In acquiring Carlos Beltran from the New York Mets on Wednesday, the San Francisco Giants significantly upgraded the one area of weakness that had the potential to derail their quest for a second straight World Series appearance in 2011: the offense.
Now that Carlos Beltran will don a Giants uniform and bring his 15 home runs, 66 RBI, and .391 on base percentage to the City by the Bay, here are five reasons why San Francisco is now the favorite to win the National League pennant for a second consecutive season.
Carlos Beltran brings with him a .391 on-base percentage, and since it appears that he will be hitting in the No. 3 spot in Bruce Bochy's lineup, clean-up man Pablo Sandoval will come to the plate more often with a man on base than he has in the past (the Giants have a team OBP of just .306).
This means that the Panda will have more opportunities to do damage, and the way he has been hitting this season, his increased production could pay huge dividends come the postseason.
One big reason the Giants have managed to remain in first place in the NL West despite a very weak offense is that San Francisco has the best pitching in the league.
San Francisco's starting staff has been dominant, and their bullpen has been phenomenal, especially in the second half, so far posting a 0.59 ERA since the break.
Adding Carlos Beltran to an offense for a team that has this caliber of pitching is lethal for any other NL team with its sights set on the pennant.
The Giants defeated the Atlanta Braves in the 2010 NLDS, three games to one, in what was a fiercely-contested and tight series because of both clubs' great pitching and relatively light hitting. Every game was decided by one run.
What's changed in 2011?
Well, until Wednesday, not much.
The Giants and Braves were still mirror images of one another, their pitching staffs in the top three in all major statistical categories, while their respective offenses both ranked near the bottom of the league.
But the Giants made a substantial upgrade to their offense with the acquisition of Carlos Beltran, bringing a proven run-producer to the middle of San Francisco's order.
So far, Atlanta has not made any upgrades as we approach the July 31 trade deadline, and as long as the Braves remain as they are offensively, the Giants will have a huge edge should the two clubs meet again this October.
The Braves rank even lower than the Giants currently do in batting average (.240). Their offensive woes were evident in last year's NLDS, as they were carved up by San Francisco's elite pitching.
Now that the Giants will likely improve offensively, an NLDS between these two clubs this October could yield the same result, but perhaps with more breathing room for the Giants along the way.
Just six weeks after they were defeated by the Giants in last season's NLCS, the Philadelphia Phillies signed Cliff Lee to a five-year deal.
It was evident in making such a move so swiftly that the Phillies were vowing never to be defeated by better pitching again.
With the addition of Lee to a rotation that already featured Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt, and Cole Hamels, Philadelphia immediately became the favorite to win the NL pennant in 2011.
The Giants, while they had superior pitching in 2010, had a weak offense, which would now be neutralized even further with Lee in a seven-game series should the two teams meet for an NLCS rematch in 2011.
Now, the Giants have countered with the acquisition of the best bat available on the trade market.
With the addition of Carlos Beltran, the Giants still have very comparable, if not better starting pitching than Philadelphia, an arguably better bullpen (though the Phillies' 'pen has been fantastic this season), and now a comparable offense.
While the Phillies have some big bats in their lineup (Howard, Utley, Rollins, etc.) they are only hitting .249 as a team (11th in the league, with San Francisco close behind at 13th with a .241 average).
With the offensive infusion of Beltran for the Giants, they could very well catch the Phillies in many offensive categories, giving them an overall edge in postseason play, being that they already have the edge with superior pitching.
The Giants are defending World Series champions for a reason. Or maybe two reasons: amazing pitching and timely hitting.
San Francisco has gotten both thus far in 2011, and despite several key injuries and an overall weak offense, the Giants have compiled a record that has them in first place in the NL West, 16 games over .500, all without Carlos Beltran.
So this team knows it can win, and has proven it.
Last night's 2-1 victory over the Phillies in Philadelphia shows that San Francisco's formula still works, as Matt Cain baffled Phillies hitters in a dominant performance.
Adding Carlos Beltran gives the Giants some insurance and the edge they need to get back to the World Series in 2011.