Before the baseball season began, I wrote an article explaining the five most critical elements for the San Francisco Giants' 2010 season. Now that we are 10 games into the year, we can get a picture of how well the team is doing relative to those goals.
1. Patience, Patience, Patience
Last season, San Francisco ranked at the bottom of the NL in OPS and on-base percentage. This year, they are fourth in OPS and sixth in on-base percentage.
This is a significant improvement over last year and is resulting in a noticeably improved offense. Leading the charge are new acquisitions Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa, who are tied for the league lead with six walks. Bengie Molina and Juan Uribe are batting .440 and .361, respectively, and are exhibiting solid patience at the plate.
Overall, the Giants are more than exceeding expectations in terms of plate patience.
2. The Development of Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner
This is a less straightforward question.
Jonathan Sanchez has performed admirably, with a 2.19 ERA and 17 strikeouts in two starts. This includes a eight inning, 11 strikeout, three-hit outing against the Pirates on April 14.
Sanchez' play has been and will be critical for the Giants' pitching staff, and if he can keep up this kind of effort, good things are in store.
However, praise cannot be given to Madison Bumgarner. He was optioned to San Francisco's AAA Fresno affiliate after failing to make the team.
The Giants were expecting a solid major league season out of Bumgarner, and that might not happen this year. Luckily, they have enough talent to compensate, but Bumgarner may have to step up later in the season if Todd Wellemayer continues to play poorly.
The Giants had been injury-free until recently, when Aaron Rowand was hit in the face with a Vicente Padilla pitch. Rowand will go onto the DL with a mild concussion and two small fractures. This, however, is the only early injury, and that bodes well for the future. Rowand will, luckily, be back soon. Injuries could derail the season and that, for the most part, hasn't happened yet.
4. Relief Pitching
The Giants' relief pitching has been very up and very down at points.
The top five relievers have combined for one run allowed in 21 innings thus far and have shut down the opposition.
However, Brandon Medders and Waldis Joaquin have combined to allow 11 runs in 10 innings. This cannot continue. The short relievers have played outstanding baseball, but it may not matter if the long relief is poor. Of course, the Giants are capable of getting long starts from four starters, possibly limiting the use of Medders and Joaquin.
5. The Colorado Rockies
The Colorado Rockies, the Giants' strongest NL West competition, have been up and down as well. They have looked dominant at times, including a 7-0 win over San Diego and an 11-3 win against the Mets.
However, they lost two games in a row against a bad Milwaukee team and are ranked in the bottom third of the NL in most offensive stats. The Giants have been lucky thus far, as Colorado's talent has only resulted in an average record.