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Giants At The Break: Let's Review

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First, the most obvious: 

Team MVP: Buster Posey. Best hitter on the team by a mile, best hitting catcher in baseball, the second best hitter in baseball over the past 365 days, according to Fangraphs' wRC+. Having a catcher as your best hitter is really cool, because not many catchers are good hitters, but it's also uncool, because it means your best hitter has to rest at least once a week. This is not a problem that will go away anytime soon.

Team Cy Young: Madison Bumgarner. Again, it's not close. Bumgarner has an outside shot at 20 wins, if you're into that sort of thing. His numbers the past couple years have been uncannily similar, and despite an ERA a few ticks lower, he's having basically the same kind of season.


WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9
2011 21 3.21 33 204.2 82 12 46 191 109 1.212 8.9 0.5 2.0 8.4
2012 22 3.37 32 208.1 87 23 49 191 105 1.114 7.9 1.0 2.1 8.3
2013 23 3.02 19 125.0 45 12 34 122 111 0.952 6.1 0.9 2.4 8.8
162 Game Avg. 3.17 34 214 83 20 51 195 112 1.146 8.2 0.8 2.2 8.2
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/17/2013.

A smidge more walks and strikeouts, but fewer hits allowed, adding up once again to fewer base runners per inning than the previous year. And you know what that means.

The Most Under-The-Radar Stat: Hunter Pence was having a very good season until he started having a very bad June that has become a bad July. His OPS has dropped 100 points, from .866 on June 14 to .760. His OBP is down to a dreadful .305, but here's the crusty nugget of goodness: His baserunning has been excellent, highlighted by 14 steals and not once caught this year. That's 14 extra bases without an extra out, a nice boost to what are otherwise pedestrian offensive numbers. (If those 14 extra bases were singles that turned into doubles, Pence's slugging percentage would jump from .455 to .491.) And the under-the-radar stolen-base stat leads to a larger one: Despite the month-long swoon, Pence has the third highest WAR among major league right fielders; I was shocked when I looked it up. That's because a large part of his value this year is his defense -- admittedly a fickle measurement -- and base running.

Oddest Front-Office Decision: There haven't been any real stinkers. They've had to patch holes, and most of the patches made sense: Chad Gaudin to the rotation, Mike Kickham as a spot starter, various Grizzlies getting looks (Juan Perez, Nick Noonan). But one stands out as very odd, and potentially crummy: the removal of Chris Heston from the 40-man roster to make room for Jeff Francoeur. Heston was excellent in Double-A last year. He was getting cuffed around in Triple-A this year, although not too much more than Kickham. His K rate was respectable but the walks were a problem, and opponents were hitting .350 against him. Was that enough cause to pull the plug, or did the Giants staff see something else? If no other team claims him, we can bury this one forever in the agate type. But if Heston latches on elsewhere and becomes even a decent member of a major-league rotation, it will be infuriating.

Best Santiago Casilla Impersonation: Guess who's striking out nearly a batter an inning with a 93-MPH fastball and slider, keeping the ball in the park, and has generally come out of nowhere to be a solid set-up man? No, not Denny Bautista. Brandon Medders? Nope. It's Sandy Rosario, who was claimed by 17 teams this winter, give or take a few, before landing with a soft psssshhhhh in Scottsdale. In the bullpen, George Kontos and Jeremy Affeldt have been frightening at times, but Rosario has stepped up in Casilla's absence. I also like the job Jake Dunning, completely unheralded prospect, has done in his month of service: in 16 appearances, only two bad outings, plus a hanging slider that Marlon Byrd hit for a grand slam. He's throwing strikes, keeping the ball down and in the yard.

Shittiest Injury: Oh, the cornucopia of bounteous choice! For long-term effects, Marco Scutaro's mallet finger might screw up his second career as a stenographer. And Casilla's leg surgery to remove a bone cyst taxed the bullpen, but not as much as you might think (see previous item). I'm going with Angel Pagan's blown-out hammy. He didn't exactly tear up the league in April and May, but we know from last year that Pagan can put together a month or two of sexy mofongo at any moment. Instead of a Pagan hot streak, we got too much Andres Torres and Juan Perez. Nice guys, the both of them, and we at least found out that Perez has the defensive chops that could earn him a future backup job. But Torres and Gregor Blanco are better mixed and matched. And now the Giants seemed to have settled upon a left field platoon of Kensuke Tanaka and Jeff Francoeur, which is, how you say... interesting. Like, I just ate some dusty mushrooms I found in my roommate's Twinings tea tin and turned on the TV and, come here, quick, look who the Giants have in left field. I don't know if it could have been avoided, but the post-injury response seemed knuckle-headed. Pagan stayed off the DL for two weeks, leaving the team short-handed, then finally went on for a rehab stint in the minors. It was there, in a Cal League game, he re-injured the leg.

Biggest Surprise: The Giants' record, obviously. Matt Cain's struggles are a close second, but they're less of a surprise if they turn out to be injury related. That's because injuries in sports are never a surprise unless they're related to frozen hamburger separation or spider nightmares. Honorable mention goes to Chad Gaudin, who turned a non-roster shot at being the long man into an inside track to a spot in the 2014 rotation, pending the outcome of his legal troubles.

Best Major League Debut: Again, we have abbondanza. In no particular order, we've seen for the first time Noonan, Perez, Kickham, Dunning and Tanaka. I'll go with Perez, who smacked his sternum into the Chase Field wall to run down a fly ball for the first play of his major league career. Worst debut, by the way, goes to Kickham, whose pitches have tended to get hit for many extra bases. I've seen two of his outings, and I think he's got a long way to go. So far I've seen a biting slurvy breaking ball, but poor fastball command, not much of a change-up, and all kinds of weird mechanics that might be deceptive to batters but should have opposing runners stealing him blind. 

Is it real baseball time yet?

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