As Midseason Approaches, Giants Are One Piece Away From Major Success
At 39-32 after a 6-3 win over the Oakland A's on June 24, the series finale of the 2009 Bay Bridge Series, the Giants are in decent position to compete for a playoff run.
While they are still 7.5 games behind the hot and loaded Dodgers, they do lead the Milwaukee Brewers by one game in the wild card race with a crucial series between the two starting on June 26. This is a prime opportunity for the Giants to build upon their wild card lead and perhaps even gain some ground on the rival Dodgers.
While it is still early to talk about the playoffs since we aren't even at mid-season, Giants fans have to be happy with what we've seen so far this year.
Despite getting no offensive upgrades in the offseason (and believe me, Edgar Renteria is barely an upgrade since Omar Vizquel was so inept a year ago), the Giants have mustered enough offense to win games, and have rode solid pitching from franchise player Tim Lincecum, and suddenly-successful Matt Cain.
At 9-1 with a 2.28 era, Cain has been the Giants MVP this year. He has dominated his starts and has garnered the run support and confidence that has evaded him ever since his solid rookie campaign in 2006.
While Lincecum is the bigger star of the staff (and he still is star-worthy with a 7-2 record, 2.57 era and a NL leading 124 strikeouts), Cain is worthy of a spot in the NL All-Star rotation. He has been that critical to the Giants success and has been the key cog in one of the most underrated pitching staffs in the national league.
Offensively, the Giants aren't as horrible as they were a season ago, but they aren't much better. The Giants still have struggled to produce runs as evidenced by their low team OBP (16th in the NL) and run production (15th in the NL).
Bengie Molina, while a solid player, continues to show the Giants that he is not a trustworthy power threat, and Aaron Rowand is more suited to be a run scorer than a run producer as evidenced by his move to the lead off spot.
The Giants have gotten solid production from Pablo Sandoval, who has shown that his rookie stretch at the end of the year last season was no fluke. He is batting .335 with eight home runs and 35 RBI and his power is starting to come on over the last month.
However, other than "Big Panda," nobody on this team really has been a consistent offensive threat. Fred Lewis has played himself out of the lineup, and Renteria has been an offensive disappointment.
So what do the Giants need to do to compete for a playoff berth?
They need more offense, but in reality, all they need is a power hitter. They have the tools offensively. They have guys with speed (Andres Torres, Juan Uribe), have good contact guys (Rowand, Sandoval) and guys with fringe pop (Nate Schierholtz, Molina), but they don't have the one guy that can bring in constant run support.
They don't have the legitimate cleanup hitter that brings good teams over the top. And unfortunately, no matter how good their pitching is, the lack of this power hitter will prevent this Giants team from being anything else other than an overachieving pretender.
However, once the Giants get that cleanup hitter, there is no doubt the wheels will truly start churning for this squad.
The foundation is there.
They have a great 1-3 rotation and they are getting solid, if not spectacular performances from their "100 million dollar man" Barry Zito for the first time in his career in San Francisco.
They have great young players in Sandoval and Schierholtz.
They have solid role guys who can get hot in Rowand, Renteria and Molina.
All that is missing is that one guy, that one big bop threat. If Sabean can pull something off by the trade deadline and nab that missing link, and they are still competing and in the thick of it, the Giants could surprise a lot of fans in the NL West and make an unexpected run.
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