The Giants have fought through the loss of Buster Posey, but will they make it to the playoffs without him?
The 2011 Giants have fought through a lot of adversity as they attempt to defend their World Series title. They have suffered major, significant injuries, struggled through offensive inequities, and yet they still sit in first place in the NL West as of Aug. 7.
As baseball heads into the home stretch and the elite teams prepare for the playoffs, the Giants will have to scrape and claw down to the wire once again. The NL West is a very weak division, but the upstart Arizona Diamondbacks are breathing down the Giants necks.
For a part of the summer, it seemed like a forgone conclusion that the Giants were going to make the playoffs. Whether that was because Arizona was hard to take seriously at first or because despite all they have faced the Giants just kept winning is irrelevant now.
The Giants could conceivably miss out on the playoffs this year, and here are the top eight ways that could happen.
The Giants need Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres to show some resemblance to their 2010 selves.
The Giants relied heavily in 2010 on their pitching staff as they are again this season. Aubrey Huff and Andres Torres were important pieces of an offense that scored just enough to support that great pitching.
Huff and Torres have not come close to their production from 2010, and the Giants have suffered for it. If these two players cannot turn their seasons around, they could prove to be the reason the Giants miss the playoffs.
This picture sums up the Giants offensive woes of 2011
The Giants have been historically bad offensively in 2011. One or two players having off years doesn't even begin to describe the problems this team has had scoring runs.
Too often the batters look as though they have no game plan, and they fail to make adjustments pitch to pitch or at-bat to at-bat.
Opposing pitchers must love going against the Giants as until Brian Sabean made some trades, the only dangerous hitter in the line up was Pablo Sandoval.
Collectively, this team is going to have to make significant changes at the plate, or they may find themselves on the outside looking in come October.
The Giants pitching staff has carried them this far. Can it carry them back to the playoffs?
The 2011 Giants pitching staff is the reason that the team is 11 games over .500 and in first place in the NL West. The starting rotation has been fantastic, despite the struggles of Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez. The resurgence of Ryan Vogelsong has been one of the stories of the year.
The bullpen has been even better than the rotation. They are, as a group, about as automatic as possible. Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez and Sergio Romo have been so good setting up closer Brian Wilson that they have basically made games six-inning affairs for the opposition. Brian Wilson has been Brian Wilson.
Can this stellar squad be expected to keep playing at the level they have established for themselves? I think they can and will, but if they don't, the Giants will miss the playoffs.
The Dbacks could push past the Giants if they get hot at the right time.
Since the All-Star break the Giants have been basically treading water atop the NL West. They cannot expect to coast into the playoffs on cruise control with a hungry, talented Diamondbacks team nipping at their heels.
If the Diamondbacks get on a hot streak, they could leave the defending Champs in their dust, keeping them out of the playoffs the year following their first World Series Championship in San Francisco.
The Giants can't realistically expect to keep winning so many one run games
Baseball has a way of evening things out over the course of a 162-game season. It doesn't always happen this way, but when a team wins an inordinate number of one-run games early on in the season, their is a fair chance that they will lose just as many later in the season, evening things out.
The Giants have a 23-14 record in one-run games to date. That is almost one-third of the games they have played being decided by one run.
Their record in those games is very good, and that is indicative of how strong their pitching is, especially the back end of the bullpen.
When you routinely play games with such a small margin for error, you are playing with fire. If their luck runs out and a few of those games go the way of the opposition, it could prove to be the difference between playing October baseball and watching it from home.
Freddy Sanchez' season ending shoulder injury was the second significant injury they suffered in 2011.
The major injuries suffered by Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez have been well chronicled. While it was devastating for the team to lose two significant members of the everyday lineup for the season, the Giants have found a way to overcome losing them up to know.
The Giants lost Pablo Sandoval for six weeks early in the year at a time when he was showing that he was once again the player he was in 2009. He has since returned from his injury and is hitting the ball well.
There have been other minor injuries to players like Barry Zito, Aubrey Huff and Mark DeRosa that haven't necessarily caused too many problems on the field but that do speak to the fact that the Giants have had their fair share of injuries this year.
Brian Sabean took a gamble and traded away a super talented, young pitcher for established veteran and run producer Carlos Beltran. If Beltran stays healthy, he certainly could carry this team into the playoffs.
Giants fans know all too well though that he is one play away, on a nightly basis from a serious injury. If that were to happen, I'm not sure this team could recover.
Not only would they be losing offense, but the emotional blow an injury like that would cause could be near impossible to overcome.
The Giants are string at four games in Atlanta next week as part of a ten game road trip that could make or break their season.
The Giants were swept in San Francisco in May by the Florida Marlins, and strange things have always happened when the Giants playing in Miami.
Atlanta has long been a house of horrors for the Giants to play in, regardless of the outcome of the first round of the playoffs last year.
Houston is a team in transition and is young and therefore dangerous to a team like the Giants, finishing up a long road trip. The Giants will start the series in Houston after playing seven games in hot, humid weather and could be on their last legs.
If they aren't careful, the Giants could limp back to San Francisco from that road trip in a position that they simply could not recover from. If that happens, they'll miss the playoffs.
Pablo Sandoval has been the Giants most consistant hitter in all situations in 2011
The top reason that the Giants could miss the playoffs this year is their collective performance at the plate with runners in scoring position.
As a team, the Giants are hitting .222 and slugging .332 with runners in scoring position. They have struck out in these situations 204 times which is almost exactly how many times they have produced hits in these crucial at-bats, 207.
Even worse is their record hitting with runners in scoring position and two outs. They are hitting .169 and slugging .261 in these situations. They have 75 hits and have struck out with two outs and runners in scoring position 102 times!
If the Giants cannot find a way to improve in the clutch, even slightly, they most certainly will have a hard time making the playoffs this year.