The San Francisco Giants have gotten off to a decent start this season as they hover around .500 toward the end of April. Not the most ideal result, but the Giants will have plenty of time to get into a groove over the course of a long season.
The team has had its share of struggles. Ace Tim Lincecum is scuffling to start the season, while celebrity closer Brian Wilson’s season ended after just two appearances. The Giants have also taken their share of losses in an “un-Giant-like” fashion, falling short due to fielding errors and couple of bullpen collapses.
Through it all, there have been several bright spots for the club thus far, including some pleasant surprises. Continued strong performances from the following players can only help the team in the long run.
Cain has had two masterful outings and two so-so performances on the mound. But when Cain has been locked in, he’s been almost impossible to hit.
The wide-shouldered power pitcher from Tennessee threw a complete game, one-hit masterpiece against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He threw what was essentially another shutout when he didn’t give up a single run in nine innings against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Giants went on to win that game 1-0 in extra innings.
Cain ran into trouble late in each of his other games, getting pulled in the middle of a jam both times.
In his tenure with the Giants, Cain has been Mr. Reliable in the rotation, typically turning in a quality start while giving the team a chance to win time and time again. The Giants need that from him to make a push for the division crown.
After a rough outing in Arizona to start the season, the 22-year-old North Carolina native has been the solid contributor in the rotation that the Giants hoped he would be.
Through four starts, Bumgarner has surrendered just four runs in his last 20.1 innings pitched, giving him the a team-leading three wins. Beginning his second full season at the big league level, Bumgarner seems to have really come into his own on the mound.
His WHIP is a low 1.15, mainly because he’s been deceptive in his delivery, and he’s getting good movement on his pitches. Opposing hitters have had a hard time making solid contact with Bumgarner on the hill this year. Continued dominance on the mound will only justify the sweet new contract the Giants gave him.
Cabrera was a big offseason acquisition for the Giants this season, as he came to the Bay Area after a career year in Kansas City. The Melk Man has been arguably the best offensive weapon for the Giants, as he’s supplied good speed on the basepaths (five steals) and some pop in his bat (23 hits in 19 games).
In the early part of the season, Cabrera is one of the team leaders in hits. Just as important is his club-leading 10 walks on a team that over the last few years has been notorious for being impatient at the plate.
Cabrera provides a critical service for the Giants offense. He’s shaping up to be a premier table-setter for them by getting on base frequently, getting into scoring position via stolen base, and even knocking in runs when he gets the chance.
Oh how the Giants and their fans alike have missed good ol' Buster...
The man whom many consider to be the heart and soul of the team is back, and he did not wait to make his presence felt. In his first 16 games of the season, Posey has hit a whopping .362, while getting on base in more than 40 percent of his at-bats. As a bonus, he’s also supplied some power with three home runs in the early going.
Posey has had a few mishaps behind the plate, with four errors already. But a little rust was expected after coming off a serious injury like the one he suffered last year.
Giants fans more than anything are happy to see Posey’s sweet stroke back in the lineup. The 25-year-old catcher has one of the purest swings of any Giants player in recent memory. He’ll need to keep delivering at the plate for the Giants to have success.
San Francisco’s beloved “Kung Fu Panda” is in good health, and it's shown up to this point. The leaner and meaner Sandoval was expected to be the Giants top hitter right in the heart of the lineup, and so far he has embraced that role.
Through 19 games, Sandoval leads the team in hits (25) and RBI (13), while sharing the team lead in home runs with three big flies. He’s also shown great consistency out of the gate with an impressive 19-game hitting streak.
If Sandoval continues to hit gym as hard as he’s hitting the ball right now, the whole team will be in good shape.
By far, the biggest surprise of the young season has been the performance of veteran southpaw Barry Zito. It finally looks like San Francisco’s highest-paid player is living up to his contract.
Zito has been playing some of the best baseball of his Giants career. He’s thrown four gems to begin the season, holding an ERA of 1.67 and a WHIP of 0.93. He hasn’t given up more than two earned runs in a single game yet. Zito had his best pitching performance when he threw his first complete game shutout in nine years against the Colorado Rockies, which gave the Giants their first win of the season.
Zito’s ability to locate pitches and mix speeds effectively has made him a reliable starter so far. His strong outings have been doubly important since Lincecum has been struggling to find his way.
Time will tell if Zito can keep the ball down in the strike zone and continue to be effective for the Giants.
As April comes to a close, the Giants appear to have many key pieces in place to make a run at the playoffs. The strong play of these six players has kept the team competitive in the beginning.
The Giants still have work to do. The team needs to solidify the infield and minimize errors the rest of the way. The bullpen needs to return to form, as it has surrendered too many leads already. Can Barry Zito keep this storybook start going? Can the Giants continue to have a formidable offense?
Surprising starts and so many questions to answer...this could be a very exciting season.