After splitting a four game set in Arizona, the Mets head out to San Francisco to play four with the first place Giants. The Giants find themselves with a 55-46 record, just percentage points ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers and 4.5 games ahead of the Diamondbacks. They have lost four in a row, three of those at the hands of the Dodgers. To get a closer look at the Giants, I sent a few questions to Grant Brisbee of SB Nation's McCovey Chronicles and Baseball Nation and here's what he had to say about the club.
Amazin' Avenue: The Giants find themselves in first place in the NL West despite the early season loss of closer Brian Wilson and an awful year from Tim Lincecum. What has been the key to the team's success to this point?
McCovey Chronicles: Melky Cabrera playing like a second-tier MVP candidate, for one. If he just replicated his numbers from Kansas City, that would have been a coup. Instead, he's been even better.
One thing that's easy to take for granted is just how seamless Buster Posey's return has been. He's just as good as he was in his rookie season just a year after we were wondering if he was going to catch again.
AA: Despite a strikeout rate around his career norm, Tim Lincecum has been incredibly hittable this year. What do you think has happened to him and do you think he'll be able to get back to the dominance of the last few years?
MCC: I have zero idea. I've analyzed it all year, and I realized that I'm as terrible at analyzing it as everyone else. I think the problem is physical in some way, whether it's conditioning, loss of arm strength, or hidden injury. But between the decreased velocity and the increased wildness, I'm starting to think it's a physical thing, not a mental one.
AA: Through the end of July, Brian Sabean has gotten the better end of the Angel Pagan for Ramon Ramirez & Andres Torres offseason deal (curses!). While I think many of us at AA believed Pagan was due for an offensive rebound, his defense took a huge step backward in 2011. How has Pagan looked in the field as a Giant?
MCC: His defense is annoying, if only because he occasionally shows glimmers of plus-defense. And it's not that much of a clear-cut deal -- if Pagan slumps like this for a couple more weeks, he'll catch up to Torres in the sad-bat department, and Torres is a much better fielder.
AA: With the trade deadline coming up on Tuesday, where do you see the Giants looking to improve and what do you think they're willing to give up? Any Zack Wheelers in the system? (Sorry, I had to do it).
I don't think they'll give up one of their only three or four top prospects, certainly not for a rental. I doubt they'll trade Brandon Belt when his value is at its lowest, either. They'll probably get a reliever like Jonathan Broxton for a top-20 prospect and a right-handed hitting outfielder. I've suggested Scott Hairston, for example, even though he's gross. There's a chance it could be a higher-profile guy like Shane Victorino or Hunter Pence, but neither of those guys have been that good this year, so it'll be hard to match up with the Phillies' high asking price.
AA: Which Giants players have been playing well over the last few weeks and which players have been struggling?
MCC: Matt Cain hasn't been quite as electric and dominant as he was, but I wouldn't say he's struggling. Posey started the second half crazy-hot, but he's slowed down a bit. Brandon Belt is 2 for his last 2,933, but he's due to break out of it any day now.
Thanks again to Grant Brisbee for taking the time to help us preview this series. Here are the pitching matchups for these four games in San Francisco:
Tonight, 10:15 PM EST: Jeremy Hefner against Madison Bumgarner
Tuesday, July 31, 10:15 PM EST: Matt Harvey against Tim Lincecum
Wednesday, August 1, 10:15 PM EST: Jon Niese against Matt Cain
Thursday, August 2, 3:45 PM EST: Chris Young against Barry Zito