Are the 2009 San Francisco Giants a Team of Destiny?
Let me just get something out of the way before I begin. It is true that I wrote an article titled "Why the San Francisco Giants Will Not Make the Playoffs." And in that article I questioned the move to put Jonathan Sanchez back in the starting rotation.
However, the article itself was meant to highlight some of the little things that may cause the Giants to miss the post-season, not that they have zero chance of making it.
In fact, as fans, friends, and family alike ridiculed me for writing such a "pessimistic" article, I countered with the fact that I could still write a piece titled "Why the Giants Will make the playoffs."
And although I have decided to title this piece "'09 Giants: A Team of Destiny?" you can safely assume that this will be my article stating why the Giants will make the playoffs.
First off, this may not be my best written piece of all time because it may appear as if I am rambling a bit, but stick with me.
I just happen to feel a little giddy. The replay of Jonathan Sanchez's no hitter was just shown on Comcast Sports Net and I quickly tivo'd the last three innings. Not only that, but I probably watched the final out and celebration at-least 12-13 times.
And although it wasn't live, I couldn't help but get the feeling that this Giants team may just be a team of destiny.
When you take a look at the overall roster it is clear that the Giants have as many problems as any other team in the league. However it seems that whenever anything goes wrong, the Giants overcome it.
For example, the Giants were 3-10 in Sanchez' previous 13 starts but they had the faith to put him back in the rotation after Randy Johnson hit the DL.
Talk about karma. Sanchez's father was in the stands for the first time watching his son make a Major League start (He had previously seen Sanchez as a reliever).
And wouldn't you know it, Sanchez throws the first Giants no-hitter in 33 years. Such a performance is the perfect medicine for a young pitcher who has often struggled with confidence issues and questioning whether or not he belonged in the bigs.
If Sanchez doesn't find some sort of consistency on the mound after throwing a no-hitter then the world must be coming to an end because Giants fans have known for a long time that he has dominating stuff.
The problem was confidence and with that (hopefully) no longer being an issue, the sky is the limit for Sanchez.
Not only have the Giants potentially found another gem in their rotation by sticking with Sanchez, but their corner infield positions haven't been this good since they had Matt Williams and J. T. Snow manning those spots.
Let's look back over the last few years and think about the corner infielders for the Giants:
3B: Edgardo Alfonzo? Please, another washed up veteran brought in to surround Barry Lamar Bonds
Pedro "Watch me swing and miss at a curve ball in the dirt" Feliz? Awful.
And last year, the Giants had Jose "I can't hit worth jack" Castillo.
1B: Lance "I come from a baseball family" Niekro who couldn't hit the inside fastball for his life.
Ryan Klesko was another washed up veteran brought in to surround an aging Barry Lamar Bonds.
However, it is now 2009 and the Giants no longer have the "bum" players playing at the corners, they have two talented mid 20-year-olds making names for themselves at the big league level.
Pablo Sandoval is hitting .333 with 15 homers and 55 RBI while playing a rock solid third-base and Travis Ishikawa is hitting .269 with 7 homers and 29 RBI.
Ishikawa's numbers don't appear spectacular but he has raised his average over .100 points, hit all seven of his homers and 17 of his RBI since May 25. Oh and Ishikawa has eaten up everything at first-base defensively.
Not only have the Giants received improved play from the corner infield positions but the shortstop position is no longer just for defense. As good as the great Omar Vizquel was, his bat was horrific the last couple years and Edgar Renteria has provided clutch two out RBI knocks this season.
Despite the fact Renteria has received much deserved criticism for not putting up numbers that are worthy of his two-year 18 million dollar contract, his presence on the ball club has been huge for the younger Latin American players on this team.
And despite the fact the Giants have had difficulties finding an everyday second baseman, players such as Emmanuel Burriss, Kevin Frandsen, and Matt Downs have all struggled, there has been an answer to those struggles.
That answer is: Give Juan Uribe more playing time.
Uribe was brought in over the offseason to be a bench player and utility infielder but due to his veteran bat and solid defense, he has cracked his way into the everyday lineup.
His offensive numbers have been a huge surprise considering his career average of just .255. However he has put up superb numbers for spending half the season with limited playing time. In just 183 at-bats, he is hitting .301 with 4 homers and 20 RBI but his loose vibe in the club-house is all the more invaluable.
It is evident watching this team on television that players like Uribe keep their teammates fresh and bring a winning vibe to the dugout.
However, Uribe isn't the only surprise. Nate Schierholtz is stepping up big time in the outfield and has solidified his spot as the everyday right fielder.
All season long the 25-year-old has been a quality pinch hitter and has now been getting his chance to play everyday and his season average is now at a solid .288.
In despite of Fred Lewis' struggles, the Giants have had a backup plan that is kicked into gear and doesn't look to be slowing down anytime soon.
Hmmm, does it seem like the words "surprise" and "despite" are being used quite often in this piece?
Well, it has pretty much been my theme and continuing with that, it is important to take a look at the Giants bullpen:
Last season's bullpen was filled with names like Tyler Walker, Jack Taschner, Vinny "Choke" Chulk, and Keichi Yabu.
However, this season has been a 180 degree turnaround (not 360 Jason Kidd, the goal when your team is losing is to turn the team around 180 degrees).
When you think about it, when was the last time a ML team had one of the leagues worst bullpens one season and then the very next season have arguably the BEST bullpen?
In despite of the struggles of Merkin Valdez and Bobby Howry, the rest of the Giants bullpen has been nearly lights out. Sergio Romo has been a crafty right-handed set-up man, Jeremy Affeldt is arguably the best non-closer reliever in baseball and Brian Wilson leads the NL in saves.
Plus the middle relief boys of Justin Miller and Brandon Medders have been excellent all season long. Can you say surprise? Both of these guys were essentially left out to dry by their former teams.
If you want to say surprise one more time than you can say it one more in your head while I mention the name Ryan Sadowski.
When the current "No-no" stud Jonathan Sanchez was banished to the bullpen, the unknown rookie came up and through 16 2/3 scoreless innings to begin his career. His 2-1 record in three starts with a 1.00 ERA has been a fresh of breath air and with the Big Unit down to injury, the kid has a chance to continue his dominant ways at the big league level.
Now since it is already 11pm and I have skipped my daily late-night meal (teenagers are growing kids, right?) I will start to wrap things up.
This 2009 Giants team just has a certain feel to it, you can't really describe it but you can just feel as sense of destiny.
Unlike 2002 when the Giants lost to the Angels in the World Series, this year's team has a special feel to it because they look like they are having fun. In 2002 it was still an odd feeling with Bonds and Kent at each others' throats but this year's Giants have none of that going on.
Whenever anything goes wrong with this club, something surprising happens and the Giants find a way to fix it or get around it and that is a sign of a good baseball team.
After Sanchez' no-no, the Giants are the first and only team so far this season to go absolutely bonkers after the final out of a ball game.
And the way they are playing this season, they may just end up as the last team to go absolutely bonkers as well.
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