There seems to be a reoccurring theme with the Giants this year, especially since the Buster Posey Era began. When the offense is scoring runs, like in July, or at various times in August, the team looks like a playoff team. But when the offense has a few bad games, it seems fans and media alike suddenly revert to talking about how the offense just doesn’t match up with the N.L. elite. When the Giants lost 2 of 3 to the Padres, then lost the first two to the Phillies, there was a lot of talk about the offensive limitations of the team again. Sanchez is slumping, Huff is slumping, etc. Then, the Giants turn it around and win 2 in a row, with great starting pitching and great hitting. So, it begs the question, who are the real Giants?
Giants fans and media are so accustomed to the low offensive output for the past couple of years, that whenever the team struggles, we revert to a "here-we-go-again" frame of mind. We are reminded of all the tight games pitched by Matt Cain that the Giants lost 2-1. We are reminded of all of the late inning comebacks that never happened.
Comparing the Giants now to the team from last year, or even the first half of the season makes no sense. They are not the same team; they have a solid lineup now, and more options off the bench. They have more power, more patience, and a flair for the late-inning dramatics. Torres, Huff, Posey, Burrell, and Guillen have changed the Giants lineup. So let’s stop comparing this team to the old Giants.
Then the Giants have a couple of games where they work some walks, and get 2 or 3 baserunners a few times. Several players get hits, and they look like a legitimate contender.
Fans need to remember that even the best offense teams go through slumps and down periods. The Cardinals went through a down offense period not too long ago, even with the great Albert Pujols in the middle of the lineup. The Giants new offense is not going to score 6 or 7 runs every night. But they led the majors in runs scored in the month of July, and will score more runs per game than the old Giants. At the beginning of the year, many media people were positing that the Giants could be a contender if they could just score one more run per game. The new Giants are easily better than that.
Torres and Huff carried the team early, but Posey put it over the hump in July. The emergence of Burrell not only solidified the top of the order, but improved the bottom of the order. Now, with Sandoval reemerging, and the addition of Guillen, plus the insurance of Fontenot, the Giants lineup is solid top-to-bottom. A 5-6-7 of Guillen, Sandoval, and Uribe is pretty cool for Giants fans used to a wing and a prayer every other inning. Those are three guys with 30 home run a year power.
So, the Giants may not score runs every night, they may have cold streaks, but let’s stop panicking and complaining when they lose a couple of games to a team with good pitching like the Padres or Phillies. Even the most optimistic fan probably never imagined we would have an offense this good at this point of the season. The best leadoff hitter in the league. An MVP candidate hitting third. A Rookie of the Year candidate hitting .340. Burrell, Guillen, and Fontenot. It’s an amazing story, with several guys rescued from baseball purgatories to help the Giants become one of the best teams in the National League.
Keep in mind, the Giants are still suffering from the legacy of the early season, especially their losses to the Padres and other N.L. West foes. The Padres owned a 6 game advantage over the Giants from then; if they had won 3 of those games that advantage would have been basically eliminated. They are 28-15 since Buster Posey took over as catcher in Milwaukee on July 5th. You can’t ask for better than that, and it’s amazing considering the starters hadn’t won a game for close to two weeks. It was a tough stretch for the starters, and Giants fans are used to Cain or Lincecum stepping up to stop streaks.
The Giants need to put it all together, and find some consistency. The offense struggled early, until it was revamped. The bullpen struggled in the middle with consistency, but also was revamped, and looks better going forward. Now, the starters have been struggling. If they can put it back together, and Lincecum can find his control again, the Giants could go on a major roll. Imagine if Cain and Lincecum can pitch consistently like we know they can. Zito and Sanchez are both better than last year, and Bumgarner is the real deal. With a deep bullpen, and this offense, that could mean some serious winning streaks. With 39 games left, if they put it all together, would it be hard to imagine them going 26-13? That is similar to the pace they have been playing at since July 5th, even with all their inconsistencies. That would give them 95 wins, a good shot at winning the division and probably the Wild Card berth.
Does anyone think the Giants will play .500 the rest of the way? If they went 20-19, they would end up with 89 wins. They should be able to do that in their sleep, and everyone would be disappointed if that happened. 95 wins seems reachable the way there are playing now; but if the Giants starters start throwing 7 or 8 innings allowing 2 or less runs consistently, it is not hard to envision something closer to 100 wins. Sound crazy? All is takes is a big win streak to make it easier, like 12 games. Then go 18-9. Or a couple of 7 game streaks and go 16-9.
Is it so hard to imagine the five starters all throwing 7 or 8 innings, giving up less than 3 runs, in a row in one week? Is it hard to imagine them doing that 10 starts in a row? Even if one or two of those starts got a little out of hand, maybe the Giants score 10 those two nights. Before you know it, 10 game winning streak. So hold on, Giants fans, and pray that Timmy finds his mojo.