San Francisco Giants: Bold Predictions for the Second Half
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Midway through the 2011 season, there is much we already know about the San Francisco Giants. They are nearly the exact same team they were last year when they won the World Series and they are winning games the same way, with superior pitching and just barely enough hitting.
Everyone has witnessed the dominance of Tim Lincecum, the consistent brilliance of Matt Cain and the feared beard of Brian Wilson. In 2009, Giants fans watched the Kung Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval, put up MVP-caliber numbers and he is now an All-Star in 2011. So bold predictions for these four are out the window.
It is time to get a little creative and make some intriguing predictions about the rest of the Giants for the second half of the season.
"Nate the Great" Becomes the Giants' Top Producer
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After finally getting consistent starts for the first time in his five-year career, Nate Schierholtz is proving to be one of the most formidable hitters in the Giants lineup.
Halfway through the season now, "CryptoNate" has slugged out his career highs in home runs with seven and RBI with 31. Both statistics are currently good for second on the team. Not to mention he is hitting .293 with five stolen bases and is playing Gold Glove caliber defense in right field.
Starting nearly every day now, Schierholtz is living up to the potential that everyone saw in him as a young minor leaguer when he was selected to the All-Star Futures Game in 2008.
Consistently getting three to four at bats every day, and the fact that most pitchers still do not know much about him, Schierholtz will continue his surge and be the most productive player for the Giants in the second half of the season, out-homering Sandoval and Aubrey Huff the rest of the way.
Rookie Brandon Belt Wins First Base Job
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Brandon Belt has a ridiculous amount of hype surrounding him, much like Buster Posey did a year ago. Posey, of course, went on to win Rookie of the Year, which many may have predicted Belt to win this year after being named the Opening Day first basemen. However, Belt no longer has a shot at that due to the amount of time he missed with a wrist injury.
Yet there is another bold prediction for Belt in the 2011 season. After recovering from the hairline fracture in his wrist, Belt is currently in the Giants' minor league system in a rehab assignment. He has torn up minor league pitching in the past and will continue to do so until the Giants, desperate for offense, call him up once again.
Belt will probably start out getting some shared time in left field and first base. Then, while Aubrey Huff, continues to struggle, Belt will gradually be phased in as the starting first basemen where he plays Gold Glove-quality defense.
The rookie will get hot in September and blast six home runs, bolstering the Giants' offense down the stretch and helping them win the NL West again.
Giants Trade Jonathan Sanchez
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Giants starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez has been erratic all year and is currently on the disabled list with biceps tendinitis, which smelled a little fishy after he said the day before that he was not injured. Some speculate this move was only made because Sanchez had been struggling, while Barry Zito was ready to come off the DL.
Regardless, the Giants are starved for offense, and a left-handed starting pitcher with nasty stuff could attract many other teams before the trade deadline.
Sanchez was a huge part of the Giants' run to the postseason last year, but his poor performances in the postseason and now in 2011 are bringing his trade value down. Plus, Barry Zito has pitched very well since coming off the DL.
The Giants will trade Sanchez sooner than later, probably for a middle of the order hitter. Depending on who he is traded for, the Giants may have to give up a prospect as well.
Barry Zito Regains Cy Young Form
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Barry Zito played just 17 miles away from AT&T Park when he won the 2002 Cy Young Award for the Oakland Athletics. Yet, since moving across the bay and signing with the Giants in 2007, he has not lived up to expectations, with a dismal 4.03 ERA or higher in each season in San Francisco.
However, since being on the disabled list for the first time in his career and missing almost two and a half months, Zito has pitched extraordinarily well. He is 3-0 since his return, while posting a 1.29 ERA. In his most recent start, Zito threw eight innings of one-run ball without walking any batters, something he has not done since 2007.
After watching him struggle the last four years in San Francisco, Giants fans are not quite ready to buy into Barry Zito just yet. It is safe to say that it is an extremely bold prediction to claim the 33-year-old lefty will regain his 2002 Cy Young form, but so far it looks like a possibility.
You heard it here first: Barry Zito will be the No. 2 starter in the Giants' 2011 postseason starting rotation.
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The Giants are currently twelve games above .500 at 52-40 atop the NL West with a three-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks, which is a much better standing than they were at at this point last season. Therefore, the Giants chances of making the playoffs and possibly winning the World Series are higher than they were at the All-Star break in 2010.
However, when you consider how difficult it is to win consecutive championships in any professional sport these days, the odds of a repeat go way down. In fact, the last team to do so was, of no surprise, the New York Yankees, who won three championships in a row from 1998-2000. The last National League team to repeat was the Cincinnati Reds from 1975-1976.
Claiming that any team will repeat as World Series champions is a bold prediction, especially when that team was such an improbable choice, like the Giants were a year ago.
San Francisco will combine stellar pitching with some timely hitting, veteran experience, energetic youth, strong player personalities, and some brilliant coaching en route to another World Series title.