The Giants have played 80 games and find themselves one game up in the NL West with a 45-35 record. Their "Pythagorean" or "expected" W-L record is only 42-38 (317 RS, 301 RA) and I've no doubt we can attribute that to the presence of so many All-Stars. Either that or Bruce Bochy is a genius, pick which one you like. The Reds are the second of three first-place teams the Giants play consecutively. The Washington Nationals are next and they have the best record in the NL. I'm not sure it matters with the Giants, but they do miss Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, both who have been sensational in 2012. They follow that hot, humid East coast swing with three against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who are in second place in the NL Central with a 42-36 record, a game behind Cincinnati. That's four good teams right before the Break. If you were looking for a yardstick to judge the club, this is as good a stretch as you'll get.
It looked bad on Sunday after another excellent start by Ryan Vogelsong. Somehow Santiago Casilla managed to stop the bleeding in the 9th, and a freaky misplay by Jay Bruce in the bottom of the inning salvaged the win, but it was close. Giants really needed a big hit to pad the lead earlier in the game, but when you are 25th in baseball in SLG that's a reach. It's hard to believe there are teams who are worse, but there are: Tampa Bay, Oakland, the Dodgers, Seattle, and San Diego. I think both Pablo Sandoval and Brandon Belt are going to have to supply some pop in the second half. Otherwise it is pitching, pitching, pitching. The four teams I mentioned in the first paragraph are the four teams ahead of San Francisco in runs allowed: Nationals (268), Pirates (291), Dodgers (294), and Reds (298). None of the five have a particularly potent offense, only the Reds (4.24 rpg) score above the league average (4.20). Stabilize the defense, get Tim Lincecum back, and shore up the 'pen are obvious improvements, and the first two seem to be trending in the right direction. Javier Lopez has not been Mr. Automatic in 2012 (20 hits and 9 walks in 16-1/3 IP), the closer has had a shaky stretch, and some of the names at the bottom end (Shane Loux and George Kontos) are not inspiring. I imagine the Brian Trust will make another move in that department. Oh, and let's get Gregor Blanco going again!