4 Reasons Why the San Francisco Giants Will Run Away with the NL West Title
In May, neither the Giants nor the D-Backs, the two teams expected to battle for the NL West title, were in first place.
The Dodgers were dominating, despite Matt Kemp's injury. Andre Ethier was and still is playing very well, and guys like A.J Ellis and Jerry Hairston Jr. were stepping up. San Francisco wasn't terrible, but they were way behind the Dodgers.
Now, no one remembers those times.
San Francisco won five games in a row. They currently lead the Dodgers by three games and the D-Backs by seven games for the NL West lead. A lot of guys are stepping up for the Giants, and the Dodgers and D-Backs have been getting some bad luck.
Here are four reasons why the Giants will win the NL West.
Bumgarner, Cain and Vogelsong Continuing to Dominate
I made a prediction saying that Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong would all finish the season with an ERA under 3.
So far, so good.
Even though Bumgarner has a 3.15 ERA, it seems like he lowers it by a little bit in most games, then it shoots up after a terrible start. Bumgarner is great at striking guys out, and Cain knows how to strike batters out too. Vogelsong isn't a strikeout pitcher, but he knows how to get hitters out.
Vogelsong owns baseball's fifth-best ERA (2.31), and Cain owns the NL's fifth-best ERA (2.56). Vogelsong has gone at least six innings in every one of his starts this year, and he has been very consistent. Cain has also been very consistent, and he threw a perfect game this year.
All three of these guys have been great this year, and I think they will continue to shine. Bumgarner has always dominated in the second half, and it probably won't be any different this year. As for the other two, they have been very consistent and accurate, and I doubt it will be any different in the second half.
Zito and Lincecum Will Both Have a Good Second Half
The two men pictured here, who are obviously good friends, have had very different seasons. However, the one who everyone expected to dominate hasn't exactly done that.
Two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum is 3-10 with a 5.93 ERA, while the underachieving Barry Zito is 8-6 with a 3.75 ERA. On Tuesday night, Zito shut out the Braves in seven strong innings, and on Saturday night, Lincecum shut out the Astros in eight strong.
Both looked great in their second-half opener, but that wasn't always the case in the first half. Zito was 7-6 with a 4.01 ERA at the All-Star break, but he was inconsistent at times. Zito lost three straight starts in mid-June but bounced back by shutting out the Dodgers in seven innings.
Lincecum shut out the Dodgers in seven innings two nights later, but he was rocked by the Nationals and Pirates right before the All-Star break. However, Lincecum dominated the Astros and got ahead of the count very well, and it looks like he has returned to his old form.
Both Lincecum and Zito should be expected to do well in the second half and fill out one of the best rotations in baseball with some great second-half pitching.
One month ago, you would've thought I was crazy for saying this. But a lot can change in one month.
During San Francisco's five-game winning streak, a lot of batters have come up with clutch hits. Hector Sanchez hit a walk-off single on Saturday night against the Astros, preserving a much-needed win for the Giants.
The next day, Buster Posey knocked in two runs with a first-inning and fifth-inning RBI (which was the go-ahead RBI). Then, Posey drove in five runs in San Francisco's 9-0 win on Tuesday.
And that wasn't it. Brandon Crawford hit a three-run bomb in the 11th inning to give the Giants a 6-3 lead. Then, with two outs, Gregor Blanco hit another three-run jack to lock up a crucial win for the Giants.
San Francisco has won a lot of close games lately, and it's thanks to some timely hitting. Buster Posey has recorded three hits in San Francisco's last three games, and in those three games, Posey's batting average has skyrocketed from .290 to .308. Melky Cabrera is hitting .354 this year, and he homered against the Braves.
Even though the Giants don't have a great offense, some timely hitting has them three games ahead of the Dodgers. The Giants have always won games in torturous fashion and expect that to continue this year.
A lot of people think the Giants should go after a big bat at the trade deadline. However, they don't need to.
As I mentioned in the last slide, the Giants have received some clutch, timely hitting that has allowed them to win games. They have Cabrera and Posey dominating, and even though Pablo Sandoval and Angel Pagan have been struggling, the Giants still have been great on offense recently.
Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt have lots of potential, even though both have been very streaky. Crawford's huge three-run blast was just one of the great things he's done with runners on base, and when Belt's seeing the ball well, he isn't fun to pitch too.
All the Giants really need is a closer. Santiago Casilla blew his sixth save of the year when he allowed Brian McCann's two-run home run with two outs in the 10th, and it was his fifth blown save in his last eight chances. In his last eight appearances, Casilla's ERA has shot upwards from 1.32 to 3.34.
Even though the Giants have Javier Lopez, Sergio Romo, George Kontos, Brad Penny, Clay Hensley and Jeremy Affeldt in the bullpen, they would benefit from getting a closer.
San Francisco is looking to upgrade in the bullpen, but they could also pursue a middle infielder like Michael Cuddyer (even though they don't need any bats).
However, every position other than pitcher is filled by capable players.
I already mentioned most of the position players, and the ones I didn't mention, Ryan Theriot (second base) and Gregor Blanco (right field), have done a nice job. The Giants are fine at all positions and don't need to give up valuable prospects for a position player.
And that's because everyone who takes the field for the Giants is capable of succeeding.