If we set 90 wins as a target to win the NL West, then the Giants have to play .581 ball (43-31) the rest of the way. That's a tall order. The Giants were 13-9 in April, but 27-28 in May and June. This nice little 7-4 run before the Break was encouraging, but the club has yet to show it can sustain a long winning stretch. The Giants best win streak is FOUR games. They have also logged a SEVEN game loss streak. Here's another way to look at it: the San Diego Padres have played .580 ball (51-37) so far this season. The Giants will have to play the second half as well as the Padres have played the first half. The Giants have confined their poor play to teams in the NL West--they are 1-7 vs. SD, 1-5 vs. LA, and 4-6 vs. CO. On the flip side, they've beaten the crap out of Milwaukee, Houston, Washington, Florida, and Pittsburgh to the tune of 22-6. Of those clubs, only Florida and Milwaukee are on the second-half schedule, with the Marlins coming to SF at the end of the month and the Brewers in mid-September. The Giants do get to see bottom-dwelling Arizona 13 more times, and 7 games against the reeling Cubs are also on the docket, so perhaps they can fatten up on them. Clearly, they are going to have to reverse their fortunes against the Big Three in the West as 6-18 won't cut it. New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati are also on tap--that's 17 games, and all of those clubs are playing .540 or better. The lads have their work cut out for them.
What's it going to take? For one, The Über-Freak is going to have to lead the way. He's got, presumably, 14 starts left. He's racked up 3.1 WAR (5th in the NL) so far, which is in fact below his 2008 (7.5) and 2009 (8.2) norms. We have all seen Super Tim this year as well as Mere Mortal Tim, and even a below-par Lincecum is better than most anyone else. His 3.02 FIP is 4th in the NL, but he is part of a tight clustering of stud pitchers (Roy Halladay, Josh Johnson, Adam Wainwright, Ubaldo Jimenez, et. al.) rather than the lead horse blowing past the field. The Giants, weak as they are in the superstar department, need their ace more than most clubs. It's not really fair--ever--to put a team's hopes and dreams on to one player (hello, Barry Bonds), but back-to-back Cy Youngs have a way of distorting perspectives. It will be interesting to see how The Franchise carries the load the rest of the way. No matter what happens, we all love the kid, and we know he will continue to be a great performer for us.
The rest of the starters are sort of lumped together: Cain (3.82), Sanchez (3.89), and Zito (3.91) are 23rd, 24th, and 26th in FIP among NL starters. Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley, and Hiroki Kuroda all rate higher, as do Mat Latos and Clayton Richard. Even Colorado's Jason Hammel does, too. That's not a knock--the Giants have a depth of quality most teams would kill for. The Cain-Zito-Sanchez triumvirate is worth 5.4 WAR (2.0 + 1.8 + 1.6), and I'm not sure any club can boast 2-3-4 starters with that kind of value. That group, though, is going to have to rack up consistent quality innings or the Giants chances look pretty bleak. If any one of them falters or gets hurt the team could be in trouble. Adding Madison Bumgarner (0.5 WAR so far, and a 3.86 FIP) certainly shores things up, and could be a nice insurance policy down the stretch.
First-half MVP Aubrey Huff has been a tremendous addition, easily the best free-agent signing by any team this season. As much as I knock Sabean, I have to give him his due for this one. The 33-year-old is having his best season ever (3.1 WAR, .400 wOBA, 142 OPS+), and he'll have to keep it going for the Giants to get to the top. Another fellow enjoying his most productive season ever is Andres Torres (2.8 WAR, .383 wOBA). After a torrid May (.957 OPS) and a mediocre June (.737 OPS), Giants fans aren't sure what we'll see the rest of the way. His July line (.343/.425/.743) in 9 games is somewhat reassuring, but players with his career arc are outliers and hard to project. ZiPS says .345 wOBA the rest of the way, which is solid, but not spectacular, and perhaps unfair. After all, he did put up a .379 wOBA last season in 75 games, so maybe the Andres Torres we are seeing is the real thing. No matter what, he's a great story, and you gotta love him.
The big question mark is, of course, Pablo Sandoval. Chris at BCB does one of his patented expert breakdowns of The Panda's season so far, so I suggest you check that out. Suffice to say that our rotund third baseman has got to start contributing. The long-awaited emergence of rookie sensation Buster Posey has somewhat taken the sting out of Pablo's fall from grace, but I just don't see how the Golden Boy can do it all himself. As one famous wag once opined, "it takes a village." The holes on the club are big, and the patches have to hold through the dog days in a very tightly-contested division. Bullpen youngsters Sergio Romo and Dan Runzler are getting better all the time, and I have lots of confidence in them. Santiago Casilla has been a nice pickup, too. Brian Wilson is a beast (2.16 FIP, 1.4 WAR), and insanely valuable, but Jeremy Affeldt remains a question mark. Like Sandoval, he was counted on for a lot, and I think the team will miss his contributions if he doesn't see an uptick in performance going forward.
I want to believe it is a four-team race and the Giants have an equal shot. The Dodgers scare me, they have so much damn talent. The Rockies are lurking menacingly, they have such great depth and balance, and a recent history of late runs. The Padres can't be written off despite their odds-defying season. They will come back to earth, no team can hit that poorly and not see a drop-off, but they won't go quietly. I like their leadership (Bud Black, Jed Hoyer, Paul DePodesta), and worry they might just outsmart us. Baseball Prospectus publishes post-season odds, you can see them here. Of the four clubs in the hunt, the number-crunchers see San Diego having a 57.5 % chance of making the playoffs, with Colorado (56.1 %) right behind, and Los Angeles (29.6 %) and San Francisco (13.8 %) scrambling to catch them. BP says we are an 84-78 club. (We'll see, eh?) For comparison, the Yankees have an 84.1 % chance (94-68) of reaching the post-season. I've come to loathe plucky squads that fall just short, or ones that have to have all the pieces fall into place to have a real shot. I want a loaded team, one with scads of talent and surplus players. I want a team that can weather any storm and that scares the rest of the league. I mean, I love the Giants. I'm a fookin' lifer, fer chrissakes. But I want 84.1 %, and I don't see why I can't get it.
Enjoy the next 74. Go Giants!