With the first half of the Major League Baseball season completed, and the all-stars of baseball all gathered in St. Louis for tonight's mid-summer classic, I figured today would be a good day to break down the Giants first half. So in the first part of review, we'll take a look at what went right that has the Giants atop the NL Wild Card standings and with the second best record in the NL.

Coming into the season, nobody but those in the bay area had very big expectations for this team. People figured that they had a young exciting staff that should keep them in ballgames, but ultimately their offense would struggle to support it. However,
that really hasn't been the case. Even though the offense hasn't been great, they've done enough to support their starters for the most part this season. Pablo Sandoval (.333, 15 HR, 55 RBI) has led the offensive charge and even though he didn't get all-star honors, he's may just get himself some MVP recognition if the Giants make the playoffs and he has a second half that mirrors his first one. In addition to Sandoval, Bengie Molina (11 HR, 50 RBI), Aaron Rowand ( .288, 9HR, 40 RBI, 44 runs) and Edgar Renteria (.364 AVG with runners on base and 38 RBI's out of the 2 hole) have all been solid veteran presences in the Giants' lineup. Juan Uribe has cemented himself into the Giants' everyday lineup at second base and is hitting .301 with 4 homers and 20 RBI in 187 at-bats. Youngsters Travis Ishikawa and Nate Schierholtz have also put forth some solid efforts over the last month or so. Ishikawa, who struggled mightily through the seasons' first two months, has finally hit his groove and he's helped carry with a few big home runs in recent weeks and his play in particular has the Giants easing off a little in their pursuit for a bat.

While the offense has done just enough to get by in the first half, the pitching has been spectacular, both relief and starting. The starters seem to be getting better as the season wears and the only issue going on with the starting rotation is the question of when Randy Johnson will return. The Giants front 3 starters have combined to win 28 ballgames through the first half of the season, and an emergence from Ryan Sadowski and a no-hit performance from Jonathan Sanchez could provide a lift to the bottom half of the rotation to start the second half of the year.

Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have each won 10 games apiece and have lost just 2, and both have ridiculous numbers to go along with those 10 wins. Lincecum is second in the NL with a 2.33 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP and leads baseball with 149 strikeouts in 127 innings. Cain isn't far behind with a 2.38 era and a 1.26 WHIP along with 95 K's in 117 innings. Randy Johnson also put together a solid half. Minus his final appearance in which he was obviously not 100%, he was 8-5 with a 4.60 era with 78 K's in 88 innings. His last 8 starts leading up to his injury though were all very solid outings and he was 5-1 over that stretch.

In the bullpen, things have been just as good as they've been in the rotation. In fact, the Giants' collective bullpen ERA,
as a whole, is the best in the National League. They're once again being led by closer Brian Wilson, who's had a few disastrous outings this year, but is 23 of 27 in save attempts and has really gotten the job done for the most part. His numbers are all improving on last seasons, as he's K'd 45 in just 39 innings and is sporting a 3.66 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP and a .230 BAA. The cast that get Wilson the ball have been equally as effective too, led by Jeremy Affeldt. The Giants' free-agent acquisition from last winter has been impeccable as a late reliever for the Giants in '09. The 30 year-old lefty is sporting a ridiculous 1.32 era and has 31 K's in his 34 innings pitched while keeping opposing hitters to a .209 average. Oh yeah, he's also leading all of baseball with 19 holds. The Giants right-handed set-up man, Sergio Romo, missed the first 2 months of the season, but has picked up right where he left of last season since his return. Romo is 2-0 with a 2.77 era and 16 K's in 13 innings along with 7 holds.

The middle relievers have been doing their job as well. Long-reliever Justin Miller (2-1, 1.98 ERA in 41 IP) and middle man Brandon Medders (2-1, 2.72, 32 K's/36 innings) have pleasant surprises after barely making this team out of camp (Miller actually was called up in mid-April). Bob Howry, who signed with the Giants over the winter, has been getting steadier as the season progresses as well, as he's got his ERA down to 3.38 in his 32 innings pitched. His ERA was up in the high 5's earlier in the year, but now Bruce Bochy feels confident using him in the 8th inning again.

Up Next on GBB: Be sure to check back Thursday for Part 2 of the first half review in which we'll take a look at some of the things that haven't gone so well for the Giants. We'll also look at what's on tap for the second half as far as needs and things that have to improve for them to keep their place atop the Wild Card Standings... Depending on what happens in the all-star game, we could give a quick recap of that on Wednesday, so check back tomorrow as well! Good luck to Tim Lincecum in his first ever all-star game start tonight, should be fun to watch!

Trevor Cole The Giants Baseball Blog

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