Keys to World Series Game 4

Posey, Bochy Needed for Comeback

Ring Around the Posey: Buster Getting Help from Unsung Giants on Offense

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Ring Around the Posey: Buster Getting Help from Unsung Giants on Offense
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The San Francisco Giants are cruising toward the National League West pennant with less than 20 games remaining in the regular season, and they have Buster Posey to thank for much of the propulsion.

But not all of it.

Despite the orgy of spending that made so many superficial headlines, the Los Angeles Dodgers have seen their place in the NL Wild Card hierarchy threatened by news that the 2011 NL Cy Young Clayton Kershaw may be lost for the year to a hip ailment. As for the NL West "race," the Dodgers have all but lost touch with the Gents.

Unless the Bums sail down the stretch on undefeated waters, San Francisco could play .500 ball and still coast into the playoffs.

Given the Dodgers' September schedule, it's highly unlikely they win out in 2012.

To put los Gigantes' current situation in terms all baseball fans can understand, it would take a collapse of even more dramatic proportions than those authored in 2011 by the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves to knock them from their present course.

Seriously, check the standings around this date last year.

Both the Sawks and the Braves had slimmer leads on the teams that eventually caught them than San Francisco currently has on L.A. So barring the biggest, fastest meltdown since the 2007 New York Mets, the Sucka Free should be enjoying October baseball for the second time in three years.

Posey has done the heavy lifting on offense, no doubt about it.

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

He's riding a second half for the ages—among players with at least 200 plate appearances since the All-Star break, Posey has the best average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in the entire Show. He's in the top 10 for runs batted in and has launched more than half his season's total of home runs.

He's been the Majors' hottest hitter since July and has forced his way into the NL Most Valuable Player discussion—maybe even to the front of it.

It's not much of an exaggeration to say he's been a one-man wrecking crew, especially after the loss of Melky Cabrera to his infamous 50-game suspension.

But it is an exaggeration.

Gerald Dempsey the Third has gotten plenty of help; his help just hasn't gotten much attention.

Ironically, the highest-profile members of Posey's supporting cast—deadline-acquisition Hunter Pence and fleshy fan-favorite Pablo Sandoval—have been struggling (though Pence deserves a nod for his RBI production). Which makes the contributions from their unheralded teammates all the more important.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Angel Pagan Demonizing Opposing Pitchers

As detailed, Posey is getting his just deserts for filling the void created by Cabrera's absence, but Angel Pagan gets one hell of an assist.

Melky played his final game on August 14; Pagan went 0-for-5 on August 15 and then unleashed a torrid offensive streak that continues to this day.

During the onslaught, Pagan has scored almost a run a game, hit north of .330 and posted an OPS over .930. He's been responsible for many of those runs driven in by the All-Star catcher.

In fact, for the last 30 days, Pagan's been the most valuable Giant as measured by Fangraph's WAR and one of the 10 most valuable players in the bigs.

 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Marco Scutaro Smooth Since Fleeing the Rockies

Though the trade for Pence made the bigger headline splash, it's been the heist of Marco Scutaro from the Colorado Rockies that's made the biggest waves on the field.

Scutaro has seen his numbers swell across the board despite moving from the hitter-friendly confines of Coors Field to the comparatively suffocating yard at Third and King. He's combined with Pagan to form a potent catalyst atop the order, setting the table for the big boys in the middle of the lineup (again, I refer you to the RBI totals of Posey and Pence).

The utility infielder has also been a godsend on defense—playing a serviceable third base and making a number of dazzling plays from his more natural second base.

 

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Brandon Belt Finally Living Up To Name and Hype

Much has been expected from Brandon Belt ever since he made his major-league debut for San Francisco in 2011. So much that expectations had begun to turn to demands part way through this season, his first full campaign. By late July, the situation seemed bleak and '12 was looking like a painful learning experience at best.

Then the awkwardly athletic lefty caught fire.

Since then, Belt's added almost 50 points to his average and come up with a slew of big hits, though not always in winning efforts as his game-tying double on Sunday attests.


Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Brandon Crawford Adding Bat To Slick Glove

Alright, so I'm cheating a little here.

Though both Brandons have made strides at the plate, Brandon Crawford still has a ways to go before he can call himself an above-average big-league hitter. In BC's defense, he's been swinging it much better in August and September, and Giant fans fully appreciate the value of stretch-run production (see: Ross, Cody circa Fall 2010).

Nevertheless, I'm shoehorning Crawford in here because he's improved at the plate and he's been a revelation with the glove.

His early-season struggles were excruciating to watch because many of his errors came on routine plays. The situation was even uglier than the stats—12 errors through 59 games—made it look because not all of the wayward exchanges resulted in errors.

When simple throws started missing their mark, more than a few fans whispered the most dreaded words in baseball: "the yips."

Of course, here we are staring down the barrels of October and Crawford has only 15 errors.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is progress.

 

Joaquin Arias Making Beautiful Music

Nobody in the Bay Area is quite sure where Joaquin Arias came from, but the faithful is sure glad he got here.

Though the wiry Arias isn't supposed to see everyday action, he's basically forced manager Bruce Bochy's hand in the matter. Not only has the 27-year-old come up with a surprising amount of production when he's seen the diamond, but he's also saved most of his best work for division rivals.

The franchise and fans will forgive a woeful mark against the Arizona Diamondbacks when you're tearing the cover off the ball versus the hated Dodgers, irritating San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies, who deserve no mercy because they have purple uniforms.

Arias gets bonus points for making an underrated play on the final out of Matt Cain's perfect game.


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Bruce Bochy Gets the Last Word

When you look at the production the Gents are getting from almost all corners, even Bochy's most unforgiving critics must admit it: Whether he's been lucky or good, this year has been a vindication of the Boch's veteran-centric, everyone-gets-to-play-even-if-it-kills-the-fans approach.

Managing the years being put together by Pagan, Belt, Crawford and Arias hasn't been as easy as just writing different names in the lineup here and there. Even his handling of Posey merits more praise than it will get—Buster likes playing behind the plate so massaging his innings back there was a more delicate ordeal than anyone not in that dugout can appreciate.

You can argue that it's been more coincidental than causal when linked to their performances, but what you can't do is complain.

Because Bochy is managing a team with a 99.8 percent chance of making the playoffs (via ESPN).

And while he may have the luxury of the Senior Circuit's Most Valuable Player, you don't survive 162 games thanks to just one player.

Even one like Buster Posey.

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