Major League Baseball News
San Francisco Giants midseason progress report
By Mike Castiglione Jul 14, 2006, 18:20 GMT
- With the first half of the 2006 season in the rearview mirror, the San Francisco Giants are hoping to continue their recent trend of being a strong second-half team.
Since the turn of the century, the Giants have not had a losing record in the second half of any season. And with the way things have gone in the National League West this particular season, anything better than a .500 record will put the Giants in contention for the division crown.
At 45-44, San Francisco is nestled in fourth place in the division. But fourth place in the NL West is quite different than fourth place in virtually any other division in the majors. Take the AL Central, for example, where the fourth-place Cleveland Indians are a whopping 18 1/2 games out of first place. In the NL West, on the other hand, the fourth-place Giants are 3 1/2 games back.
The Achilles' heal for the Giants, as is the case for the rest of the NL West, has been consistency. Whereas a good weekend can catapult the Giants right into contention for the division lead, the inevitable rough patch that follows often drops the Giants right back to where they started. They've never won or lost more than three-in-a-row, which helps explain why they've been hovering around .500 all season long.
But let's start with what has gone right for San Francisco. You won't need a magnifying glass to figure out what has been the team's strength so far this season: pitching. The Giants bolster one of the finest rotations in the NL with Jason Schmidt, Matt Morris, Jamey Wright, Matt Cain and Noah Lowry. The bullpen, though young, is another strong point for San Francisco. Overall, the Giants boast the fourth-lowest ERA among National League teams, with the New York Mets being the only non-NL West team in the top-five. Manager Felipe Alou called pitching 'the heart of the team.'
So if the entire NL West is neck-and-neck in pitching, then it's only necessary to take a look at how the teams stack up offensively. Therein lies the problem for the Giants. San Francisco and San Diego are tied for the fourth-lowest team batting average in the NL at .260.
Two of the team's aging stars were M.I.A. for large portions of the season. Moises Alou played in less than half the team's games because of various injuries. Barry Bonds, even when he steps in the batter's box, is no longer the feared hitter he once was, but to his credit he did surpass the legendary Babe Ruth for second place on the all-time home run list.
The Giants have shown to be a solid defensive team, but if they can't get runs across the plate, the rest of the division is going to pass them by. So where does the team go from here?
Felipe Alou is thinking one thing: help.
'(The NL West race) is going to be determined by trades,' Alou said. 'Some team that comes up with a big one might turn the tide big-time.'
MOST VALUABLE PLAYER - Third baseman Pedro Feliz. After all, his manager referred to him as the team's key player in the first half. Somebody had to step up when the big guns were nursing injuries. And that somebody has been Feliz. He is hitting .274 while leading the team in home runs (15) and RBI (62).
BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT - The decline in production - and health - from Barry Bonds, the most prolific name in baseball among active players. Aching knees, bone spurs, arthritis, etc. Bonds has played in 69 games, is hitting just .249, and has 12 homers and 39 RBI. Add in the everyday saga of his off-the- field issues, and Bonds season looks more like a soap opera than anything else.
SECOND HALF PROJECTION - General Manager Brian Sabean will undoubtedly shop the market for offensive help. What he is able to come away with, and at what price, is another story. The rotation is solid and there are promising young arms in the bullpen. It'll be interesting to see the value placed on the older guys on the roster when the trade deadline rolls around. Until then, maybe a healthy Moises Alou will be enough to spark some life into the Giants' offense.
© 2006 The Sports Network