As the 2009 San Francisco Giants' season approached, it seemed that the way to win was simple—have the much maligned offense scrap together a couple of runs and let the talented pitching staff lead the way.
The main wish coming from fans was to be competitive and maybe reach .500 after two consecutive years of 90-plus losses. With an offense that wasn’t considered to be anything special, recording that kind of record didn’t seem all too feasible.
Then the games started actually being played on the field.
There were rough patches—two sweeps on the hands of San Diego where the offense could barely muster anything of note and great pitching performances went unrewarded.
Many of us preached patience from the masses. The players brought in during the winter were not exactly ones you would consider huge game changers and their youngsters that were given a chance.
As June rolled around, things seemed to click into place.
The offense started, for the most part, to support the efforts that the pitching staff was giving them. Two of the hottest hitters over the past month also happened to be two of the youngest regulars.
We knew Pablo Sandoval could rake, and his .333 average certainly is just adding to the Panda mojo, but now Nate Schierholtz is joining the party after waiting to get his shot in right field. He’s been a stabilizing factor in the lineup that was anything, but consistent before he became a regular.
Two young kids are becoming the two best hitters in the Giants' lineup. When was the last time we could say that?
With the first half of the season officially behind us and the second 81 games set to begin, the objectives of the Giants have changed. A .500 record is no longer something that they will be settling for.
It may be only the first week of July, but don’t look now, your Gigantes de San Francisco are leading the National League Wild Card.
While they do have their fair share of veteran players, if you look at who the main players are on the Giants, you will notice that the ones that are National League All-Stars are also two of the youngest players on the team.
Matt Cain at the age of 24 and Tim Lincecum is just barely 25 years old, have both put the Giants on their backs and are part of the reason why they are where they are in the standings.
The Giants have 11 shutouts on the year. To put that into perspective, no other team in the majors has more than six. Cain and Lincecum have been involved in more than half of those goose eggs.
Is there anything that makes you think that they won’t continue to deal when the All-Star break is over?
Despite all the shuffling at second base and seeing Schierholtz replace Fred Lewis in the outfield, the Giants have had something that few teams have—good health.
They have had only two players, Noah Lowry and Joe Martinez, placed on the disabled list this season. Other than a few bumps and bruises, the regulars haven’t had to miss any significant time with injuries.
All of this is happening while general manager Brian Sabean continues to stockpile talent in the minor leagues. For all the criticism he receives on basically a daily basis for not getting a power hitter this past winter or for not pulling a trigger on a trade earlier this season, he has done a great job setting up this team for contending in the future and quite possibly the near future.
See? The losing does have its benefits.
Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Tim Alderson, and Angel Villalona rank in the top 50 of basically every prospect publication you will find. While signing veterans to keep the team competitive now, Sabean has gone away from his previous strategy and given player development a serious makeover.
You may say, “Well it’s easy to pick guys that the Giants have. It’s not exactly rocket science to do what Sabean is doing.”
Well think about this—nine teams passed on Lincecum in the 2006 Draft because they might have been worried that he didn’t have the kind of prototypical body type to be a No. 1 in the big leagues. He selected Posey even though he was going to command one of the biggest signing bonuses in recent memory.
Things are set up quite nicely, aren’t they?
In just three years Sabean has turned the laughing stock of a minor league system into one of the best in all of baseball. Sure the top ten picks help, but you have to make the right picks beyond the first round.
They are contributing, the Randy Johnson's or Edgar Renteria’s of the world aren’t going to be around in three years and that means that the guys who have been brought up through the system will likely get a chance.
The management can get ripped for not going out and getting a high-priced free agent, but remember that with the type of seasons they are putting in, the likes of Lincecum and Cain will be due a hefty raise in the next few years.
But for right now, enjoy it. Not many people thought that things would be this good at this time and the Giants are playing good baseball while racking up series win after series win.
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