San Francisco Giants: Who Is the First-Half MVP?
With all that the defending world champs have been through in the first half of the 2011 season, it would be amazing if they were a .500 ballclub on July 1.
With a constant stream of key players making their way to the disabled list, including the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year (Giants catcher and cleanup hitter Buster Posey), and a brutal schedule that had them on the road for much of the first two months, it would be understandable if the champs weren't where they wanted to be by this point in the season.
How have they been able to manage?
Well, with a lot of unexpected performances from under-the-radar players that stepped up when it counted.
So who is the Giants' MVP for the first half of the season? That's a tough question to answer, but here goes.
Talk about coming through in the clutch when the Giants, who play one-run baseball like it's the only way to play, need a hit with two outs and the tying run in scoring position.
On a team that struggles in this department, Nate Schierholtz has become sort of a specialist in these types of situations.
Schierholtz has come through with a game-tying or game-winning hit on numerous occasions in the first half, including a game-tying single with two outs and two strikes in the ninth inning against the Cardinals on June 1, followed by a go-ahead single in the 11th.
When considering how many games the Giants have won thanks to the late inning heroics of Nate the Great, he is well-deserving of a first-half MVP nomination.
Need we say more?
With every start for San Francisco, Ryan Vogelsong just keeps adding to his wonderful comeback story. After being drafted by the Giants in 1998, traded to the Pirates in 2001, released by Pittsburgh in 2006, stints in Japan and Venezuela to keep his career alive and finally coming full circle by re-signing with the Giants this past offseason, Vogelsong has been stunning.
He's gone 6-1, with a 2.09 ERA in the first half, filling in for the injured Barry Zito and surprisingly becoming the most reliable arm in San Francisco's fearsome starting rotation.
Without the string of quality starts that Vogelsong put together (along with the nine victories the Giants have in games that he has started), who knows where the Giants would be now.
The Beard continues to dominate. If he continues performing the way he has thus far in 2011, he could be up for some serious Cy Young award consideration.
Brian Wilson is 5-1, with a 2.61 ERA and 24 saves. He's got the third-most wins on the entire staff, and when he comes jogging out of the bullpen the ball is in good hands, even with a razor-thin lead in the ninth.
A closer's role is special, and when the closer struggles, particularly on a team that doesn't score many runs and is usually only leading by one or two, the team can collapse.
Brian Wilson has made sure that won't happen, even with all of the injuries and adversity his club has faced thus far in 2011.
Hey, who says a manager can't be the MVP of a team in the first half of a season? Okay, I know, MVP means most valuable player. But in this case, consideration will be given to a valuable role player, which Bruce Bochy most definitely is and has been in his stewardship of the Giants.
How Bochy has managed to lead this club to a winning record so far is a mystery.
After losing Barry Zito, Mark DeRosa, Pablo Sandoval and, worst of all, Buster Posey to injuries, Bochy has somehow kept the morale of his troops high and driven them to rise to the occasion and continue winning.
He has deftly managed the pitching staff and bullpen, showing confidence in his starters by letting them go deeper and deeper into ballgames, while maneuvering brilliantly with the arms out of the pen. He has made great use of the platoon, whether it be at second base, shortstop or in the crowded outfield, and the results have been superb.
Who is the Giants' first-half MVP?
As difficult as it is to choose out of these fine first-half MVP nominees, the most valuable player for the San Francisco Giants in the first half of 2011 is Ryan Vogelsong.
Imagine, if you will, what could have happened to the Giants if Vogelsong was not available to take Barry Zito's spot in the rotation following Zito's foot injury on April 16.
The options San Francisco would have had to choose from to fill the fifth-starter role would likely have included someone from the bullpen, including Dan Runzler or Guillermo Mota.
With Jonathan Sanchez struggling and the lack of run support from the Giants offense, the season could very well look quite different right now if it weren't for the invaluable contributions from the 33-year-old Vogelsong, who has resurrected his career from the brink of disappearance.
The Giants are in first place as they enter the month of July. Following the All-Star break, they will be headed downhill toward the finish line as they continue on their quest to defend their World Series title.
Only time will tell who the MVP will be for this club in the second half, but one thing is for certain: It will be exciting to watch.
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