Team Profile – San Francisco Giants
After getting off to an extremely slow start this season, the Giants have turned things around and currently find themselves in first place in the N.L. West. Many analysts predicted the Giants to win the division, myself included. Everything about the team is strong, even without key pieces playing right now. What no one really expected was just how strong the Dodgers would be, and the serious competition they would ultimately pose to the Giants’ success. The two teams have been trading time at the top for the better part of a month now, and it doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. So what does San Francisco have to do to stay at the head of the class?
Very few teams have had the kind of success the Giants have at keeping the starting rotation healthy and pitching 100 games in. Madison Bumgarner and Matt Cain have been especially stellar this season. Bumgarner leads the team at 11-6, and his ERA is a respectable 3.10, while his WHIP is 1.04. Those are the numbers of an ace, a champion, and a pitcher who will garner a lot of attention if/when he becomes a free agent. Matt Cain has, however, been the undisputed ace of the staff in 2012. Cain became the first pitcher to throw a perfect game in San Francisco Giants’ history, garnering a lot of well-deserved respect from the city, to the point where there is now a day of the year named after and celebrated for him in San Fran. With a 2.80 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, he’s all the Giants could have wanted, and more.
The disappointing part of the season is Tim Lincecum. After winning back-to-back Cy Young awards recently, he’s turned in a 4-11 record with 5.88 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. It’s understandable that the Giants would want Tim to find his groove again, soon, especially since not long ago he was up for arbitration, and demanded an obscene amount of money. Of course, at the time he had two Cy Young awards, and was arguably the best pitcher in the National League. A little bit of that guy would be great for the stretch run.
In the offseason, the Giants made a trade that left everyone scratching their heads. Not because San Fran got the raw end or seemed to have lost out, but because no one could figure out why Kansas City would be willing to part with Melky Cabrera for Jonathan Sanchez. That question has only been amplified by the fact that Cabrera is putting up an MVP-caliber season for the Giants. He already took home that honor in the All-Star Game, and with a .356 average and 10 home runs, he’s making a strong case for the regular season, as well. Add in Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval, and you have a lethal threesome in this lineup that can provide a lot of offense for the entirety of the run to October. Trading for Marco Scutaro with Colorado only adds to that, solidifying the Giants’ defense, and providing another bat that can come up with some key hits in games.
The Giants suffered a very unfortunate setback early in the season with the loss of closer Brian Wilson and his sweet, sweet beard. So the rest of the pen had to pick up the slack, including Santiago Casilla, who has been pretty good – but not great – as a replacement, currently 24/30 in save opportunities. While missing a closer like Wilson is by no means a nail in the coffin for a season, it could turn out to be a key injury come playoff time. Luckily, the bullpen has been outstanding. Casilla has a 3.11 ERA, but even better are Sergio Romo and Jeremy Affeldt. Romo has a microscopic 1.17 ERA in 39 appearances this season, while Affeldt sits at 2.29, with a 1.14 WHIP. To have three bullpen pieces that are that successful complements nicely a great rotation. Going from a seven or eight inning performance from a starter to a back end that will shut down opponents means that the Giants can easily compete with anyone and everyone in Major League Baseball.
Keys to Success
The Dodgers are going to continue to be a threat, especially with the addition of Hanley Ramirez. Luckily, the Giants are playing like a championship team right now. The rotation is solid, the offense has a lot of good, smart, successful hitters, and the bullpen can mow down opposing teams late in games. There are very few holes on this team. They may make some smaller moves before the deadline, but acquiring Scutaro may have been the only move they’ll need to make a strong run for the playoffs. If the team simply continues to play as it has over the last four months, then there’s no doubt it’ll be in the playoff picture come October.