With the baseball season right about at the halfway point, its time for teams to decide whether they are contenders or pretenders. Those who feel they can contend will look to strengthen their team for the final run. A missing bat or pitcher could be the key to a championship. For teams who are out of it, now is the time to both dump payroll and see what they have in young talent. For the San Francisco Giants, this question is a hard one to answer. They are currently 3 games under .500 and sit 6.5 games in their division. While some may say that makes them pretenders, we are talking about a team that has won it all 2 of the past 3 years. There is still time to turn this season around, but the Giants are going to have to make some changes in order for that to transpire.
The first thing the Giants need to do is find another power bat. Currently, the team ranks 28th out of 30 teams in home runs hit. They also rank in the bottom half of the league in slugging percentage. They do rank 6th in the league in team average, so all is not lost. They get people on base, but aside from Buster Posey, they have no other premium threat in the lineup. Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval have proven to be streaky, so I think another big bat would help. Josh Willingham of the Twins is a player I would look out for. The Twins are in rebuild mode, and might want to unload the 34 year old on the cheap. He could slide into left field until Angel Pagan returns, then can platoon, pinch hit or even play some first base. The power he brings is worth the price, and with the arms in the Giants division, they need as many quality hitters as possible. The Giants need to find power at one of the corner positions of left field or first base. Those are typically power hitting positions, and the Giants are severely lacking in that area. For example, Brandon Belt has 8 home runs as the Giants everyday first baseman. Chris Davis, first baseman of the Orioles, has hit 28 home runs. The situation needs to be addressed because the offense has to score to win, because the pitching has been far from dominant.
Over the last few years, pitching has been the Giants calling card. From the starters to the bullpen, fans could almost always expect a great performance from the pitching staff. It even gave birth to the phrase "Giants baseball......torture!". One run games were routine, but OK because the pitching staff could shut down most opposing teams. It would seem, however, that the league has slowly begin to catch up with the Giants. The team ranks in the bottom half of the league in team ERA and WHIP. This is alarming mostly because the offense is so woeful; the team has a hard time playing catch up, which puts added pressure on the pitching staff to carry the team. While there is no one transaction fix, I think adding another starter is crucial. Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito have been less than stellar, and the bullpen has been down right atrocious. In a perfect world, the Giants would trade for Phillies ace Cliff Lee, a proven starter who would thrive in a pitchers park like AT&T. He does have a huge contract, but the Giants have deep pockets and could afford to take the hit if they wanted. It probably wouldn't cost too much as the Phillies try to slash payroll, and you could trade Tim Lincecum. Chances are the team won't resign him anyway, so might as well use him to get something. In baseball, sometimes all the moves in the world don't mean a thing without some luck.
Much like 2011, this season the Giants have been struck by multiple injuries. Pablo Sandoval, Marco Scutaro, Ryan Vogelsong, Angel Pagan and Santiago Casilla have all missed multiple games with injuries. All of those players were integral parts of the World Series winning club. If the team can get back a strong Vogelsong and Pagan, it will go a long way to turning the season around. Sometimes you can't overcome a laundry list of injuries, so only time will tell. Whatever happens to end the season, the Bay Area is lucky. Having a team win 2 championships in 3 years is a rare feat nowadays. So even if this season ends with disappointment, these guys have given us plenty to cheer for over the last 36 months of so.