At first I was going to make fun of the conventional and formulaic All-Star Break stories. Top five second-half predictions of the reviews of the first-half surprises! But then I got bogged down trying to design the winning shirt in the Giants' t-shirt contest, and because it took so long, I had to find something conventional and formulaic.
Besides, if you really, really want an Astros/Giants preview, they were here, like, five days ago. Just recycle this one. It's all still true, for the most part, except for the passage where I wrote they weren't doing that poorly. They're 7-19 since then, including 10 losses out of their last 11 games before the All-Star Break. They kind of make Don Martin-style sound effects whenever they touch a baseball now.
So with that, here are five things I'm predicting for the Giants in the second half:
1. Gregor Blanco keeps his job
It sure was a lot spiffier when the Giants had neo-Kenny Lofton at the top of the order this year, but since Blanco's peak (a .390 OBP!) on June 7, he's hit a miserable .206/.261/.252. Considering he's a minor-league free agent who needed an insanely hot spring to even make the team, he's exactly the kind of player who should be nervous about losing his spot.
But the Giants have a taste of the good Blanco, and it'll take a 5-for-50 gutter slump to make them forget what it's like to have a speedy top-of-the-order presence. They know what Blanco looks like when he's right. They know what Nate Schierholtz looks like when he's right. The former better fits the team's preconceived notions of what makes a good offense, like a second baseman who hits second. I think the real Blanco is somewhere in the middle of the two extremes -- something like his current .252/.337/.374 line.
2. Santiago Casilla doesn't keep his job
Possibly because of a trade, but even without a trade, I'm thinking he blows another save or two and gets a demotion. Romo isn't going to take over because of the elbow concerns, so my super-secret-sleeper pick for closer is George Kontos. Have you noticed what he's done so far? Sixteen strikeouts and two walks in 14 innings, and that follows some pretty good numbers in Fresno. All for Chris Stewart.
Casilla won't be banished like a bad guy in Superman II. He'll still pitch meaningful innings in the seventh or eighth, but he's about two more bad outings from losing the ninth-inning role.
3. The Giants trade for a reliever at the deadline … and that's it
I'm kind of rooting for a Wandy Rodriguez trade, where the only thing the Giants have to do is absorb the contract. The Giants aren't going to do that because of, you know, that part about absorbing the contract. They cut Mike Fontenot to save a half million, so I'm not sure why I fool myself into thinking they'll take on an additional $30 million in commitments
Absent that, the Giants will trade for Clay Hensley. Not the actual Clay Hensley, but someone who might as well be Clay Hensley. That is, a guy who isn't that good, certainly not that bad, mostly forgettable, but still useful. They'll give up a young player in what will seem like a drastic overpayment, and this site will melt down. In five years, we'll all laugh about it because the young player doesn't turn into anything.
If you're looking for a specific player … Kameron Loe. No good reason. He just seems like the Clay Hensliest out of the possibilities.
4. Tim Lincecum skips a start, but never comes out of the rotation
I'm thinking he struggles on Saturday -- noticeably, but not terribly -- and Brad Penny gives him a 10-day breather. After the rest, Lincecum comes back, pitches well for the rest of the season, and by October, we'll be able to laugh at the first-half silliness. Remember when we were worried? Remember when Lincecum looked broken? What a bunch of reactionary fools we were!
My supporting evidence is this: I really, really, really want Lincecum to turn it around. So maybe he'll do me a solid?
5. There will be Shane Victorino rumors
This will be the worst part about the trade deadline. Considering Victorino's play this year and his pending free agency, he isn't going to cost a prohibitive amount. He's not going to require elite prospects, which puts him in the Giants' price range. You know. Because of the distinct lack of elite prospects. If Blanco struggles for the next two weeks, the whispers will be come rumblings. The rumblings will become sources. The sources will become people with knowledge of the organization's thinking. The people with knowledge of the organization's thinking will become high-ranking team officials. And the Victorino rumors will fly.
Stay strong. Don't panic. They will pass. They will pass.
Unless the Giants trade for Shane Victorino! IT MIGHT HAPPEN. Maybe they can give him Orel Hershisher's old number.