The Giants are three games under .500. Barry Zito just got demoted to the bullpen. Omar Vizquel and Noah Lowry are still not back from the DL. Rajai Davis is gone, Dave Roberts is on the DL, and the starting shortstop is batting .162.
So why are San Francisco fans still excited?
Because Tim Lincecum is still undefeated and scored hundreds of fans $7 bleacher tickets for tonight's game.
Because the Giants have stolen a major-league leading 31 bases. Because the Giants are second in the majors in strikeouts by their pitchers, and first among starters.
Because Freddy Lewis is hitting like he'll never be back in the minors, and because Aaron Rowand has raised his average 45 points in 11 games.
Because the Giants are 6-5 in one run games, a whole lot better than last year. Because the Giants are in third place, not last, where they were supposed to be.
The new players are exciting to watch. Freddie Lewis is electrifying in the leadoff spot. Eugenio Velez is another fleet-footed youngster behind him. Manny Burriss is just plain fuel to the fire, and is pure energy when he comes in. Dan Ortmeier, who struggled during Spring Training, started yesterday and hit two doubles.
I was at the game when Johnathan Sanchez almost went the distance on Friday, and he was sharp, striking out ten. Pat Misch, who will take Zito's spot in the rotation, only gave up two runs in six solid innings of relief. Brian Wilson struck out the side yesterday to get his eighth save, also giving him twelve strikeouts in only eleven innings.
The veterans are starting to come around again. Ray Durham stole two bases yesterday and has raised his average 60 points in the last ten days. Rowand has been playing like his ribs are fine, and Bengie Molina has been hovering around .300 for the past week.
The vets are stepping up to help the Giants win these close games that they would have lost year. Molina's homer in the ninth saved Matt Cain from losing a game where he only gave up one run in seven innings. Rich Aurilia homered and helped Lincecum win a game where he shut out the Padres over six innings. Tyler Walker is owning the setup role, and is anchoring the bullpen.
This is the mix that the Giants have been looking for. Veterans, including those who aren't on the roster, are providing the leadership and cohesiveness in a clubhouse that was lacking for so many years.
Former players that have returned have helped out wherever they could. JT Snow, a perennial Gold Glover has helped both John Bowker and Ortmeier learn their way around first base. Brian Wilson said that former closer Robb Nen talked to him during Spring Training and really helped inspire him. Randy Winn, Aaron Rowand, and Dave Roberts are providing the tutelage that the younger outfielders have so desperately needed.
This Giants team is not elite, but it is getting more polished as the season goes on. The return of Vizquel and Lowry will add even more presence to the team.
Even the demotion of Zito to the bullpen changes the mentality a bit. He is taking it like he should, knowing that he has to overcome this on his own. It is very reminiscent of Shawn Estes, who used everything from psychologists to acupuncture to try and get his edge back. Hopefully working a couple games out will help him.
This is where the seven-year contract seems like a bust, but Zito is a professional and will do everything in his power to get back in that starting rotation, something that I expect to see before too long.
The Giants aren't the best team in the league, but sure aren't the worst either.
P.S. I TOTALLY called Fred Lewis hitting the first splash hit of 2008 in an article I wrote earlier, but never got published. that makes me mad that I don't have proof...
I'm going to keep an update on teams that the Giants have a better winning percentage than...this week is: Colorado, San Diego, Cincinnati, Washington, Texas, Kansas City, Minnesota, Detroit, and Toronto.
Take that, all you people who said "worst in the Majors."