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Even though they sit atop the NL Wild Card standings and carry the second best record in the National league as the second half kicks off on Thursday, the Giants still have some issues that need to be addressed if they're serious about making a real run for the postseason. Last post we broke down the first half and what went right for the Giants, today we'll look at what didn't go so well and what needs to improve.The Giants offense, while it's been a little better than expected coming into the year, has still been below league average throughout the first half. The teams combined average of .262 isn't bad, but their 368 runs scored ranks towards the bottom of the Randy Winn (.275, 2 homers, 35 RBI) and Fred Lewis (.250, 4 homers, 12 RBI), whose struggles at the plate cost him the starting spot in left field. I don't think Lewis is completely out of the Giants' plans, and since Nate Schierholtz hasn't completely ran away with an outfield spot over the last few weeks, Lewis could find himself back in the mix to start the second half. Winn has been up-and-down all year long, as he's seen his average get up as high as .312, and down as low as .261 over the first couple months of the season. Since he doesn't bring a lot of pop, it's crucial that Winn keeps his average around .300 in order to be of value to the offense. Bengie Molina and Edgar Renteria are a couple of other bats who have been solid in clutch situations, but who's averages could certainly use a boost.
The starting rotation, which has carried the Giants to where they're at right now, has been very good as a whole this year, but things can definitely get better. Barry Zito started to show some strides early in the year that looked as if he'd bounce back and possibly be a .500 pitcher with a sub-4 ERA. In fact, on June 5th, Zito was sporting a 3.86 ERA and was really looking like the pre-2007 version of himself. However, after that start on June 5th, things have been all downhill for the overpriced lefty. As we sit at the break, Zito's carrying an ERA over 5, a WHIP of 1.41 and a win-loss record of 5-9. The other Giants lefty at the back end of the rotation, Jonathan Sanchez, hadn't fared much better until his most recent start before the break. In fact, even after Sanchez's masterpiece no-hit effort, he's still sporting a 4.89 ERA, a 1.50 WHIP and 3-8 record. These two have been a big reason why the Giants aren't actually a little bit better than where they're at right now, but I think both can do better, and will do better in the second half. Zito's always been a better second half pitcher throughout his career, and Sanchez is coming off the best start of his life, and should only feed off of it.So, what needs to happen for the Giants to stay atop the wild card race and keep their pace with the Dodgers you say? Well, health would be the first thing that comes to mind. The guy who I'm thinking about in particular is Randy Johnson. The Big Unit has been huge for this team, and if he has to miss a bunch of time due to his shoulder strain, it will effect the team Ryan Sadowski) who are either unproven, or have proven to be inconsistent. That's 3/5 of the rotation that really is unpredictable. Sadowski has been a nice surprise, and I'm not too worried about him yet, but once he starts facing teams for a second time or goes up against premiere lineups, I'm not sure what to expect. Everyone wants to talk about how the team needs a bat or two to push them over the top, but depending on Johnson's status, they may need another starter just to keep them where they're at now. In a perfect world, Johnson comes back before the trade deadline and doesn't miss a beat, and the Giants are able to acquire a nice, middle of the order bat without giving up one of their top-5 prospects, and if that happens, they'll run away with the Wild Card. If they don't add another bat, and Johnson's injury starts lingering into August, then this team will struggle to keep their hold. It should be an interesting second half for the Giants as they zero in on a playoff birth for the first time since 2003, and it will all come down to health!
Trevor Cole The Giants Baseball Blog