Record: 38-33; 3rd in the Pacific South Division; 1.0 Games behind Tucson and Sacramento for first place.
The All-Star break is generally considered the halfway point of the season, but this week is truly it. Through Sunday, the Grizzlies had played 71 of their games, with 73 games left to play. This is it. Time to look at what has worked, and what hasn't for the Grizzlies this season.
Offense: Believe it or not, the Grizzlies came into Sunday's games tied for 3rd in the entire Pacific Coast League in runs scored with 377. Of course, the two teams ahead of them are their division rival Las Vegas 51's (390) and Sacramento RiverCats (384).
The offense has been powered by several different players over the course of the first half. The most consistent hitter for the team had been Nate Schierholtz, who batted .347 and slugged .518 despite hitting just 4 home runs in 58 games. Unfortunately, Schierholtz is now in the majors, though whether or not he sticks is still up for debate. The offense has also seen contributions from Kevin Frandsen, Dan Ortmeier and Fred Lewis, all of whom have spent significant time in the majors. Ortmeier is back in the PCL now, and Lewis may return, though he is on the DL currently. Frandsen, however, probably won't see the minor leagues again.
That's not to say the Giants haven't sent down talent. The most notable is Lance Niekro, who's batting .303 and slugging .508 in 23 games back in the minors after clearing waivers.
The rest of the team is made up of a solid group of role players who have performed admirably. The middle of the infield is made up by Tomas De La Rosa and Luis Figueroa, both of whom are batting over .300, and William Bergolla, who is batting .292. The corners of the infield are manned by Niekro, slugger Chad Santos (who's batting .243), and two minor league free agent pick-ups in Scott McClain and Justin Leone, who share the team home run lead at 10. Around the star outfielders, Clay Timpner has been batting .329. After the callups, the Giants brought up Brian Horwitz, who is even better, batting .375 in 23 games.
With Schierholtz gone, this team's best chance for an offensive superstar is gone. But it is a well-rounded group that has consistently produced. GRADE: B+
Starting Pitching: The team has a 3.90 overall ERA, which is good enough for second in the league. But let's be honest, a lot of it was Tim Lincecum. Then again, without Tim's performance, the team would have a 4.09 ERA, good enough for second in the league.
The rotation has seen its share of change. 10 different players have picked up starts, starting with the rehabbing Russ Ortiz. Three players have spent the entire season in the rotation: Matt Palmer (14 starts, 4.00 ERA), Travis Blackley (14 starts, 4.39 ERA), and Matt Kinney (13 starts, 4.65). The two other pitchers who started in the rotation have either been promoted (Tim Lincecum) or demoted to the bullpen (Erick Threets). The regulars have been joined by Chris Begg, whose 3.28 ERA has been a nice revelation, helping make up for the loss of Lincecum.
Without its star, this itching staff hasn't been as great. But Begg has been a leader in Lincecum's absence. Palmer and Blackley have been consistent, however, the team will need to find a better regular fifth than Bowles and Kim, both of whom have ERAs well over 5. GRADE: C+
Bullpen Pitching: This team hasn't had a regular closer, which hasn't helped it out much. Seven players have picked up saves, with Billy Sadler leading the team with 4, but also with a 5.76 ERA. The team was thrown for a loop with the injuries behind Brian Wilson, who would be the logical choice at closer. Wilson is on rehab in San Jose, and could rejoin Fresno this week.
But that shouldn't be a reflection on the rest of this bullpen. The middle relief in particular has been excellent. Veteran Dan Giese has a 1.62 ERA and has walked only four batters in 39 innings. Former starter Pat Misch has a 2.33 ERA in a season worthy of a callup. Scott Munter has had some inconsistency on his road back to the majors, but his 3.60 ERA is more than respectable. And Threets may have been a mistake in the rotation, giving up 12 earned runs and 11 walks in 8 1/3 innings over three starts, but his 1.13 ERA in 11 appearances as a reliever is something worth noting.
The bullpen will find its closer. Most teams would be lucky to have one this deep. GRADE: B+
OVERALL: Fresno has often been the butt of jokes, and been abused by its parent in the constant shuffle of prospects, but that's the life of a minor league team. The minor league free agents the Giants have signed, along with the emergence of a couple of real prospects, however, have turned this team into not only a winner, but a contender. They're only one game out of first, and have the fifth best record in the 16-team PCL. They will need better leaders down the stretch, but this is a legitimate winning team. GRADE: B
Roster Moves: The Giants added infielder Julio Cordido to the Fresno roster. Cordido Cordido has been in the Giants organization since 1997, and now returns to it as a 27-year old. Cordido batted .281/.329/.418 in San Jose last year, and went 3-for-9 in a three game Fresno debut last season.
Player of the Week: Brian Horwitz
Someday, Horwitz might meet his match. But it's apparently not in the Pacific Coast League. Horwitz is batting .393 in Triple-A this year, and finished this past week by going 8-for-16 over four games, even adding a walk and hitting three triples. His secondary skills aren't exciting, but everywhere he's gone, he's been able to make contact (and with not much of an adjustment period, either). That's a valuable player.
By The Numbers: 161
161 is the number of doubles the Grizzlies have hit on the year, a total which leads the league. That helps to keep the team's slugging up because the team is 12th of 16 teams in home run hitting. However, losing Schierholtz will hurt the team, as Nate had been among the league leaders in the category.
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