The second half of the baseball season kicks off Friday night, with the Giants hosting the Houston Astros for three at AT&T Park. With the Giants still a game out in the West, and the Dodgers still missing their top hitters, first place is easily reachable, but they need some things to change.
|Lincecum Key to 2nd Half|
First and foremost, obviously, they're going to need Timmy to be solid if nothing else in this second half. I'm not expecting Lincecum to all the sudden find his groove and become the ace of this staff again overnight, but he's got to start stringing some quality starts together. Not only does he need to get off to a good start for his own sake, but I've said all along that this team isn't a serious playoff threat with Lincecum throwing the way he has been. The Giants are losing every game the guy pitches and it's got to start taking a toll on the everyday players too. It's a shame this is happening to Tim this year too, because all the other Giants starters have been brilliant up to now. Both Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain are in the hunt for 20-win seasons, and Ryan Vogelsong again has one of the lowest ERA's in baseball. Even Barry Zito has had his moments in the first half, and completed what many believe to be his best three months as a San Francisco Giants. As good as the starters were in the first though, they'll have to be even better down the stretch if they're not getting anything from "The Franchise". The starting pitching is the most important element of this team, and they just aren't right when #55 isn't clicking.
Another area on this team that will be under a microscope between now and July 31st is the bullpen. After they lost Brian Wilson in April, I thought this bullpen would take a major hit, but surprisingly, they pulled
|Romo: 0.72 ERA|
together and pitched very well for the most part. Santiago Casilla hit a wall there at the end of the first half, blowing 3 of 4 save chances, and was ousted (at least temporarily) from closing duties. The bullpen is an area I definitely expect to see some movement at in the next couple of weeks. Brian Sabean has been diligently searching for relief help, and it's just a matter of time before something goes through. One of the reasons I believe the starting pitching is so key over this second half is because I just don't see the Giants being able to add another legit starting pitcher as easily as a reliever. They should be able to find a bullpen arm or two that can help them in the second half relatively easily compared to other positions. The big thing they need to figure out is who their closer will be. I think it's time for Romo to shine, he's the best reliever on the roster and should be the one closing out ballgames. Casilla has done a fine job, and could be used there again, but I'd swap his and Romo's roles and see how things go.
Surprisingly, I'm not too worried about the Giants offense right now. Pablo Sandoval (who was cleared on his charges in Santa Cruz Thursday) looks primed for a big 2nd half, and I'm hoping Gregor Blanco can turn back into the player he was in May and June. We kind of all kind of know what to expect from Melky, Buster, Pablo and Pagan, but it's going to have to be the other 4 guys that show some consistency. If Belt hits like he can, Blanco gets back to the basics and Theriot keeps that average up, they'll be alright. If those guys start off slowly after the break, then it's going to put Sabean in a very tough position. I know he'd rather not make a big deal for a hitter like he had to last summer if he can help it. I'm sure they'd like another right-handed power bat, but not necessarily a full-timer. However, if Blanco's average continues to plummet, and Belt goes back into one of his funks, Sabes could be left without a choice.