ERA as a dirt-scraping right-hander. 

--- A teammate predicted Carlos Moncrief would hit .270 in the big leagues if called up, and he ended up getting that call Wednesday morning. Moncrief is a fun clubhouse addition. He gave Sandoval some good-natured heckling for talking to reporters after going 1 for 4. 

--- The Giants have had a lot of veterans visit San Jose this season. They all bought the postgame spread, but word around the block is that Madison Bumgarner provided the best meal. He had steak and lobster delivered to San Jose Muni. 

Eduardo Nunez 'forever grateful' for his time spent with the Giants

Eduardo Nunez 'forever grateful' for his time spent with the Giants

SAN FRANCISCO — Eduardo Nuñez left San Francisco in a strange way. The third baseman was traded in the middle of Tuesday night’s game and mostly said his goodbyes in a stairwell behind the home dugout at AT&T Park. Before joining the Red Sox, Nuñez took to his social media pages to send a message to the Giants and their fans. 

On Twitter, Nuñez thanked the organization for “the great opportunity and experiences learned” and wished the team the best of luck. His Instagram message was a bit longer. 

“I will be forever grateful to have had the opportunity to be a part of this amazing team,” Nuñez wrote. “I value the experiences learned during my time here and I will miss my teammates, the fans, and the beautiful city of San Francisco very much. Best wishes to the Giants organization during the rest of this season. God Bless.”

Nuñez is expected to join the Red Sox on Friday. Boston’s manager, John Farrell, told reporters that his new infielder will get “a high number of at-bats” despite the presence of top prospect Rafael Devers. 

"This is someone who's swinging the bat very well right now,” Farrell said, according to "A high energy player that can run the bases well. He’s got really good line drive power so his .300-plus batting average to mix into this lineup is a good addition."