The San Francisco Giants have had one a great season up to this point, regardless of their inconsistency. They are 17 games above .500 and are one game back of the San Diego Padres, who have led the NL West for most of the year.
The Giants wouldn't be in the position they are in now without their pitching. Everyone knows the Giants have a great staff, even if they have largely underperformed during highly expected times.
Tim Lincecum has set the tone for the pitching staff all year long. If Timmy is on, usually so are the pitchers behind him. Barry Zito has lost his second-half magic so far, but Jonathan Sanchez has greatly picked up the slack as of late. He had only gone six or more innings in back-to-back starts ONCE, until he dominated the Colorado Rockies for 8 innings, giving up one run, but earning a no-decision, and then defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers by hurling seven shutout innings on Sunday.
Sanchez has shown a great improvement in his control during these starts, walking only three, while striking out fifteen. That is a five to one strikeout to walk ratio. There is no doubt that Sanchez has dominating stuff, but his lack of control and high pitch counts makes it hard for him to be consistent.
On the offensive side, Aubrey Huff has been the main catalyst in the middle of the year throughout the whole year. Buster Posey has sure done his part since being called up. The Giants rely on his balanced hitting attack and occasional power to give them a boost.
Also, the second-half resurgence of Pablo Sandoval and Freddy Sanchez has led to great success as well. The Giants definitely wouldn't be where they are now if Sandoval continued on hitting at a .260 average. Also, he hit six home runs before August. During August, he doubled his total, launching another six big flies.
Freddy Sanchez has done his part too. he has raised his batting average twenty points and hit the first opposite field home run of his career last night against the Diamondbacks.
And who could forget journeyman, Andres Torres. All of us Giants fans know his story. He has more stolen bases and home runs this season then he had in his previous years combined. His stellar defense has probably saved over ten runs.
He has calmed down lately, but it seemed like a month or so ago I couldn't watch a Giant highlight reel without him making a diving catch or spider-walking on a wall. He has been slightly cold lately, but overall, he is one of the main reasons the Giants have been so successful.
This slide was pretty much the summary of who is going to be on this slide show, but now it's time for the rankings.
Matt Cain has a record of 10-10 and owns an ERA of 3.18. He has thrown three complete games and two shutouts, including a one-hitter. He started off the year shaky, but has rebounded nicely and leads the Giants in innings pitched with 189 and a third.
When Cain is scheduled to start, the Giants always have a good chance off winning. Sometimes he is a victim of the long ball because of his tendencies to throw a fastball. It is his main pitch, but it is not fast enough to blow hitters away so he mixes in off-speed pitches to get hitters off balance.
I know there are going to be strikes thrown when he is on the hill, and he gives himself a good chance to win, despite getting little run support. This has characterized his whole career, but he has still been very successful, and it shows because he leads the Giants in ERA.
While the rest of the staff struggled at times, the Matt Cain often picked them up, and he is a major part of the Giant's pitching staff.
Barry Zito has had a very inconsistent year. He has lost his last 7 starts after going 8-4 and posting an ERA in the low threes to start the year.
If Zito had pitched better during his recent outings, the Giants would not be where they are now. They would probably be in first place. He is a main reason for why the rotation has not been very consistent until lately.
He looks to turn the tide tonight, and the game starts soon so he can prove he still has a little second-half magic left in his depleted wand of an arm.
Zito has turned into a finesse pitcher because of the lack of velocity on his fastball. He does a great job mixing in his dynamic curveball and effective changeup to keep hitters off balance. I still think he can get in the weight room, or adjust something minor in his mechanics to be able to gain enough on his fastball and reach the low 90's again.
This would do wonders for him because he would regain confidence, and it would compliment the rest of his pitches tremendously.
Zito often misses his spots, and you can't get away with that when you have a mediocre fastball. He is now labeled more of a "soft pitcher" but he can be successful at times.
Lately though, he has been far from it. He needs to clean up his act if the Giants want to stay in the playoff race and go far when they reach the playoffs.
He is a major reason why the Giants have been so inconsistent, and if he had won two or three more starts instead of losing seven straight, San Francisco would be in first place and if he gets himself going, the Padres won't be able to catch up.
Pablo Sandoval scared a lot of Giants fans with his lack of production in the early goings of the season. He struggled, hitting around .260 for most of the first half, with only 6 home runs going into August.
His home/road splits are tremendous. He is batting almost .333 at home, while barely staying above .200 anywhere outside of AT&T park. This MUST mean something, whether he is not prepared mentally or physically or just doesn't like anywhere but home. It is too much of a coincidence though, that his numbers are so lopsided.
He tore it up on the recent home stand though, and throughout August, pounding out 6 home runs and doubling his total. He has also shown improvement by hitting all types of pitches, not just fastballs. He hit a few balls off the bricks in right field that would have been homers anywhere else, but instead went for looooonnnggggg doubles.
Yea, yea he needs to get in better shape. We all know it. It has been greatly limiting his range on defense and has added to a huge amount of GIDP.
Yet, Pablo's second-half resurgence is a good sign for Giant fans. Just when we were about to "wave the white flag on operation panda" he finally figured that he was out on his front foot too much and he has since improved his results and helped the Giants win ballgames.
Tim Lincecum started off the year burning hot, and after his first five starts, it looked like he was headed for another Cy Young award. H was 4-0 with and ERA around 1.50 when he pitched into the ninth inning, giving up one run against eh Phillies. Then he gave way to All-Star closer Brian Wilson and Wilson ended up blowing the save, and the Giants later lost.
I believe this start demolished his confidence. Yea, the box score may disagree with me, but I think that maybe the reasons for Tim's struggles was a thought in the back of his mind that he mad to do it all himself and couldn't let the bullpen lose it again. Because of this, he began trying to hard, and his hips were over-rotating. Once he started getting problems, he tried even HARDER and that created a snowball effect. This was one of the main problems . He was opening up way too early, and the last two starts if you have noticed, he is staying closed longer.
He looked tremendous last night, pitching four perfect innings, before faltering. He still pitched into the seventh and struck out 11.
Even though the Tim Lincecum has struggled for a greater portion of the season, he has turned it around lately, especially in his mechanics. This shows that he isn't just getting lucky. He has physically changed something.
And really, where would the Giants be without the guidance of Tim Lincecum? Even though he has been inconsistent, he still anchors the staff.
There have been many crushing losses during the course of the 2010 season for the San Francisco Giants, and they could have seriously hurt their chances at a post season run.
The thing is, the Giants aren't a streaky team. They don't have extremely long losing streaks, or extremely long winning streaks like the Colorado Rockies have made a living by. The Giants usually are inconsistent because right after they have an amazing win that other teams would build on, they come out flat the next day. this doesn't always happen but it does a lot. Or, on the other side, the Giants will suffer a greatly dissapointing loss and come out looking like nothing happened in the next game.
This is largely due to the veteran leadership on the team. Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, Cody Ross-all have been around for some time and can mentor the younger ones on the team.
The coaching staff also has something to do with it. Bruce Bochy had a meeting with his starters after they had continually failed to put up good numbers, and now they look to be back on track.
The Giants have responded greatly to adversity throughout the year and this has led to great success.
Freddy Sanchez came flying out of the gates. More specifically, the disabled list. He was batting over .340 the first few weeks he came back, but then went stone cold, and his average dropped to around .265. He said that it was by far his worst year at the plate in his career.
He usually is a very streaky hitter and he sure has shown it. Now he in scorching hot and is hitting over .400 in his last 20 games.
This has helped the Giants greatly. Since him and Sandoval have started hitting, it has taken the load of Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey. This has led to a more balanced offensive attack from the San Francisco Giants.
It isn't just offense that Freddy brings tot he table either. He went over 80 game without making an error and he makes difficult plays seem routine to him. He is a great athlete, and even though he wasn't hitting, his defense definitely made up for it.
Andres Torres has added a dimension to the Giant's offense that had been missing for a while:speed. He has 23 stolen bases in 30 attempts and his speed makes his defense incredible.
He is always making great diving or sliding catches and has even added a signature move:the spider-man walk. He catches the ball, and instead of running into the wall to stop his momentum, he climbs up it. IT is a really cool move and I hope he continues to use it so it becomes better known as his trademark.
The utility outfielder has been a great addition for the Giants. He is one of the most clutch players on the team and leads the MLB in walk off hits. It seems like he always wins games with RBI singles, even though in a regular situation they would go for extra-base hits.
The biggest points of Torres's game have been his speed, extra base power, and defense, but he can now be considered on of the top lead-off hitters in the game.
Think about where the Giants would be without him.
I mean if Torres can't get to a ball, no one can. You really think the Giants would win ballgames with Jose Guillen, Aaron Rowand, and Pat Burrell holding it down?
Even though Sanchez has also been one of the inconsistent parts of the Giant's rotation, he has been stunning at times. He pitched 6 shutout innings at Colorado, and then Giant starters went 14 consecutive games without a victory until he got one on the other side. His last two starts he has shown great control, which has led to a 5:1 K to BB ratio.
I get the feeling that Sanchez could turn into a Ubaldo Jimenez type of player. Jimenez used to have no control, and he had dynamic stuff but would be so wild that it would get him out of game early. Now he throws strikes and look at the results: a possible Cy Young Award Winner.
Sure, Sanchez doesn't throw 98 mph consistently like Jimenez, but he has good enough stuff to copy the success of Ubaldo. I mean you see what happens when he is under control. His last two outings attest to that.
Sanchez has been a very good pitcher this year, especially since he is the number four starter in the rotation. Again, he could be a number two starter for most teams, but if you have him as your number four, you are in great shape and that is why the Giants have been so good at not falling into big losing streaks.
Buster Posey has been a virtual five-tool since he was called up from Triple-A Fresno.
There were questions about how good he would be, and we all expected for him to get another cup of coffee, but when he started raking, we knew he was for real. His hits are evenly distributed to all fields. He is one of the most balanced players in the game. He can hit for average (.328 as of Wednesday), power (11 home runs), he can field his position very well (.992 fielding percentage at First Base and Catcher combined), he has tremendous arm strength and can easily throw out runners (18 CS), and even though he is not the fastest runner on the team, he can leg out extra base hits well for a catcher.
Compared to Bengie Molina, I would say he was lightning fast.
When Molina was traded, Posey was quickly given the task of being a full-time catcher, and handling a pitching staff with the reigning back-to-back Cy Young Award Winner, two nasty left-handers, Matt Cain, flame throwing closer Brian Wilson, and counterpart rookie Madison Bumgarner.
Posey handled the staff like a pro, showing no weaknesses and is now likely on his way to a ROY award. Every Giant fan will be rooting for him, that's for sure. he shows such poise as a young player at the hardest position in the game.
The Giants would for sure be behind the Dodgers in the standings without Buster.
Aubrey Huff is the number one player on the San Francisco Giants in terms of production. He leads the team in home runs and runs batted in. He should have made the all-star team, but his name isn't well known because of the unsuccessful teams he has been on in the past.
This is the first time in Huff's career that he has been in a season-long post season race. He was traded to the Detroit Tigers to try and get them a playoff birth but he was never on a team in the beginning of the season that had a legit playoff chance.
He sure has shown his appreciation.
After not getting any calls from teams in the off season Huff began to ponder retirement. He had had a nice career and he was probably figuring that teams thought he was old and washed up after a mediocre year in 2009. Well, he was wrong and the Giants managed to rummage up his number from under neath a pile of old papers and cobwebs. He accepted their offer, and signed a one year, 3 million dollar deal.
Without Aubrey, the Giants wouldn't have anything close to middle of the lineup power. At least Huff provides some pop and even though he would be better at protecting a prolific home run hitter like Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, he is still a great player to have in your lineup.
No doubt, Bruce Bochy said it best. The Giants wouldn't be where they are today without Aubrey Huff and his power production. He has bailed them out several times with home runs and maybe if his home ballpark was not AT&T he would have over 30 homers.
The fact is, we are all grateful to have Huff on our team instead of sitting on a lounge chair all day in his bathing suit.