The Giants split their series against the National-League leading Chicago Cubs this weekend, ending with a decisive 8-3 victory on Thursday.
It was a typical Tim Lincecum start, as he dominated the Cubbies with eight strikeouts in six innings. He also threw in an RBI single and showed his athleticism the play after, scoring from first on Fred Lewis' RBI triple.
All this was after he graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, in the middle of his signature catapulting windup. As Rich Aurilia stated in the postgame show, everyone just seems to know that Lincecum will keep them in the game, and everyone always plays well behind them.
The main focus has been on the Giants so far this season. They're 10 games under .500, at 38-48, but are still very much in the thick of the National League West race. No one expected them to be this close, and many didn't even expect them to climb out of last place.
But the Giants are a resilient team, and as this year's slogan states, they're all gamers. The things that they stressed in the preseason have pretty much come true, and all the optimistic talk seems to be right on track. The starting pitching is fantastic. The defense is solid. And, the most consistent thing, there has been a total lack of power, with the highest-ranking home-run hitter on the Giants coming in at 56th (John Bowker, 9).
Regardless, the Giants were fifth in the National League in batting average in June. They rank third in doubles and triples, but dead last in homers. Good pitching will keep you in games though, and the Giants have proven that this year.
The Giants are 25-9 in games pitched by Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez, and Matt Cain has been getting back to last season's form, striking out 10 in his last start on Tuesday.
Those three are all in the top-10 in strikeouts this year, and 2008 marks the first time in history that the Giants have three pitchers with over 100 Ks before the All-Star break.
If Barry Zito can somehow pitch like he did against Cleveland, even if only for half of the his starts in the second half, the Giants will be better off. Kevin Correia is still working his way back from injury, but once the Giants start giving Zito and Correia the kind of run support that they give Lincecum and Cain, they'll start winning more games.
What's most important, and what most fans aren't really grasping, is that this team works. This combination of players is working, even though it might not look like it. At the outset of the season, I stressed the growth of a young core, guided by a nucleus of baseball intelligence.
Has this not happened? Aren't the John Bowkers and Emmanuel Burrisses, the Brian Wilsons and Tim Lincecums learning from the Randy Winns and Omar Vizquels?
Not only that, but these vets, Winn, Aurilia, and Rowand, they're producing. There are rumblings within the Giants' fanbase to trade Aurilia or Winn while they still have the chance to return a mid-level prospect. With the exception of the inconsistencies in the bullpen, the only thing that this team needs to get better is more time.
Let this team grow together. That's how good teams get good, most of the time.
But still, people think that the Giants need to deal to get to the playoffs this year. In my opinion, who cares about the playoffs? The Giants were tabbed as the worst team in baseball. They were destined to lose at least 100 games. But look at them now!
If they take the series against the Dodgers this weekend, they could be in second place! All of this is just a bonus to Giants' management. Sure, everyone wants to go to the playoffs, but this year was just supposed to be a rebuilding year. Everything on top of that is just a bonus.
Yes, they do need a left-handed power hitter, and yes, they do need another arm in the bullpen, but take care of that NEXT year. Make it known to this team that they're doing much better than expected, and that the fans are behind them for what they've done so far. Don't change this chemistry now.
If the Giants make the playoffs this year, buy tickets and go the games, but don't expect them to steamroll through the division series and take on the Rays in the World Series. In the spirit of a rebuilding team (which the Giants still technically are), look ahead to next year.
Tim Lincecum will be coming off a 20-win season, most likely with a new contract under his belt. Matt Cain and Jonathan Sanchez will join him as a top-tier pitching rotation. Molina will have a new protégé, Buster Posey, to groom, much like Vizquel has done with Burriss.
Kevin Frandsen will be back, and hopefully Noah Lowry will too. Just don't change what we have now. If you trade someone now, it will just be a quick fix (see Shea Hillenbrand, A.J. Pierzynski).
I'm tired of the Giants trading young guys, having the old guys for a year or so, and then watching the kids kick tail somewhere else (see Joe Nathan, Jeremy Accardo). Keep the kids, let them grow, and most of all, let them play.
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