It’s been over two weeks now since the start of the 2008 season. It's a season many thought could be the worst in franchise history, but despite being four games under .500 through 16 games and in last place in the NL West, this San Francisco Giants team is actually likeable.
Sure the offense is stagnant. The Giants have scored only 49 runs, the lowest total in the majors.
And while the team’s 81 runs allowed seems to show that the Giants’ pitching is not as good as it’s supposed to be, every starter outside of ‘ace’ Barry Zito has displayed flashes of brilliance and the bullpen has improved since some early season struggles.
However, the kids that are making the most of their chances to play in the big leagues make this team really likeable.
Thanks to Dave Roberts' injury, Fred Lewis has taken over the leadoff spot and responded by hitting .326 to lead the team in batting average. And while Brian Bocock may be fighting to hit above the Mendoza line, he has already stolen four bases, with more sure to come once he starts hitting over .200.
But the biggest surprise so far is definitely John Bowker, who made his Major League debut in the outfield on April 12 against the Cardinals.
He introduced himself to the China Basin faithful with a three-run jack. He made it clear that his power was no fluke with another round-tripper the next day, and through the four games he’s played, Bowker is hitting .538 with a triple, two dingers, seven RBI, three runs scored, and only two strikeouts.
Even if the strong lefty from Long Beach State continues at half of his pace, he would be good for a .270 BA, 30 homers, and an OPS of over .840.
I’m not ready to officially predict that Bowker will reach the 30 homer plateau as a rookie, especially given the question marks about where and how often he’ll play. But the fact that he’s on pace for over double that number just goes to show this youngster’s potential.
As for his position, while he’s started in the outfield, he played a few innings at first in San Francisco’s last game on April 16. And under the tutelage of Giants legend and six-time Gold Glover J.T. Snow, Bowker could blossom into the power-hitting corner infielder the Giants are desperate for.
All that Giants fans can hope for this year is seeing some potential in the young guys. Hopefully the experience from this miserable season will translate into real success in the standings a couple years down the road when these guys are veterans.
We already knew Lincecum and Cain would be future aces that will hopefully anchor our pitching staff for years. It was the lack of powerful position players in the farm system that had most fans so pessimistic going into the season.
But with Bowker bashing baseballs beyond the fences, Lewis looking like the leadoff hitter of the future, and Eugenio Velez getting good wood on the ball in most of his at-bats, even if most of the hard-hit balls are going straight to a fielder, it is time for the pessimism to dwindle and for Giants fans to rally behind these guys.
While they may not be as polished as highly touted rookies like Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Jacoby Ellisbury, or Evan Longoria, Lewis, Velez, Bowker and Bocock are energetic gamers who have already succeeded in getting me legitimately excited to be a Giants fan as this team does it’s best to rebuild.
It may take awhile, but at least there’s hope. And that’s really all a true fan can ask for.