Starting pitching gives Giants a shot

Originally Published: August 20, 2010
ESPN.com

Editor's note: Throughout August, ESPN.com is taking a close look at various teams in the hunt for a playoff spot to assess whether they have what it takes to survive the dog days of August and remain in contention come October.

At the bottom of the page, each team receives a dog bone rating based on our overall analysis: five bones = serious postseason contender; four bones = good contender; three bones = average contender; two bones = poor contender; one bone = no contender.

Torres
Torres

Andres Torres

It's hard to imagine where the Giants would be without Torres. The speedy 32-year-old center fielder has appeared in a career-high number of games (111) and has been a tremendous benefit to the Giants in all aspects of the game. If you like hitting, Torres has it covered. His current weighted on-base average (wOBA) of .382 ranks fifth among all qualified NL outfielders. The advanced fielding metrics (UZR, plus/minus) adore his defense, indicating that he has incredible range. He's also a threat on the basepaths (23 steals versus seven times caught stealing). He's been incredible, so what more can you say?

-- Chris Quick (Bay City Ball, SweetSpot Blog Network)

Sandoval
Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval

This isn't how Sandoval expected things to go. Coming off an All-Star-caliber season in 2009, he has been spinning his tires for most of 2010. His current wOBA (.308) is nearly 90 points below last season's output. Most shocking has been Sandoval's complete lack of power. His slugging percentage has plummeted all the way to .394 from .554 in '09. Sandoval's range at third base has also looked subpar at times. If the Giants can somehow find the Sandoval of old over the next six weeks, the team will be in a much better position to contend for the playoffs. If not, the Giants might miss the cut for the seventh straight season.

-- Chris Quick (Bay City Ball, SweetSpot Blog Network)

The 2010 Giants, just as the 2009 Giants were at this point, are in the mix for the NL wild card. Unlike last year, however, Tim Lincecum and Pablo Sandoval aren't most responsible for where they are in the standings. Both players have failed to produce at the same rate. Instead, a couple of unexpected 30-somethings (Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres) and a hot-shot rookie (Buster Posey) have led the way.

Restoring order

On Opening Day, Bruce Bochy's lineup from one through six was as follows:

1. Aaron Rowand
2. Edgar Renteria
3. Pablo Sandoval
4. Aubrey Huff
5. Mark DeRosa
6. Bengie Molina

Rowand and Renteria are no longer the every-day starters in center field and at shortstop, respectively. Sandoval's season-long slump has him hitting closer to the bottom of the order. DeRosa is done for the year with an injured left wrist. And Molina was traded to the Rangers.

Huff Daddy

Huff has more than held his own in the middle of the order, making 2009 look more like an anomaly than the beginning of the end. His 20 home runs are five more than he hit all of last year, and his .292/.383/.516 slash line is better than his career average in each statistic and much better than his numbers in 2009 (.241/.310/.384). Huff's 4.4 WAR is tied for seventh among all NL position players.

Posey
Posey

The baby-faced assassin

Don't let the 12-year-old face fool you. Posey is lethal with a bat in his hands. Molina was traded July 1 to make way for the prospect to play every day. Posey didn't wait long, going 2-for-4 that same day with a home run and finished July with a .417 BA, seven homers and 24 RBIs. The Giants, by no coincidence, went 19-8 for the month. For his efforts, Posey wasn't just named NL rookie of the month for July; he was also named NL player of the month.

Andres the Giant

Torres has been a career journeyman, bouncing between the majors and minors for most of the decade. Before this season he played in 164 big league games, although he made his MLB debut in 2002! This season alone his overall numbers are better than those he has produced over the rest of his career combined.

If you start me up

Regardless of the changes to their every-day lineup, the Giants would not be contenders without their starting rotation. The Giants rank second in the NL in Quality Start Percentage (60 percent), behind only the Cardinals. They rank fifth in all of baseball with a 3.61 starters ERA. All this while Tim Lincecum has had a less-than-Cy Young-caliber season. In fact, Lincecum has the worst ERA among current Giants starters (3.62). That might be bad for Lincecum, but it shows the depth and consistency of the Giants' starters, one through five. The Giants are the only team with five pitchers who have made at least seven starts, each of whom has an ERA under 3.70.

-- Kenton Wong, ESPN Stats & Info blog

From Baseball Info Solutions

Considering all that's gone wrong with the San Francisco Giants (especially of late), it's a small miracle the team is still in contention. Heading into 2010, the Giants' outfield was supposed to feature Mark DeRosa, Aaron Rowand, and Nate Schierholtz. The trio was projected to provide only adequate offense but above-average defense -- DeRosa and Rowand would each save about three runs over the course of a season, and Schierholtz about seven runs -- in support of the Giants' extreme fly ball-pitching staff. Unfortunately, the trio only started three games together.

For more of BIS's analysis, click here Insider .