It's the second half – are we a .500 team, or are we ready to make a run?
The G-Men are 52 and 51, by definition, a .500 team. After a good June, July has been disappointing, as anyone who has witnessed a succession of blown saves, and late inning comebacks followed by late inning collapses can attest. Going 2 and 4 against the A’s in the Bay Bridge series (late inning losses anyone?) was really a bummer, as was\ splitting the two game series against the Mariners, and losing Belt to a hyper-extended knee. Unless the Giants make a run over the next three weeks, it will be a summer and fall to enjoy the weather and the crab sandwiches at AT&T. The team is better than last year, but not there yet unless some magic happens. 4th place in the NL West, even if only 4.5 games in back of the pack will not cut it.
The team coming into AT&T for the next series (the Brew Crew) is 12 games over .500 and chasing the Cubs in the NL Central. They are motivated. This will be a test. The Giants continue to face good teams, which is what baseball should be all about.
Who are the stand-out players?
The most pleasant part of the season so far has been the rookies. Steven Duggar is a stud, Austin Slater has a rocket for an arm and the young pitchers (Derek Rodriquez and Reyes Moronta especially) are the future. Combine that with the promise of Ray Black in a tandem with a relatively stable Hunter Strickland, and the bullpen (Smith, Dyson and Melancon) looks more than capable.
In the position player follies, while Longoria has been a disappointment, McCutchen (on a one year contract) has been as promised. While no one can question the quality of the defense, no one player has stepped up to seize the moment. This is a team of good players but greatness eludes them. Buster is great in a long term sense but he looks tired. Crawford may be the best defensive shortstop in MLB but he has been a streaky hitter. Belt is a defensive wiz and can be an awesome hitter but slumps (which seem to come at the worst time) too often.
Two players who stand out are Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval. Hunter off the bench is a great pinch hitter. That I’m sure will be his role for the rest of the year. The Panda is playing like he did in 2014, which is why Longoria is not missed.
Finally, the rotation. Bum is back and getting better but is not the dominant player he was two years ago. Cueto is a magician but is not at 100%. Samardzija may be finished. Holland and Suarez are both capable but are not capable of carrying the team.
In other words, there are no stand out players. This is a C+, B- team.
Are the Giants buyers or sellers?
I’ll leave this call to the professionals, but I can see no one out there that the Giants can get (short of Bryce Harper or Mike Trout, and that will not happen) that will change the equation. I predict that management will stand pat and see what this group can do.
Has the Team that shall not be named locked up the division?
As much as I hate to say it, probably. The Machado pick-up was huge. Personally, I’m planning on a trip to the tropics in October.
Ciao, and GO GIANTS!