Following perhaps the most bizarre first half of baseball that many of us have seen, the San Francisco Giants limped to the All-Star break, and somewhat surprisingly, without being in last place.
Despite not making it to the mid-summer classic all in one piece, they somehow managed to crawl from the bottom of the division, score some runs, and even tally a Saturday night no-no courtesy of a 2010-style performance from Tim Lincecum.
But the All-Star Game has come and gone, and it’s time to get back to business.
The Orange & Black still have a long way to go before they can even tempt the idea of October baseball, so there’s no better time to look at what needs to be accomplished to put more wins on the board.
Typically, we save things like “wish lists” for the holiday season. And, typically, we leave that practice to kids under the age of 12.
But since I have very little shame when it comes to asking the home team to be a dominant force in Major League Baseball, now seems like a good time to make a request or two — okay fine, more than two — of the defending world champs:
Get a few more innings out of those starters: Take away two starts in the last week before the break, and the Giants starting rotation has, believe or not, been improving.
Those two bad starts were Matt Cain coming out of the finale against the Mets in the first inning, and Barry Zito — as my brother would say — “throwing BP” and being sent to the showers in the second inning in San Diego.
Even with four days of rest for the withered and wiped-out bullpen, getting six or more quality innings out of the starting rotation is crucial if the Giants are going to be competitive headed into August and September ball.
Madison Bumgarner has consistently been productive in his starts so far in 2013. Chad Gaudin, while probably headed back to the ‘pen, certainly gave the team an opportunity to win in his few starts.
Heck, Lincecum’s two starts before throwing the no-hitter also highlighted some of the best pitching we’ve seen from him in the last two seasons. It’s just too bad that bobbles in the outfield and a lack of run support didn’t back up his performances.
And while we’re on the subject of scoring runs…
Stop. Leaving Guys. On Base. No, seriously: It is a problem that has plagued the ball club in previous seasons, but it’s usually one of those issues that resolves itself by the second month of the regular season.
Such has not the case in 2013.
Ranking 25th with men in scoring position is not okay in any way, shape, or form. Sure, the lineup needs to actually put the bat on the ball in order to drive runs in. So hopefully the offensive momentum from the Padres series carries into the rest of the summer.
As for things that we don’t want to carry over into the second half…
Stay healthy … Is that too much to ask? This might seem like a no-brainer, but it still needs to be requested, especially when you consider how many bumps and bruises the Giants sustained in the first half.
The injury bug didn’t hesitate to hit every possible point of San Francisco’s roster: the top of the batting order, the bench, the starting rotation, the bullpen, you name it.
It makes one hope the Giants have their injury issues out of the way and will have a clean bill of health heading down the stretch?
A few notables will be coming back in the second half of the season. Starter Ryan Vogelsong and Bruce Bochy’s go-to reliever Santiago Casilla will be rejoining the ranks in the coming month, which should give the pitching a much-needed boost.
The bench will also get a lift when Joaquin Arias comes back from his stint on the DL.
So what should the well-rounded roster focus on in the coming months? On to wish number four…
Take a cue from a former player: Just before the All-Star break, former Giants first baseman JT Snow said in a radio interview that the Giants were “distracted” by the marketing behind their success in past seasons, hence their problems on the field.
It might sound a little harsh at first, but Snow has a point: Continuing to celebrate two championships in three years is great. But when the club is losing more games than they are winning, perhaps it’s time to refocus back toward simply playing baseball.
While it appeared the Giants had made a turn-around during the Padres series, the turning point in the team’s attitude came during the Wednesday matinee at home against the Mets.
Even with frustrating losses piling up, San Francisco still took the field before each game as if the constant beatdowns didn’t bother them.
But when Cain left the mound after only two-thirds of an inning, the defense behind him — for the first time in their losing stretch — actually looked, for lack of a better word, defeated.
Perhaps it was the kick-in-the-pants that the team needed, because they turned around and took three out of four in San Diego and eked their way out of last place.
Even without an extra day of rest between series, the team looked rejuvenated: bats heated up and the pitching, for the most part, was on par.
A much-needed attitude adjustment? It’s definitely a possibility.
The tweak in the Giants’ focus could also have been a catalyst for Lincecum’s no-hitter, which also featured a newly invigorated offense, and the best defense that we’ve seen from Pablo Sandoval all season.
(And don’t forget Hunter Pence’s eighth-inning catch, even though he’s been making diving stops like that all season.)
Now it’s just a matter of taking that mentality and applying it to every game from now until the end of September.
Hopefully that isn’t too much to wish for.