Giants: midseason report card

July 11, 2012, 6:05 pm
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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.

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