Watching the Giants open the second half of the season with four straight losses, it’s hard to believe they hold baseball’s best record. They look nothing like the team of the first half. With some household names out of the lineup due to injuries, San Francisco has called on minor leaguers to fill a huge void on offense.
The Giants closed out the first half winning eight of their final 10 games to take a league-high 57 wins into the All-Star break. The hot streak propelled the team past the Cubs, who have been regarded as baseball’s best team for most of the season.
But what was even more impressive about the Giants’ hot streak was the personnel involved. After watching Hunter Pence suffer a hamstring injury in late May, and then losing Matt Duffy and Joe Panik almost simultaneously in June, the Giants relied on AAA call-ups to close out the first half.
The Giants rode hot bats from Buster Posey, Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt into the All Star Break, but the replacements did more than their fair share to carry the load on offense. Ramiro Pena hit an impressive .400 in his first month after being called up, and Grant Green also provided an offensive spark, hitting over .300 through his first eight games with the team.
Even though they suffered injuries to numerous Opening Day starters, the Giants were able to win using strong pitching and clutch performances from multiple players. However, with the second half underway, the Giants are beginning to falter and it has become apparent the call-ups can’t be counted on to produce consistently.
Giants fans were alarmed when Pence went down in Atlanta, especially after seeing how much the team missed his presence in the lineup when he was out for over half the season with a wrist injury. At the time of his leg injury, Pence was the team leader in home runs and RBI. Dating back to the 2012 playoff run, he has always been a leader in the clubhouse as well. Pence’s replacements, Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker, have shown signs of being able to fill his role in spurts, but their inconsistency is troubling.
Meanwhile, the Giants’ all-homegrown infield is missing half of its personnel as Duffy and Panik work their way back. While Peña and Green provided solid offense at first, they are slowly cooling down and are not reliable enough to fill the void.
In an interview on KNBR, Giants insider Andrew Baggarly called Panik a “sparkplug” and talked about how when he is in the lineup, the Giants have a much more imposing offense.
Though it is easy to blame the call-ups for the recent stagnant offense, the trio of Posey, Belt and Crawford are just as much at fault. The three have combined to go 5-48 with just three RBI in the first four games back. With the Giants missing Panik, Duffy and Pence in addition to Posey, Crawford, and Belt struggling, it is not surprising to see the team slump. But it’s not time to panic and make a bad trade. Both Panik and Pence have begun their rehab assignments and hope to return to the team soon.
The Giants still hold the best record in baseball, as well as a 4.5 game lead in the N.L. West over the rival Dodgers. Now with Clayton Kershaw out indefinitely with a back injury, it is important for the Giants ‘offense to turn things around and work on expanding that cushion in the standings.