We are about to hit July and the season is officially halfway over. I thought now would be a good time to do a mid-season review of the first half of the season.
THE GOOD: Tim Lincecum was the subject of trade talks over the winter, but the Giants eventually took him off the table and it was definitely the right thing to do. The 24 year-old right hander has been borderline dominant over the season's first 12 weeks as he sits at 9-1 with a 2.38 era and 114 k's in 109 innings. He's almost guaranteed to make his first All-Star team in couple of weeks and there is a decent chance he could start the game for the national league. The Giants new closer, Brian Wilson, has also stepped up big time this year and has cemented himself into the Giants closer role, a role he may fill for them well into the next decade. As far as the position players go, nobody is having a real standout year. Fred Lewis has had a nice first half as full-time player for the first time. Lewis quietly leads the team in OPS, runs score and stolen bases all while playing a much improved left field. He's not going to make anyone forget about Barry Bonds, but he looks like he's becoming a solid everyday outfielder. Aaron Rowand, Bengie Molina and Randy Winn haven't been too bad either.
THE BAD: The Giants are still 10 games below .500 at the un-official halfway mark and a big reason for that is Barry Zito's struggles. The 126 million dollar man has gone 3-11 over the first half while sporting an era over 6 for most of that time. He has been throwing a lot better as of late and his era is dropping a bit, but you can't help but think of where the Giants would be had he been just average over those first 2 months of the season. The team has also been bitten by the injury bug as Noah Lowry (originally slated as the teams #3 coming into the year) has been on the shelf all year and likely won't pitch again until 2009. Omar Vizquel missed the first 6 weeks of the season and he hasn't really been a factor since his return. He's hitting .156 in 122 at bats and while he still plays an above average shortstop, it looks like 2008 will be the last go round for the future hall-of-famer.
THE SURPRISES: There are two guys who have played a much bigger role for this team this season than I think anyone anticipated and those two guys are Jonathan Sanchez and Jon Bowker. Sanchez has finally harnessed that talented left-arm of his and is starting to string up good starts one after another. He probably wouldn't even have had a shot to start had Lowry been healthy to start the year so while having Lowry out for the year hurts, the finding of Jonathan Sanchez makes it a little easier to handle. Sanchez is 8-4 with 102 strikeouts over 102 innings while sporting a 3.79 era. Jon Bowker has been the Giants' rookie of the year so far as he has 8 home runs (tied for team lead) and 35 RBI (3rd on team) for them while playing only about 70 percent of the time. He's starting to earn pt against southpaws though and is probably in line for 300+ at-bats in the second half.
SECOND HALF PREVIEW: The Giants will enter the second half of the year within striking distance of the first place Diamondbacks. I don't expect to see the Giants win the division or even be serious contenders come September, but the NL West is not very strong this year. If Barry Zito pitches more like he did in June rather than April and May, the Giants will be better in the second half than they were in the first. I would like to see the Giants approach the second half as sellers and actively try and deal away some of the veterans who could be desirable to other teams (Winn, Ray Durham, Rich Aurilia, Dave Roberts etc...) but I don't really see that happening. Look for the Giants to hover around the 10 game-below .500 mark for much of the second half, just as they did the first. I don't think they're going to loose 100 games like I thought in April, and it's starting to look like a 75-80 win year isn't too far fetched.
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