What do the Giants need to do to take the next step?
Yes, we have about two weeks left in the regular season and, no, they haven't made it to the postseason yet. But this doesn't erase the team's need heading into 2011.
First let's go over what has been working.
For the second straight season, the pitching staff is what has carried the Giants to this point. They did have an awful month of August but here they are, still in contention.
The biggest revelations this season have been Jonathan Sanchez and Matt Cain.
"Why did you put Matt Cain? He was good last year, too."
Ah, that is true and his numbers were better last year but he has pitched better this year.
Every time Cain steps out onto the mound everybody, from the guy sitting in section 117 to the opposing manager, knows it will be a low scoring game and that Cain will be in control. He has been the Giants most consistent pitcher this year and the key word is "pitcher."
Cain is no longer a thrower, which he was early in his career. He has learned how to get guys out in two, three pitches without having to strike guys out.
His demeanor on the mound never changes. Cain pitches his game whether the Giants score 10 runs or zero runs (the latter has happened more often).
Now, Jonathan Sanchez.
He would walk way too many people and when he did, Sanchez fell apart. But then he'll go out and throw a no-hitter.
Sanchez is the epitome of a Jekyll and Hyde personality on the mound.
Only one thing was holding back Sanchez: confidence.
His confidence has grown leaps and bounds from last season and his overall numbers reflect that.
Currently a 3.21 ERA (career-low) and only 132 hits in 176.2 innings. He does still walk a lot of batters but he has been better about getting out of jams.
Bargains to be had
There is no team in baseball that has benefited from low priced players more than the Giants.
Juan Uribe, Pat Burrell, Andres Torres, Aubrey Huff. You can even throw Buster Posey in there as well.
The highest paid of this group is Uribe at $3,25 million.
They have been carrying the offense all season long.
Huff: 25 HR, 84 RBIs.
Burrell: 15 HR, 40 RBIs in 83 games.
Uribe: 20 HR, 77 RBIs.
Torres: 14 HR, 60 RBIs, 23 SB.
Posey: 14 HR, 61 RBIs in 96 games.
The only problem then becomes paying them their due. Four of them will be free agents at the end of the season.
Now we'll move on to the problem areas for the Giants.
How can offense be a bright spot and a bad thing? With this group, easily.
It seems whenever one guys starts hitting, everybody starts hitting. But when one goes into a slump, everybody hits the slump.
The saying goes, "Hitting is contagious," but this is ridiculous.
Going into Sunday's game, the Giants have scored four or more runs 73 times. Which means they have scored three or fewer 75 times.
It actually has gotten worse as the season wears on.
In the first half of the season, the offense posted four or more in 48 of the 87 games played (55 percent).
Since the All-Star Break, the Giants have scored three or fewer runs in 36 of the 61 games (59 percent).
San Francisco has survived on the merits of quality hitters but not great hitters. They are a team built on streaky hitters that no one else wanted.
The offense is much improved from last season but for next season to be better the offense has to be better.
The Giants have some money coming off the books for the 2010-2011 offseason.
Edgar Renteria is a free agent ($9 million).
Dave Roberts' contract is finally off the books ($7 million).
There is $16 million right away.
Juan Uribe and Aubrey Huff are also free agents (combined $6.25 million). Pat Burrell, Andres Torres and Jose Guillen will also be able to test the waters.
San Francisco already has a lot of money tied up in contracts for next season.
Barry Zito will be near $20 million next season. Aaron Rowand's at $12 million.
Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Brian Wilson are also locked up (combined $27.5 million).
Freddy Sanchez ($6 million) and Mark DeRosa ($7 million) each have one more year on their contracts.
Just over $72 million is devoted to just those seven players.
Pablo Sandoval, Posey and Bumgarner are all controllable for the next few years in arbitration.
With a remaining $30-40 million, the Giants will have to decide to spend it on keeping the mediocrity that is Giants offense in tact or go out and find a big name free agent.
Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols headline the free agent class. Carlos Pena is also among the soon-to-be free agents.
Adam Dunn, who was mentioned in trade rumors could also be a possibility.
The pitching staff, if kept in tact, will be solid once again.
Solidifying the offense is the big key this offseason. But, once again, not at the expense of over-spending on the wrong free agent, again.
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