Grading the Giants Two Months After Losing Buster Posey
Two months ago, the entire season for the defending world champions appeared to be in doubt after the loss of arguably the most important everyday leader of the club, catcher Buster Posey.
When news broke that the injury to Posey in a home-plate collision on May 25 would cost him the remainder of the 2011 season, many saw the Giants as a team on the brink of falling out of relevance, given the weakness of the offense without its clean-up hitter and the damage to morale that would likely result after the loss of the team's quiet but confident leader.
The Giants have surprised everyone.
They find themselves atop the National League Western Division with a 59-43 record as they head into an NLCS rematch with the NL East-leading Philadelphia Phillies Tuesday night at Citizens Bank Park.
Given that the Posey injury will certainly be remembered as a crucial turning point of the season, whatever its outcome, here's a report card of how the club has fared in the two months since the loss of their unofficial captain.
Starting Pitching: A
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The Giants have proven a resilient club after posting a better record in the two months following Buster Posey's injury (32-22) than the record prior (27-21).
That resilience begins with the starting pitching, and no starter for the Giants has been more resilient than Madison Bumgarner.
Despite very poor run support from San Francisco's offense and some tough-to-swallow losses, Bumgarner has remained steady and is turning his win-loss record around.
Since starting the season 2-8, MadBum has gone 4-1. In the month of July, he's 2-0 with a 2.83 ERA.
The rest of San Francisco's starting corps has been fantastic as well.
Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain have continued to anchor a rotation that, despite injuries to Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez, leads the National League in earned run average (3.08), strikeouts (845) and opponents' batting average (.229).
Surprise journeyman Ryan Vogelsong has been the story of the year for the Giants, and one of the great stories of baseball. His contributions in the wake of Barry Zito's injury have been invaluable.
With many experts picking the Phillies to be the favorites to win the NL Pennant this season—thanks in large part to their star-studded starting rotation—the Giants have proven once again that their staff is not only comparable, but arguably better than Philadelphia's.
For a team built around pitching, with an offense that scores just 3.6 runs/game, the most important component to success following the Posey injury was going to continue to be the strength of the starting rotation and the bullpen.
And the starters have more than carried their load. They've earned an A.
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Brian Wilson is the obvious face (and beard, of course) of the Giants' bullpen.
But if you want to know just how good this relief corps is, just look at Sergio Romo's numbers.
Romo is 3-1 with a 1.85 ERA.
He struck out 49 hitters in just 34 innings pitched. He has secured 17 holds. And perhaps the most amazing statistic: a WHIP of 0.68.
That is flat-out lights-out.
Romo has been a stalwart of a bullpen that is arguably the best in baseball, and when this group follows the elite starting pitching that the defending world champs boast, opposing hitters just can't seem to catch any breaks.
Following the season-ending injury to Buster Posey, it was more critical than ever that the bullpen and the starting staff continue to perform up to their high standards. The Giants' identity and their strength is their pitching.
The bullpen went above and beyond.
Romo's pen-mates, Javier Lopez, Jeremy Affeldt, Guillermo Mota, Santiago Casilla, Ramon Ramirez and Brian Wilson, have been outstanding.
Lopez is 5-1 with a 2.09 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP. After struggling in the first couple of months of the season, Jeremy Affeldt is back into 2009 form, posting a 0.56 ERA in June, and a 2.16 ERA so far in July.
Guillermo Mota has played a huge role in long relief for the Giants in situations where they needed someone to eat up innings after uncharacteristically short outings by starters.
Mota came in and pitched extremely well after Barry Zito was injured early in a game against Arizona on April 16. He also ate up innings following Madison Bumgarner's rough outing against the Twins on June 21.
With the exception of a couple of hiccups before the All-Star break, Brian Wilson has been his usual, dominant self.
He is currently 6-2 with a 2.83 ERA and 31 saves.
San Francisco's bullpen gets an A.
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The Giants' offense is notorious for being poor.
This season is no exception.
When San Francisco's offense lost its best-overall hitter and clean-up man Buster Posey, the biggest concern was how the offense would fare going forward.
Despite these terrible numbers, the offense has somehow scored enough.
With Pablo Sandoval back to his free-swinging and hot-hitting ways (.333 BA/.386 OBP/.587 SLG in July) and the emergence of Nate Schierholtz as an everyday offensive threat (.342 BA/.361 OBP/.519 SLG in July), the Giants are getting enough production to win.
An offense that looks terrible by the overall numbers still has some weapons with Sandoval/Schierholtz/Ross in the middle of the lineup.
It gets a grade of C+ in the two months after the Buster Posey injury.
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The Giants rank 15th out of 16 National League teams in pinch-hitter batting average, at .172.
They are dead-last in actual number of pinch-hits, with 22 on the season so far.
San Francisco's bench has an ever-changing complexion with the number of moves and lineup changes that Bruce Bochy makes, but it really hasn't made a difference who comes off the bench in a pinch-hit situation.
San Francisco just hasn't been getting the job done in those scenarios.
The bench gets a D.
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Despite an uncanny number of key injuries to important role-players on the team, along with an anemic offense, the Giants' coaching staff has somehow led this team through the storm and kept it in first place with a comfortable lead in the NL West.
After the devastating injury to Buster Posey, it was anybody's guess as to whether the defending champs could contend for the postseason, let alone try and defend their title.
But Manager Bruce Bochy and his staff have done what many thought impossible. They have led the Giants to a better post-Posey record than pre-Posey.
Simply amazing, and deserving of an A.
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Despite the loss of Buster Posey, the Giants have stunned the baseball world by maintaining their position as the best team in the NL West and, indeed, one of the best teams in the National League.
Two months later, the defending world champions find themselves in a great position to make the playoffs again, giving them the opportunity to defend their World Series title.