Butch's first half report card for your Giants
Up the middle: B+
The addition of Buster Posey, the return of Freddy Sanchez, the (earlier) mashing of Juan Uribe, and the discovery of Andres Torres has certainly improved the offense from 2009, but there have been too many games when Renteria, Rowand, and Molina failed to produce in key situations.
Corner infielders: B-
Aubrey Huff has been a revelation, and Buster's held down the fort in a new role at 1B, but the struggles of one Pablo Sandoval have put a crimp in the Giants plans for a successful 2010. If the Panda does not find a way out of the hole he's dug for himself, Sabes will need to look elsewhere for more offense (see below).
The miasma Bochy has navigated here since Opening Day is not to be believed. John Bowker is one or two options away from being considered a bust. "Nasty" Nate won his RF job back with a torrent of hitting, then gave it away with an equally horrid stretch. The addition of Pat the Bat and the temporary relocation of Huff increased the outfield's productivity, and Andres Torres has added that top-of-the-order element the team has been lacking, but this is still a work in progress.
Remember when this was supposed to be a liability for the 2010 Giants? Well, it turns out Aubrey Huff can pick it, "Nasty" Nate has the best RF arm in the league, and Panda has yet to let his offensive struggles affect his glove. This is not to mention the talents of Buster and Freddy up the middle. The only problem spot is a huge one: shortstop. As in, we don't have anybody with decent range to play the most dynamic position on the field.
Starting pitching: B
Maybe I'm being harsh, but I'm not as impressed as I expected to be. "Dirty" Sanchez still has a lot of work to do between the ears, and he's got to learn to control his pitch counts. Ditto to Zito, who lately has struggled to get out of the fifth inning. Matt Cain's been like Jekyll & Hyde. Todd Wellemeyer was a (huge) mistake. And Madison Bumgarner — while a tremendous prospect — still has a long way to go toward proving his capacity. Then, there's Timmy. Wtf? Luckily for us, looks like he's turning the corner. Without him on his game, winning anything is gonna be downright impossible.
The polar opposite of the defense is this alleged strength which has become a distinct liability. 88 games in, and the 'pen still lacks defined roles. The onus cannot be left at Bochy's door because, frankly, everyone down there has had trouble throwing strikes for long periods at a time. Indeed, I'm trying to think of anybody who's been consistently strong throughout the year, and I'm drawing a blank.
What to say about Weezy? 22 saves in 24 chances is nothing to scoff at, but the journey can be summed up in one word — and I think you know what it is: torture. Dude gets the job done, and looks the part doing it, but is it worth it if you give your entire fan base simultaneous heart attacks by loading the bases with none out in a one-run game?
Like a lot of you, I'm growing tired of the special treatment for under-performing veterans while Buster's allowed to ride the pine for multiple days at a time. I'm also frustrated by his lack of fire. Say what you want about Dusty — and I could sure say a lot — he leads by example. He gets fired up. He gets pissed. When your team goes 1-for-15 with RISP over the course of a three-game series, I would expect more than, "Well, these guys are working hard, doing their best, etc." Then again, some players respond to the steady hand approach. I just don't think this is the right team for that vibe. They need a kick in the pants, and Bochy needs to be the one to give it to them.
Front office: INC
While it was obviously necessary to move Buster into a more permanent role in the lineup, the Bengie trade also netted us a decent piece for the bullpen in Chris Ray. But it remains to be seen if and how Sabes and the staff will seek to upgrade the Orange & Black before July 31st.
Butch's 3 keys to second half success
1. Pablo, Pablo, Pablo
I said it above, but if the Panda does not return to his former Kung-Fu self, the G's will need to look elsewhere for additional punch. That we're still in contention without our best bat producing at anywhere near his potential is a testament to the team Sabean has assembled. Realistically, I doubt we should expect miracles, but if Sandoval reverts to form, it would be like trading for an All-Star corner infielder and not having to give up a thing.
2. Rotation Wrangling
The starting staff was supposed to be this team's primary strength, the best in the league top-to-bottom. I believe it still is, but the numbers aren't there to prove it, and at times our staff has looked rather beatable out there. It's obviously a struggle when you're not getting a lot of run support, and our record when scoring 4 or more is insane, but there are games when we need these guys to be Supermen if we're going to make waves in October.
3. Situational Hitting
Trust me, you're not the only ones hurtling inanimate objects at the television every time Edgar Renteria grounds into a double play on the first pitch of an at bat in the eighth inning of a one-run game after the batter before him led off the inning with a single. Simply put: Get 'em over. Get 'em in. If not, you can make your tee time reservations for October 4th.
See you at the Cove...