Ten modest goals for the Giants in the second half of season
The recent hot streak probably won't make a difference when it comes to the postseason, but it could have a huge impact on Bruce Bochy's final record. The soon-to-be-retired manager is up to 1,967 wins, leaving him 33 short of 2,000 with 73 to play. The Giants had a .461 winning percentage in a mostly-brutal first half and need to play just .452 ball to get Bochy to 2,000. They should get there easily, but it would be nice to do it with time to spare.
On a related note, Bochy is eight losses from having 2,000 in that column. A mini-goal should be pushing that unfortunate night off as long as possible.
Giants officials are quietly very excited about Johnny Cueto's form during rehab from Tommy John surgery and his future potential. Cueto has lost more than 20 pounds and is throwing hard in bullpen sessions, and he should be pitching in rehab games within the next month. The Giants will try to get Cueto back in a big league game around Sept. 1 and get some answers about their future.
If Cueto gets three or four solid starts in, the Giants can count on him to lead a 2020 staff that almost certainly will be without Madison Bumgarner. There's another element at play here, too. Cueto, with two years left on his deal, could be a nice trade chip in the offseason. Potential buyers will want to see that he's healthy.
What exactly do the Giants have in Shaun Anderson and Tyler Beede? That's a question that's as important as any over the second half, and both young right-handers should be run out there every five days until they hit any innings limits that might have been set.
Anderson had a strong first half, but he has strides to make. He'll be the first to tell you that, and he seems to have a strong drive to get better. Beede's stuff is off the charts but he was plagued by inconsistency. If the Giants can go into the winter feeling good about these two as part of their 2020 rotation, they'll have a head start on the reload.
Discover a 2020 Starting Outfielder
Is Alex Dickerson for real? Is a Tyler Austin-Mike Yastrzemski platoon the right move? Will Austin Slater finally become an everyday player? Is Steven Duggar a big league starter in center field?
These are all questions the Giants will try to answer in the second half as they look to make this offseason a bit easier. Farhan Zaidi will again be looking to bolster the outfield, but at the very least, he needs to head into October knowing that one spot -- any one spot -- is absolutely set for 2020 and ideally beyond.
The Giants are using four outfielders at times in Double-A. Their Triple-A team has experimented with openers and piggybacking starters. They are sneakily getting their prospects used to new ideas, and that should extend up to the big leagues, where the opener was tried once and failed miserably.
Change is coming in future years and a new manager will implement it. The big league roster has grumbled a bit about some of the strategies you see elsewhere, but the Giants need to get on board, and they should mix in a few more fresh ideas in the second half.
One to keep an eye on: Austin Slater did a ton of work at second base on the last homestand; the Giants could try to duplicate some of what the Dodgers have done with Max Muncy, sacrificing some defense to get another dangerous bat in the lineup. Slater looks capable of handling the role.
Join the Surge
All-Star week was dominated by talk of the juiced ball, but the Giants -- despite a late surge -- haven't joined in the fun. Their team leaders in home runs (Evan Longoria and Kevin Pillar at 12 apiece) are tied for 51st in the National League in homers. Still, that's enough to put both players on pace for 20, which would finally allow beat writers to stop writing "The Giants haven't had a 20-homer hitter since Brandon Crawford in 2015."
Pablo Sandoval (11) and Brandon Belt (10) also have a shot, although as you look at that group, you can see how it might get tricky. Longoria, Sandoval and Belt are in a bit of a timeshare and Pillar -- who is heading for his final year or arbitration -- might be elsewhere on August 1.
The Giants have some work to do to get someone back to 20 homers, but they're long overdue.
The Next Closer?
Will Smith has made life easy on Bruce Bochy, going 23-for-23 in save opportunities and generally nailing them down without any drama. That's the kind of production that ... gets you traded. Smith is a near-lock to be shipped elsewhere, and at that point, the Giants will need to identify their future closer.
Reyes Moronta has earned a two-month audition, and while his occasional wildness will bring some of that "torture" to the ninth, he has the stuff and demeanor to be just as successful as Smith has been. Moronta has a 2.59 ERA in three big league seasons, a high strikeout rate (12.3 per nine this season) and a long track record of getting Giants starters out of jams. He was a closer in the minors and wants to try it again. If (when) Smith is traded, Moronta needs to get his shot.
Pass the Padres
When I made a similar list of goals for the 98-loss team in 2017, I asked them to simply pass the Padres and not finish in last place. We're doubling down. You can change #PassThePadres to #ClimbTheRockies or #DownTheDBacks or whatever you want, but the goal remains the same. It would be nice if the Giants did not finish in last place in Bruce Bochy's final season.
Technically they're only four games out of second in the NL West, so that's realistic, too. But these are modest goals. I'll settle for anything but last place.
The peripherals said Dereck Rodriguez was pitching above his head last season, but even playing to his FIP (3.74) would have made him a valuable piece moving forward. This season he has been relegated to bullpen and spot-start duty, but once the Giants get past the deadline, Rodriguez should get another shot.
He's only 27, and getting him anywhere close to last year's form would be a nice boost heading forward. Rodriguez will start one of the doubleheader games on Monday, but that's at Coors Field. He deserves an honest shot to sink or swim over the final two months.
Yeah, this is a low bar, but this piece is about modest goals. The Giants were simply boring for much of the season's first three months. That's a word the clubhouse hates, but it's one thrown around in the back offices of Oracle Park, and by any measure, it's clear the fan base has lost some interest.
The last two weeks of the first half were fun, though, and the team needs to find a way to keep that going and give fans a reason to return. Winning helps, but so would an infusion of prospects and younger players. And if all else fails, there's the Panda Plan. He better take the mound at least one more time, and the hope here is that Bruce Bochy sticks to his plan and lets Sandoval play all nine positions in a game in late September.