Friday, July 13, 2012

Questions Going Into the 2nd Half

Half the baseball season is over and the Giants are only a half game back!  How fitting. 

It seems as if about half of this team has issues or question marks as well which is not quite as fun.

I'll just start with the biggest who happens to be a 2 time Cy Young winner and World Series hero:

Tim Lincecum

He's 3-10 this season with a 6.42 ERA... and the Giants are 4-14 this season in his starts.  Not really what you expect for the Ace of your staff which by all accounts he has ceded to Matt Cain.  But he is still the most important cog of this staff in that, if Tim Lincecum continues to struggle and never gets back to being himself, this team, regardless of their playoff aspirations, will fail.

However, the flip side to that is.  If the Giants are in playoff contention, and Timmy begins to turn it on even as late as September.  The Giants have a chance to make a World Series run.  That is how important Tim Lincecum is to this team right now.  With Cain, Vogelsong and Bumgarner all having career years.  All it would take is a solid Tim Lincecum for this team to potentially take it all the way.

But the pressure is on.  Yesterday Brian Sabean appeared on KNBR with Tom Tolbert and told him that with this Saturday's start against the Astros, if Timmy blows up again they will strongly consider skipping a start.  That is a strong message being sent down from the brass that Timmy's leash has almost run out of room.  Honestly to give him 19 starts on the season before thinking about skipping him in the rotation is already giving him a lot of respect. 

And don't even think about sending him down to AAA, Sabean straight up guffawed at that question when Tom Tolbert posed it.

Closer Situation 

Santiago Casilla had been having a great season.  So great in fact that I was wondering if Brian Wilson going down in the beginning of the year was actually a blessing in disguise.  But its turned sour in a hurry.  Casilla has 3 blown saves in his last 4 outings and has had a 9.00 ERA in his last 6.  All in all his struggles have cost the Giants 2 wins which would've put them in 1st place at the All Star Break. 

But the bigger question is, who would replace him?

As much as I love Sergio Romo and really believe he would be the logical choice if he were 100% healthy, the fact is that he's not 100% healthy.  He's throwing with an elbow that flares up when overworked, and with 2 balky knees.  Romo is still wearing two knee braces when he pitches. 

And for those of you looking to the Minor Leagues for help, there wont be much there either.  Heath Hembree has been tagged by many as the closer of the future, but he still doesn't have either the command nor the pitch selection necessary to pitch at the big league level.  His fastball is definitely ready at 98-99 mph, but without a breaking ball that can either set up the fastball or be his out pitch.

Other than that, the guys already in the bullpen are Hensley, Kontos, Loux, Affeldt and Lopez.  3 rooks and 2 lefty specialists.... oh boy we're in trouble...

The Brandons

Belt and Crawford are both locks in this lineup for this season.  But does that mean they'll be able to produce for this team and possibly in the playoffs?  

Honestly I don't see how Crawford could go anywhere but up at this point.  Arias is always there as an option to fill the shortstop position, but that's definitely not a permanent fix.  As for Belt, with Huff out and Pill back in the minors, he really has no more excuses that he's not producing.  Although his approach has improved greatly from the beginning of the season, he needs to prove that he holds a legitimate spot in this lineup and is capable of knocking in runs.

Last time I was down on Brandon Belt he went on a absolute tear.  But when I recognized that excellence, he went into another drought.  Lets hope the pattern stays the same.

Left Field Laws

Melky Cabrera says he would be open to a contract extension with the Giants during the season.  The Giants happen to have $13 million coming off the books next year because they will no longer be paying Aaron Rowand.  Fate?

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