Editor's note: Throughout August, ESPN.com will take a close look at various teams in the hunt for a playoff spot to assess whether they have what it takes to survive the dog days of August and remain in contention come October.
At the bottom of the page, each team will receive a dog bone rating based on our overall analysis: five bones = serious postseason contender; four bones = good contender; three bones = average contender; two bones = poor contender; one bone = no contender.
Who's the big dog?
The Giants simply can't survive unless their pitching keeps them in almost every game, and no hurler on the staff is more of a big dog than little Tim Lincecum. He's sort of off the grid in the National League Cy Young race, but he's having an excellent season with a 4.3 fWAR (FanGraphs' wins above replacement) and a 2.58 ERA. Somehow, that's only good for 11 wins. Pablo Sandoval deserves honorable mention with 3.9 fWAR (tied with Adrian Beltre and 0.1 behind Alex Rodriguez among third basemen) despite playing in just 79 games. The Giants need both Lincecum and Sandoval to keep producing in order to catch the rolling Snakes.
Who needs to step up?
Unfortunately, the guy the Giants most need to step up is probably the most ill-equipped to do so presently. Carlos Beltran joined the Giants and grabbed some of their bad luck with health as he sustained a hand injury that's kept him out of games for about a week. He's had a cortisone shot that did little to nothing and the Giants have delayed making a decision about putting him on the disabled list. They desperately need him to be healthy and in the middle of their order with his switching-hitting production.
Key stat: Lack of power
The Giants' lack of power is an issue that could cause them problems down the stretch.
When Cody Ross hit a two-run homer Sunday in Florida, it snapped a streak of 21 straight home runs hit by the Giants with no one on base. The Elias Sports Bureau reports it was the longest streak of solo homers in the divisional era. The club leaders in home runs with runners on base are Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey, with four each. Posey has not played a game since May 25.
-- Vince Masi, ESPN Stats & Info
Where are they going?
In the wild-card era (since 1994), just four teams -- the 1998 Marlins, 2003 Angels, 2006 White Sox and 2007 Cardinals -- have failed to make the postseason the year after winning the World Series.
If paces hold, however, the 2011 San Francisco Giants will join the ranks of those who, it would seem, preferred October golfing to a vigorous defense of the title.
Right now, the Giants trail the Arizona Diamondbacks -- who, under penalty of law, must be referred to as "upstart" -- by a pair of games in the NL West, and CoolStandings.com gives the Giants just a 35.7 percent chance of winning the division.
For more of Dayn Perry's analysis, click here .