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Grant Cohn: Giants at break, 5 up and 5 down (w/video)

  • Hunter Pence, left, jokes with former big-league infielder Kurt Bevacqua after taking batting practice before the Giants' game Friday at San Diego. (AP Photo/Don Boomer)

It’s the All-Star break, meaning it’s time to make sense of the Giants, the best team in baseball during April and May and one of the worst teams in baseball since June.

Are the Giants good or bad? Are the Giants going anywhere this season?

TOP-FIVE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM:

1. Hunter Pence. He’s the best player on the Giants. Also their most valuable player this season. He’s carrying the team. He’s their best hitter and their most consistent power hitter. He should be batting third or fourth, but he has to hit lead off while Angel Pagan is injured. Pence has stolen eight bases and has the best on-base percentage on the Giants. Pence is the only Giant, other than Pagan, who isn’t a dead-loss at the top of the lineup.

2. Tim Lincecum. He started the season as the No. 4 starter in the rotation, which seemed appropriate. How could you count on Lincecum? He was one of the worst starters in baseball the past two seasons and the first two months of this season. But during his past seven starts, he has been the best pitcher on the Giants and one of the best pitchers in baseball – it’s true. His ERA is 1.86 in that period. He’s throwing his fastball for strikes, something he couldn’t consistently do the past few seasons – the catcher would set up his target low and inside and Lincecum would miss high and away. Now he’s hitting the target, commanding his fastball and getting ahead of hitters. Making it much harder for hitters to lay off Lincecum’s junk in the dirt.


3. Matt Cain. Cain has been dominant like Lincecum recently, but not for as long. Cain gave up just four earned runs his past three starts. That’s a 1.86 ERA. That’s promising. The Giants started the season with Madison Bumgarner as the ace, but he still is just 24. Cain and Lincecum should be the aces. They are the only two Giants starters who are in their prime, the two starters who earn the most money – $37 million combined this season. When Cain and Lincecum dominate, the Giants contend.

4. Ryan Vogelsong. Allowed just eight earned runs his past four starts; a 2.92 ERA. He is 36 and the least talented starting pitcher on the Giants’ staff, but of the five starters, Vogelsong is the toughest competitor.

5. The NL West. It’s not good. The Padres, Rockies and Diamondbacks are three of the worst teams in baseball. And the Dodgers haven’t taken off yet like they did last season. They have overtaken the Giants by a game but this division is wide open.

TOP-FIVE CONCERNS:

1. Center field. Bruce Bochy always says Angel Pagan is the engine that makes the offense go. So, without Pagan, the Giants’ offense lacks an engine and it isn’t going very far. Before Pagan hurt his back, the Giants scored 4.32 runs per game and their winning percentage was .623. Pagan hasn’t played since June 14. And the Giants have scored just 2.88 runs per game and their winning percentage has been a putrid .346. Pagan is irreplaceable to the Giants, but no one knows when or if he will return. That’s up to his back which isn’t getting better. Currently, he’s working out in a pool – the water is supposed to take pressure off his lower back. He still is not allowed to throw or swing or do anything related to baseball. He is a rarity – baseball player as swimmer.


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