Giants v. Astros

The Positives:  The pitching staff is one of the best in the majors, Tim Lincecum aside (more about him below), Ryan Vogelsong proved his 2011 comeback was no fluke, Matt Cain threw a perfect game in an All-Star half and Madison Bumgarner continued to establish himself as one of the game's best lefties. Santiago Casilla has performed nicely (even though he kind of lost it during the last series), getting a lot of save opportunities thanks to the nearly unhittable Sergio Romo. The outfield defense has been stellar. The infield corners got a boost with Brandon Belt becoming the everyday first baseman and Pablo Sandoval getting better by the week. What can you say about the Melk man?  He is on track for the ML hitting title in 2012. The Giants 762 hits rank fourth in the NL behind the Cardinals, the Phillies and the Rockies, so they are hitting the ball. The Questions: The Giants are on pace to score 636 runs, which would be 66 more than last year, but they have not hit consistently and can't make up ground with the long ball when they fall behind. They spent five weeks of the first half without Pablo Sandoval. If the 3-4-5-6 quartet of Melky Cabrera, Buster Posey, Sandoval and Angel Pagan ever clicks at the same time, this offense will be good enough to take the West. It's awfully hard to win when you lead the league in errors, as the Giants do with 69, but at least they are trending in the right direction after tightening their defense in June and July. That also goes for Brandon Crawford. His 12 errors are the third-most among NL shortstops, but he committed 10 in his first 38 games.

The main question is whether or not this team is good enough once it gets into the post-season.  The last set of games at home and on the road against four first place teams showed a lot. They played fine against the Dodgers (a sweep at home), OK against the Reds at home (a 2-2 series split) but gave it up against the red-hot Nationals (a sweep by the Nats in DC) and lost the series 1 and 2 against the Pirates.  Sure the heat had a lot to do with it but still you have to beat the good teams to advance in October and right now that looks really iffy.

The Negatives:  Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan are both looking very tired. Maybe the break will help them. Brandon Belt keeps reverting to bad habits and become vulnerable (again) to the inside fastball. Casilla looked like a deer in the headlights when he tried to save the games in which the G-Men were ahead against the Nationals.

But the biggest negative is Timmy’s loss of control over his fastball.  Now, because he can’t control the corners of the plate, everyone is waiting on his breaking stuff and hitting him like a piñata at a five-year-olds birthday party.  If he doesn’t come back the Gigantes probably don’t make the post-season.  If he had won just half of his games the G-Men would be five up in first place right now. If he fails on Saturday there is no telling what Sabean will do – send him down to the minors, put him in the bullpen, ship him back to Seattle; whatever, without Timmy we are in deep you know what.

The Division: It’s between the G-Men and the Dodgers now, with the Snakes coming on  from the outside.  I keep hearing rumors that Arizona wants to trade Upton (why?  He’s an MVP candidate) so that says that they have problems we probably don’t appreciate. Most of the Giants games in the second half are at home, and most are against the division, so now is the time to start putting it together. Regardless we are in for a great second half of baseball.

Ciao, and GO GIANTS!

The Czar