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Giants' Secret Second-Half Power Upgrade Is Melky's New Camaro

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Memo to Mr. Permagrin Fake-Tan Fox Sports guy: Melky has one answer to everything, and he's sticking to it. But he'll take the car and drive his grandma around with the top down. He's got the wheels, he's got the Melkmaids, now all he needs is the contract.

The only blemish on the Giants' dominant All-Star night was Melky's attempt to slap hands with his buddy Robinson Cano as he rounded the bases in his home-run trot. Dude, no. Frank Robinson, who tried to put cleat-marks on his opponents' foreheads in spring training, saw that and tipped over in his Barcalounger. I'm not sure if the slap-move was born from arrogance or from doofusness, or a little of both, but it was entirely inappropriate.

The high-profile performance of one-third of the Giants' lineup -- if you haven't heard, Pablo Sandoval cleared the bases with a triple off Justin Verlander, Melky singled and later hit a two-run homer, and Buster Posey walked and scored -- put an odd little cap on the first half, or perhaps administered a slap in the face (like Cano undoubtedly wanted to deliver to Melky). Melky, Buster and Panda in the middle of the lineup... and why aren't the Giants better than 46-40?

We all know the answer, or answers. But the slap in the face also turned on the light bulb over our heads, if you don't mind your metaphors stirred, not shaken: We now see a path to a good offense. Those three All-Star guys stay healthy and productive, Brandon Belt smooths out some of the bumps and flexes more power, Gregor Blanco and Angel Pagan stay out of killer slumps, and presto: best-case scenario concocted from the frothy exuberance lingering after a near-meaningless exhibition! 

But seriously, there's reason for sober optimism, although it still doesn't include a ton of power. If the Giants hadn't melted in the heat last week like the Wicked Witch of the West, they would be in first place right now, even with a pop-gun offense and a broken Freak. Say what you want about the weakness of their division, but a 3-3 road trip would have meant a 48-38 record, second best in the National League.

The oddest thing is that the Giants are in good shape for a second-half pennant race thanks to the front office's portfolio of good moves this winter and spring. When was the last time a Giants' fan could say that at the All-Star Break?

Starting with the most obvious, here are all the things that have gone right for Sabes & Co.:

- The Melky trade. Steal of the year.

- The Pagan trade. Angel is no godsend, but he's healthy and he's solid.

- The Vogelsong deal. He was under the Giants' control anyway, but the long-term deal showed a level of confidence in Vogelsong that not many outside San Francisco felt.

- Patience with Zito. Somehow after Zito's disastrous spring Dave Righetti turned him into a viable fifth starter. His K/BB ratio is uglier than ever, and it could all go kerflooey in the second half, but he's given the team more decent starts than anyone could have hoped for.

- This year's scrap-heap treasures. Unfortunately, Gregor Blanco has hit the skids ever since I jinxed him by fantasizing about a potential .400 OBP for the year. Perhaps Bochy has overused him, perhaps he's nursing an injury, perhaps the league is catching up to him. But the fundamental decision to sign him to a minor-league contract and promote him was a sound one. Let's hope he regroups during the break and gets back to his on-base ways. Arias's numbers are superficially ugly, but after doing the thankless task of filling in for Pablo Sandoval, Arias has settled nicely into a shortstop platoon. His slash line against lefties is .289 / .329 / .382, which is perfectly acceptable for a slick-fielding shortstop.

Even Ryan Theriot has salvaged some of the pie-in-the-sky "Getting Freddy Sanchez back is like trading for a batting champion" nonsense of the off-season. With a healthy elbow, Theriot has actually done a decent Sanchez impression (non-batting champion edition).

Bruce Bochy and staff have also made the right bigger-picture decisions: Resting Buster Posey; letting Brandon Belt play nearly everyday once Brett Pill showed himself incapable of hitting left-handed pitching; managing a bullpen that lost its closer to injury and its long man to drug penalty.

Hector Sanchez is taking his lumps behind the plate and hacking like mad astride it, but neither Eli Whiteside nor Chris Stewart were likely to do much more with the bat. With the glove they might have made a difference blocking balls or framing pitches, perhaps, but at least the Giants got an intriguing bullpen arm in George Kontos (16 Ks, only 2 walks in 14 innings so far) by trading Stewart.

Hector's hackitude isn't getting any better, however. If the Giants plan on resting Buster as much as in the first half (only 58 games behind the plate), it might behoove them to find a better-hitting backup catcher for the stretch run and let Hector get more AAA seasoning. I wouldn't be surprised if they also look for a shortstop. Brandon Crawford has made too many errors at critical times, and although the platoon is helping him crawl closer to barely acceptable, his hitting isn't there yet. Is there someone more offense-minded available, even with a slight downgrade on defense? Insert your Orlando Cabrera joke here, or better yet, don't. 

There will be a trade for bullpen help, no doubt, and I believe Sabean when he says he's not interested in another starting pitcher. Tim Lincecum won't become the world's most expensive long reliever anytime soon. And I also believe Sabes that trading for desperately needed power won't be easy. 

The Dodgers will have Kemp and Ethier back, and they won't be shy about making upgrades (though "upgrade" to Ned Colletti could just as easily mean Octavio Dotel or Scott Podsednik). Arizona still scares me the most. Without big upgrades of their own, the Giants need their All-Stars to hit Trevor Bauer and Clayton Kershaw in the second half the same way they hit Justin Verlander and Matt Harrison Tuesday night.


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