As a longtime Dodger fan, it pains me to mention our archrival Giants in a sentence without deriding them.
But, as the season has come to a teeth-grinding halt for the Boys in Blue, the Giants are making a run for the lead in the NL West and will soon overtake the Padres and end up winning the division. They have done so with the most feared pitching staff in baseball, an unyielding bullpen and a blend of cast-offs, wily vets and rambunctious rookies, not to mention a manager who many just don't like.
But, let me ask you this question as you peruse the standings and stand by your favorite team (Yankees, Rangers, Phillies, Padres, Rockies, Cards and Reds): Would you want to face the Giants in a short series?
Here are 10 good reasons to hope the Giants don't come to your town during the post-season.
The Giants made some great late season pick-ups.
They needed runs so they got Jose Guillen, Pat Burrell and Cody Ross, three guys who can put their bats on the ball.
Ross has youth and power and is a player who can benefit the Giants for years to come.
Pat Burrell is a classic clutch hitter who seems to be in the right place at the right time and, after years of playing with the always-contending Phillies, he has the right kind of experience for a late season run.
Guillen has to be incredibly happy to be off of the Royals. He can flat out hit and also brings some sock to a team that has been sorely lacking run production.
These three guys can really help the Giants when they get into the post-season and they have knowledge of the NL East teams they might be facing.
Tim Lincecum is hot again and you don't want to be standing in the batter's box when this lithe leader of the Giants pitching staff steps on the mound.
Lincecum went through a tough August losing 5 games in a row, an anomoly for one of the game's best pitchers, if not THE best. With 199 strikeouts today, he is but a curveball, fastball, change-up from leading the league once again in strikeouts. And, now that his team is gelling behind him, he can go after hitters with confidence and maybe even a little support.
In his last two outings, he has given up a total of four earned runs in 14 2/3 innings and struck out 20 batters. Whatever it was that turned him around in September (let's call it competitiveness and guts), Lincecum has hit his stride as the Giants come down the stretch.
The two-time Cy Young award winner would be on his way to a third if not for his wayward August, but my guess is that he will be much happier to lead his team to the title, the play-offs, and dare I say, the World Series.
How many of you would like to have Matt Cain as your Number Two pitcher? Number 2? Why most of you would love to have him as your Ace.
What if I told you that Cain leads his team in ERA (3.19) and is easily the workhorse of the Giants vaunted pitching staff, averaging almost 7+ innings pitched per game.
After winning 14 games last season for a Giants team that could barely drum up a run for him, Cain finished with an ERA of 2.89. With the season on the line, look for him to reach a sub-3 ERA again.
Cain has a plethora of pitches, but the 6'3", 230 lb. righty relies on his rapid-fire fastball. Eariler in his career, pre-Lincecum, he simply blew away batters and the thought of that mixed in with a wily curveball, allows Cain the ability to throw batters off their stride.
With Cain following Lincecum in a short post-season series, the Giants have perhaps the best 1-2 punch in baseball.
Ok, so they have a nice 1-2 punch with Lincecum and Cain, but they still have to play a few more games.
Sorry, folks, there is no rest for the weary. With Barry Zito, Jonathan Sanchez and Madison Bumgarner rounding out the pitching rotation, the Giants are giving other teams fits.
Zito, the former Cy Young winner has found his curveball again and you might as well just stay in the dugout. There is no fiercer pitch in baseball than Zito's drop-off-the-table curve, a wicked angular pitch heaved from the top of Zito's release with such power and grace that it makes batters wither at the plate.
While Zito hasn't won many games in the past month (he is actually on a losing streak of six straight games with very little run support) he remains one of the game's toughest competitors and gave up just two earned runs in his last game and four in the game before.
Should Zito falter, there is the hot-headed, ever-confident Jonathan Sanchez in the team's fourth spot in the rotation. Let's just say Sanchez has won his last two outings with scores of 1-0 and 3-0 and gave up just one run in a tough loss to the Rockies in a game prior to that.
This guy can flat out pitch and with an ERA of 3.29, he always keeps the Giants in the game.
No baseball player wants to be called a bum, unless your name is Bumgarner. The Giants newbie is in his second year, yet seems to understand the gravity of the situation having won his last two games allowing only one earned run in 14 innings. Another hard thrower, Bumgarner is no bummer and does a great job giving breathing room for his bullpen.
In 65 innings pitched, Brian Wilson has 82 strikeouts. He also leads the league with 42 saves. His ERA is a paltry1.80. How's that for a closer?
Obviously, the Giants rely on Wilson...wouldn't you. But they have a bunch of middle-releivers and wannabe closers including Guillermo Mota, Jeremy Affeldt, Ramon Ramirez and others who probably have never heard of.
With Sanchez throwing only 5 innings per game and Zito a bit susect right now, these middlers are the glue that holds the team together. Some credit should be given to Bochy, a former catcher, for instilling confidence in these guys as much as in teaching them how to pitch.
Whatever the reason, there are few teams who can saw through the Giants bullpen...they are just rock solid!
Don't ya just love it when guys are resurrected? Not that Aubrey Huff was really down when he came the Giants this season, but his last few seasons with Detroit and Baltimore (other than a stellar year in 2008 when BA .308, RBI 104, HR 32 for the Orioles) haven'[t been much to talk about.
Always a solid hitter with adequate power, Huff became the slugger when he came to the weak-hitting Giants. Maybe being put in that position and in the position of leadership based primarily upon experience enlivened him and his bat, but he is now on pace to drive in 100 RBI and hit close to .300.
He is a feared lefty, clean-up hitter on a team that hasn't had one since the days of Bonds and he brings a stability to the line-up and the team that was sorely needed.
It's kind of funny, but if you said five years ago you could have a team that included Juan Uribe, Freddie Sanchez and Edgar Renteria - all excellent hitters including a couple of batting champions - you would probably have a big smile on your face.
But, now it is later and these guys don't go for much on the open market so when the Giants picked them up, it was as if they were getting the best deal at the swap meet.
Freddie Sanchez is a career .300 hitter, former NL batting champ, who is hovering around the mark again while playing a solid second base. With Sanchez at bat, you are assured of a ball in play and often it's a hit to start a rally.
Renteria and Uribe are sort of the same player which means they can alternate positions at third and SS or substitute for one another and you won't lose a thing.
Renteria used to average over .300 and brings those kind of smarts to the plate. He knows what do when the game is on the line having played in post-season games with Boston and the Cards.
While maybe not the most athletic infield in the game, these players are solid additions to the squad.
Buster Posey is the Natural. How else can you explain his amazing rise to prominence, his move from pitcher to shortstop to catcher to first base, his uncanny ability to hit the ball (didnt he bat close to .400 earlier this year?).
Shoot, he makes it seem so easy I hate him. But you gotta love him preicsely because it is so rare to see such purity.
He can hit for power and average and single-handedly brought credibility to the Giants line-up. Did I say he is batting .325 and has 12 home runs in only a couple of months in the Bigs.
What amazes me is his poise behind the plate where the catcher has to guide the team and call the game. How does he know so much so fast?
Maybe he was an old guy sitting on his couch swearing at his beloved Giants when the Devil showed up.
Whatever the case, he is leading his team to victory and is a devil of a player.
With a great pitching staff and some solid hitting, what the Giants needed to round out things was speed.
They lead the NL in hitting into double-plays but don't blame that on CF Andres Torres.
The speedster has 23 steals and covers the outfield as well as anyone in the game. You gotta be great up the middle to win games and with Torres sealing up Center and Posey behind the plate you are half way there.
Torres is batting .272 and gets on base just enough to give the Giants a chance to score a few. They don't need a lot so when Torres can steal a base, the Giants often have the fire power behind him to get him home.
He also has 14 homers which isn't bad for a lead-off guy.
Torres may be the spark plug the Giants have been searching for to keep them moving forward.
Bruce Bochy knows what it takes to get to the post-season. He did so four times with the Padres, getting to the World Series in 1998 where his team lost to the Yankees. In 1996, he was named NL Manager of the Year.
He often was managing low-budget teams with a variety of misfits and patchwork rosters. Yet, a good manager knows how to get the most out of his players and that is exactly what he is doing this year.
Having a solid pitching staff bodes well for any team and this season Bochy has the other players to with that. He is unafraid to turn to his bullpen in a pinch and has instilled the confidence in them that is needed to finish games on the positive side.
It is often difficult to manage a team that "should" win but the Giants have had to work through a variety of issues - lack of offense, new young players, injuries - in order to get to where they are today.
In baseball, it is not how you start but how you finish, and right now Bochy has his team exactly where it should be...ready to assume the top spot in their division.