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2012 All Star Break: The Giants Take a Breath and Reboot

I believe it’s Rule #78 in the International Baseball Bloggers Rule Book that states “Baseball team bloggers shall write an assessment of their team at the annual All Star Game break”. Failure to do so could mean a costly and drawn out official hearing at the Baseball Bloggers Alliance headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

The penalty for a first time offending blogger is two weeks all expenses paid in Cleveland; a second offense makes it a mandatory three week stay.

If you’re found guilty a third time, you are sealed in small room with a 7.1 surround sound loop of Tim McCarver discussing the pros and cons of the double switch.

So let’s talk San Francisco Giants at the 2012 Break. There’s 1) some bad news; and, 2) some potentially troubling news.

So what’s first? Tom Hagen said it best in “The Godfather”: “Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news immediately.”

Scoring Runs Redux
Although the Giants are plating runs like they haven’t done in 10 years, they need to score more. Their runs per game has slipped to 3.93 and the team has dropped from 18th to 24th of 30 MLB team in runs scored (338). It’s an old and tired story, but an increase in run production is critical to this team’s success in the remaining 76 games.

Those who made it happen at the plate in the first 86 games include Melky Cabrera (44 RBI/55 RS), Buster Posey (43 RBI/35 RS), and Angel Pagan (33 RBI/38 RS). But two things have negatively impacted run production for the Giants in 2012.

First, Pablo Sandoval’s hand injury limited him to only 51 games of the first 86 played. It may not seem important, but if Sandoval (30 RBI/30 RS) plays in the 35 games he missed it projects out to an additional 21 RBI and 21 runs scored– minus the 9 RBI and 9 runs Sandoval’s replacements produced during the 35 missed games (Arias, Gillaspie, Burriss and Pill hit a dismal combined .189 trying to replace Sandoval).

Minus whatever home runs he may have hit, that means a healthy Sandoval adds 12 RBI and 12 runs– 24 additional runs to the season total. Enough to drive the runs per game up to 4.21 and no doubt good for several additional wins, which easily puts San Francisco in 1st place in the NL West at the break.

The second problem is fixable: more playing time for Brandon Belt. Another ongoing story, but an important one. At the plate Belt has at times looked as good as Will Clark; other times as lost as Lewis and Clark. But he is tied for the team lead with 32 walks and has an OBP of .358.

The Giants are unlikely to find a viable infield bat at the trade deadline who would be nearly as promising as Belt has been. To get better and be able to contribute more, Belt needs to start every day at first base the rest of the season.

The Pitching is Actually Pretty Good
The good news is the pitching. I know, I know– Tim Lincecum! (Let’s all run around in a tight circle waving our arms in the air.)

That’s all fine, but while you’re biting your nails over Lincecum’s problems how many other MLB teams have three starters like Matt Cain (9-3/0.96 WHIP), Madison Bumgarner (10-5/1.10), and Ryan Vogelsong (7-4/1.12)? Maybe the Nationals or Texas.

And by the way, Barry Zito’s 7-6/4.01 projects to 13 wins by the end of September as the Giants’ fifth starter. Damn few teams get that from the fourth starter in their rotations.

Lincecum and his $18m 2012 salary (and $22m 2013 salary) aren’t going anywhere. He is capable of straightening out his mechanics and his mindset. Let’s just hope he does it sometime before September 1st.

Overall Giants’ pitching comes in at 7th among 30 MLB teams with a staff ERA of 3.63. The real critical issue here is the bullpen.

San Francisco relievers are putting up a 3.59 ERA, dropping them to 7th among National League bullpens and 16th overall in the Majors. Over the past three seasons if you wanted to check out the Giants’ bullpen stats you’d find them somewhere in the top three of all 30 MLB teams.

And this is where the 2012 season will make or break for the Giants.

By not replacing closer Brian Wilson, and putting Santiago Casilla in the closer role, the bullpen was permanently weakened on two levels: Casilla has yet to prove he has the grit to be the full time closer for a whole season, and Casilla’s critical former role in the bullpen has not been successfully filled.

If the Giants are going to make any kind of move between the All Star Break and the the July 31st 1PM PST trade deadline it should be to bolster their bullpen. Nothing the team does will better help them make the 2012 post season.

The Giant’s Cove is looking forward to a great All Star game from the boys, and a great start to the second half of the season. There. The International Baseball Bloggers can call off the dogs.

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