Five questions facing the Giants in the second half of the season
07/16/2014 6:23 PM
07/16/2014 9:02 PM
1. Where did the power go?
On June 3, the Giants were second in the National League in home runs with 63 in their first 56 games. In the next 39 games, they hit 23, fourth-fewest in the league during that time.
Giants manager Bruce Bochy believes the Giants will hit for more power in the second half – and he doesn’t just mean homers.
“That’s what we’re missing, those doubles with men on base, and part of it is we’re late a lot,” Bochy said. “We’re missing our pitch, I think, fastballs in particular, and we’ve got to shorten up a little bit.”
Bochy also figures the early power numbers may have caused the Giants to become reliant on the home run. When those numbers ebbed, the Giants weren’t used to stringing together hits to score runs – a hallmark of the lineup when it’s at its best.
2. Is this the new
Lincecum is forever tinkering with his appearance – case in point, the mustache – but the one he’s currently wearing on the mound suits him well. The right-hander allowed one run in 30 1/3 innings over his final four starts of the first half, arguably his best stretch since his Cy Young days.
Lincecum said he’s comfortable throwing any pitch in any count now, and pitching coach Dave Righetti has said Lincecum has improved his command by slowing his whirlwind windup. The result is a 9-5 record and 3.66 ERA – his best ERA at the break since 2011.
While still capable of dazzling performances – no-hitting the Padres in consecutive seasons is the prime example – Lincecum has found consistency elusive in recent seasons. This second half should give an indication of whether he has finally captured it.
3. What can they expect from Angel Pagan?
The Giants’ records with and without their center fielder and leadoff hitter are stark, in part because of Pagan’s production and spark atop the lineup, but also because his absence has exposed a lack of depth and placed backups – most recently Gregor Blanco – in unsuitable roles.
The Giants hope to have Pagan back soon, but a target date hasn’t been set. That’s at least a little unsettling, given this team’s recent history with back problems (Marco Scutaro being the main example) and Pagan’s injury history. His hamstring injury last year was thought to be minor at first, but he ended up having surgery and missing several months.
Pagan was batting a team-high .307 before playing his last game June 14, and having Pagan in the leadoff spot allows Bochy his preference of batting Hunter Pence second. In the ideal scenario for the Giants, that’s where both are by the end of the month.
4. What’s bugging Matt Cain?
Cain won just two of his 15 first-half starts, and while that included a few outings that featured his traditional lack of run support, the right-hander was just as often at fault, as his rotation-high 4.18 ERA attests.
Cain had two stints on the disabled list, though one came after he sliced his finger cutting a sandwich. Both Cain and Bochy have stressed there’s nothing physically wrong with Cain, who is on pace to finish short of 200 innings for the second year in a row after six consecutive seasons reaching that mark.
Still, the Giants are opting to push Cain back in the rotation to begin the second half, giving him 12 days off between starts. No doubt they’re hoping for a repeat of 2013, when Cain had a 5.06 ERA in the first half but a 2.36 mark after the break.
5. Can they still make up for lost ground?
While the optimist points to the Giants’ one-game deficit, the pessimist looks at them and wonders if they’ve squandered a golden opportunity by allowing the Dodgers to erase that early 91/2-game lead.
Scheduling even seemed favorable for the Giants, who played 25 of their final 34 games in the first half at AT&T Park. But they were unable to take advantage, winning just six of their last 22 games at home before the break.
Now they play 38 of their final 67 games on the road, including four trips into the Eastern time zone. It’s a difficult path to October – and one that, if they fail to make the playoffs, will likely have them looking back on the season’s first half in terms of what could have been.
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