Can Timmy bounce back? Will Melky cool off? How dominant will Matt Cain stay? Ah yes ... welcome to the second half of the season.
1. Tim Lincecum will rebound
There's a reasonable concern that Timmy will lose his rotation start if he struggles on Saturday. That's not going to be permanent though -- lest you forget, this team keeps rolling Barry Zito out to the mound, and eventually it worked out OK. Lincecum's basically getting the "shock treatment," by which I mean either he will bounce back Saturday or the Giants will yank him out of the rotation -- a public embarrassment -- put him back in and he will eventually bounce back. Repeat, rinse until Timmy figures things out. He has to at some point.
2. Melky Cabrera will come back to Earth, but only a little
The MelkMan's stature in San Francisco can't get much higher. After completing one of the best first halves in baseball this season, Cabrera promptly spent his All-Star Break providing nightmare fuel for Kansas City (his old team) while winning the ASG MVP award and hitting a two-run homer in Kauffman Stadium. But Cabrera's pace is just a bit too aggressive: he's on pace for 226 hits and a .350 batting average.
The biggest problem there is that Melky's hitting a way-too-robust .388 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). If your BABIP is higher than .300, you're probably in line for some regression; Melky posted a .332 BABIP last year, so he could still keep hitting. But at the same time, he has to cool off a little at some point. The reason not to think he'll fall off the face of the Earth, however, is that he's not on pace to shatter any other career highs other than OBP. The Giants -- and, perhaps more specifically -- AT&T Park are a perfect fit for him.
3. Matt Cain will win the NL Cy Young Award
As if the Giants hadn't already ruined R.A. Dickey's year enough, Cain will finish him off completely by taking home the pitching title. His competition is Dickey, Johnny Cueto, Gio Gonzalez and James McDonald. Cain is actually a better pitcher after the All-Star Break in terms of career splits and he's as consistent as they come, especially in relation to the other guys on the list. He's on pace for 17 wins (versus five losses), 224 strikeouts, a 2.59 ERA, a WHIP below 1.00, 229 innings pitched.
He's already thrown a perfect game. And he's the most likely guy to be an ace on a contender. Everyone plays up Dickey's great storyline, and it is great, but how about Cain emerging as the Giants ace when Lincecum's struggling as badly as he is? It's a great storyline and Cain deserves credit if he can match his first half up with one of his traditional second halves.
4. The Giants will make trades, but not big ones
I'd expect we see two deals from San Francisco in the next two weeks. One of those deals will be for a bullpen arm. It will not be a sexy trade. Also not sexy: getting an inexpensive bat. But these are the type of deals Brian Sabean made in 2010 when the Giants won the World Series. It's not out of the question to chase another starter, but only if it's relatively cheap to do so.
The Giants made a calculated gamble by going after Carlos Beltran last year. It didn't pan out and they're still stinging from it a little, especially with a dearth of prospects from which to deal for impact players now. Which is why the moves they make this make a lot more sense.
5. The Giants will win the National League West ... and more
I wrote a while back that the Giants would overtake the Dodgers in June, so it wasn't surprising to see them only a half game back of L.A. heading into the break. The only surprising thing was that they didn't take the outright lead. The Giants have better pitching, better hitting and have been playing -- to a degree -- below their potential during the first half. L.A.'s the exact opposite.
Granted, the Dodgers could make some big moves via trade, and end up being more than just a All-Star Break leader. But I think they have to make big moves in order to hang with the Giants in the second half, and I'm not sure they wouldn't rather spend in free agency than give up a pile of assets if possible.
Regardless, I like the Giants to take the division. And if Lincecum bounces back? It could be another special season for San Francisco.