Though the San Francisco Giants have struggled in just about every way possible in the first half of the 2013 season, it seems that what they need more than anything is just some good old-fashioned luck. After all, this is almost exactly the same group of players that won a World Series in 2012.
Perhaps we should have expected that the Giants’ good fortune would not carry over into this year, especially after seeing performances that were so dominating from players like Matt Cain, Buster Posey, and Melky Cabrera. But it’s fair to say that no one expected quite this many key players to miss time; Pablo Sandoval, Santiago Casilla, Angel Pagan, and Ryan Vogelsong are just a few names that come to mind.
Then again, perhaps we were kidding ourselves with a few things, too. Is it really a huge surprise that after throwing 200 innings for six straight years and leading the Giants’ staff to the World Series in two of the past three, that Cain maybe has had some arm trouble? Is it that big of a shock that Tim Lincecum once again has an ERA over 4.00 after looking so lost last season? Certainly it can’t be too surprising that first baseman Brandon Belt is as wildly inconsistent of a hitter as he always has been.
At this point, with Belt hitting .260 while failing to show the fantastic power and above-average base-running ability that he seemed to possess in the minors, we should just accept the fact that Belt will never be a superstar and appreciate what he is: a patient hitter who is spectacular at getting on base, and one of the best defensive first basemen in the game. While he’ll probably never be the cornerstone that many expected him to be, the 25-year-old has shown that he can start at first base on a World Series champion. And by all means, that is good enough.
First and foremost, this team has to look to the player who has started out his career as one of the best second half players in baseball history. Buster Posey won his first MVP last season by hitting .385 with a .456 OBP in the second half, and that kind of production this year would certainly aid the Giants in getting back into contention. You can bet that the ultra-competitive catcher will not back down and will continue begging this team to fight until the end. It would also be nice if some other key players such as Cain and Sandoval could rebound from their so-so first halves to regain their traditional form.
For the Giants to push for a playoff spot this year, they need to develop the rhythm of a winning team. It’s clear by watching the 2013 version of the Giants that the hitters are failing to produce at the same time. Perhaps that should be expected at this point considering that they switch their left field/center field combination virtually every week, which undoubtedly has disturbed the lineup. But the bottom line is the Giants have failed to receive anything close to the production from the Cabrera-Posey-Sandoval-Pagan punch that they received last season.
While the Giants certainly need consistency from their pitching staff, which they most definitely did not receive in the first half of 2013, perhaps the biggest key to success is simply to allow this group to gel. It seems that Brian Sabean has learned his lesson from 2011, and this year he will not attempt to trade for players like Orlando Cabrera and Carlos Beltran in a desperate attempt to make a playoff run. Instead, he must realize that when you have a group that is lacking in the talent department, you must rely on chemistry to have success. Clubs such as the 2010 Giants and the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals obviously were not the most talented teams in MLB, but they still won World Series titles simply based on the fact that they mastered each other’s tendencies, went on a hot streak, and never looked back. That can’t happen if the Giants are constantly shuffling people in and out, looking for an answer that may just not be there. If this group is going to win, they’ll have to be more like the “misfits” of 2010, since they don’t have the pure talent of the 2012 group. But if they can figure it out quickly, don’t count them out when playoff time comes around.