As I write this, the Giants sit within striking distance of the NL West at 5.5 GB. They're still 7 games under .500, and they still aren't hitting on all cylinders, but they're alive.
With Timmy's no-hitter heading into the break and grabbing 2 of 3 to open the "so-called second half" (as Dave Flemming would put it) against Arizona, things appear to be trending in an upward fashion.
Clearly, they have their work cut out for them, with a capable Arizona team and the hyper-streaking Doyers sitting ahead of them in the standings.
Affeldt is now on the DL, resulting in more Jean Machi appearances, and the starting lineup is still mired in mediocrity, but I refuse to believe that Pablo, Pence, and Crawford will continue to hit at well below average clips.
As those three guys go, the Giants too will go.
It's clear that LF is still an issue, with 2B-turned OF Kensuke Tanaka not an overall upgrade over Andres Torres, and Francoeur still an unknown quantity. Personally, I'd like to see if a full-time Frenchy can get it going. At least he's got a cannon in LF, if nothing else.
The pitching staff is inconsistent, but is performing better than the beginning of the season.
The problem is this team has to play better with what they have before Brian Sabean can justify making any significant moves to upgrade this roster. Obviously, it's easier said than done in both respects, but it's crystal clear that this currently isn't a team that can make a run at this division without an immediate improvement from within.
Unfortunately, the whole lightning in a bottle thing that won two titles has yet to be captured, and there is no quick fix available. The theory that the Giants sold their soul to win in '10 and '12 certainly looks like there's a little merit to it as game after game, they're unable to put it all together.
As I mentioned in previous posts, this team needs an immediate infusion of pitching of some kind, and there's nothing available internally that will solve this issue right now.
As we speak, there are only 5 guys on the Fresno Grizzlies roster that have an ERA under 3. And of those 5, Jake Dunning, Sandy Rosario, and Jean Machi are already on the big league roster, and the other two guys have a combined 3 appearances. Heath Hembree if you're wondering, has 21 saves, but has an ERA hovering around 4.50. Obviously, AAA has been cashed out, and there aren't really any standouts in AA either.
Unfortunately for the Giants, the minors have little in the way of ML ready talent, and that puts the front office in a bit of a quandary.
Do they deal some A Ball level pitching prospects to get better now, in a season that is not guaranteed by any stretch? I would lean toward no.
The opportunity to add arms by taking on money for a middling prospect is likely the route that Sabean will have to go, unless the asking price for guys like Bud Norris come down.
With Zito (team option), Lincecum, Vogelsong (team option), and Chad "Gurney" Gaudin all set to hit the free agent market at the end of this season, it would behoove the Giants to make a meaningful move to secure controllable pitching that could help anchor the rotation beyond 2013.
A name that has recently surfaced as a possibility, is Kansas City's Ervin Santana (formerly of the Angels). Due to be a free agent, Santana is 6-6 with a 3.18 ERA. He should probably be available, although the Royals are apparently not ready to give up on the season yet. He's due somewhere around $5.5MM for the rest of the season.
The truth of the matter is that there isn't a ton out there in the ways of starting pitching, and the guys that are there are either really expensive prospect-wise like Jake Peavy, or really in demand.
The little wrinkle in this is that Ryan Vogelsong is supposed to be ready to go in 2-3 weeks. We can't forget how awful he was before he went down, but he's certainly capable of helping this team if he's back on track. This simple addition from within could really change the entire landscape of the pitching staff-- enabling either Vogey, Gaudin, or possibly the struggling Zito to become a reliever and bumping Machi down to Fresno.
As it stands, we can't count on that and the best solution may be to add a reliever.With the non-waiver trade deadline in less than two weeks, I fully expect that to happenr. A lefty would be optimal, but a righty like John Axford from Milwaukee would certainly fit the bill.
I know, I know, but he's only given up one earned run since May 15th.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Brian Wilson again, who is reportedly on track to showcase himself to teams in the next few weeks. The Giants have been reported as being interested in kicking his crazy tires once again.
It sounds like a broken record-- and it really is-- but the Giants are going to have play better with what they have rather than expecting some kind of miracle acquisition from the outside.
Are they capable of improvement? Of course, but we just haven't seen it, and they're running out of time.