If the 2011 season has proved anything, it’s how miraculous the San Francisco Giants’ World Series title last year was.
After their victory, the Giants were lauded for their remarkable organizational philosophy. In their lab, they surrounded a lethal young pitching staff—including a closer that seemingly has a chemical imbalance—with a combination of sturdy veterans up and down the lineup to create flawless clubhouse chemistry.
This experiment resulted in a rather unexpected championship and also a blueprint that many other ballclubs have since tried to mimic and duplicate.
But as has been ascertained this season, San Francisco is having a hard time replicating its scientific formula, evidencing that last year’s venture was a splitting of an atom. As the dog days of summer trudge along, many questions face the Giants in their quest to repeat as World Series champions. Will the Giants be able to generate a product that can make another magical playoff run?
With over two-thirds of the 2011 campaign in the books, the Giants’ teeny tiny offense is demonstrating that back-to-back titles is not likely to happen. Last season’s winning formula was roughly three parts pitching, two parts offense. This year’s recipe has been diluted a bit, now seemingly nine parts pitching, one part offense—one panda, to be exact.
It’s not that the Giants’ entrée is too over-seasoned with pitching. After all, its arms are the team’s bread and butter. Meanwhile, the offense has been excruciatingly bland and mild. Flavorless.
For the year, San Francisco is ranked dead last in the National League in runs scored and on-base percentage and 15th in slugging percentage and OBP. Yet through the All-Star break, the Giants sat atop the NL West, relying heavily—solely—on their remarkable starting rotation and bullpen to guide them to narrow victories.
Coupled with a lineup perfectly blended with mix of savvy veterans and promising young talents, the Giants have come up several spectacular late-inning wins, as each player seemed to provide a big hit in the clutch. The Giants are a phenomenal 28-15 in one-run games this season—the best such record in baseball.
Being involved in so many tight close ballgames, the Giants have grown accustomed to the pressure cooker that has come with defending their World Series title. And with the intense amount of stress and heat in the kitchen, the Giants admirably managed to come with enough wins in the first half of 2011, finding themselves a respectable three games in front of their division at the All-Star break.
Following a similar pattern from their championship run, the Giants relied on moderate offensive production from veterans from last season—notably, Pat Burrell, Freddy Sanchez, Aubrey Huff and Aaron Rowand—along with offseason free agent Miguel Tejada. But the Giants front office needed to add some more spice to their roster to overcome the middling performances that had produced so many come-from-behind victories in the first half.
Moreover, the losses of Sanchez as well as their promising starting catcher, Buster Posey, to a season-ending leg injury, required some movement by General Manager Brian Sabean. The Giants could not sit idly waiting for its offense to awaken, depending so gravely on its pitching staff.
And so, prior to the July trading deadline, San Francisco acquired infielders Jeff Keppinger and Orlando Cabrera and outfielder Carlos Beltran through trades in hopes of injecting life into its painful offense. According to the cookbook, these were the missing key ingredients to a spectacular and savory dish, one that hopefully would waft a successive appearance to the playoffs and World Series.
However, so far that has not been the case. Somehow, amazingly—unbelievably—the Giants’ offense has gotten worse since the midseason trades. Over the past 14 games since acquiring Beltran, San Francisco has scored a measly 34 runs. Since the All-Star break, the Giants have scored 75 runs in 26 games, with a .236 team batting average and an itsy-bitsy .628 OPS.
As a result of the agonizing display at the plate, offense-starved Giants fans have seen San Francisco fall into second place as of Wednesday, one game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks. Meanwhile Beltran remains day-to-day, missing several games due to a hand injury. Even in the San Francisco lineup, Beltran has a .244 batting average with two RBI. Cabrera also has a .244 average and only one run scored in 11 games with the Giants.
Needless to say, the team of misfits is having a hard time fitting in its new players, generating a lineup that seems worse than it was pre-All-Star break.
With less than 50 games left in the season, and currently in second place in their division, how will the Giants fair in their pursuit of another playoff miracle.
Were the postseason to start today, they’d be on the outside looking in, so it’s right to say that a tremendous amount of work needs to be done in order to capture the another NL West crown. And with a lackluster effort so far from their midseason pickups, it looks to be a difficult climb back to the promise land for San Francisco.
As it stands, San Francisco will likely not make the playoffs unless its offense goes from simmering on the backburner to boiling from its hot stove acquisitions.
In some circles, the trades for transactions for Keppinger, Beltran and Cabrera were unneeded knee-jerk reactions. The roster shake up was done out of pressure from fans and the media. Still, something had to be done to stir the ennui of the Giants offense. The trades, especially for Beltran, each and all looked good on paper. But unfortunately for the Giants so far, they have been crumpled up under the pressure to take the team through another postseason miracle.
While pitching wins championships, the 2011 Giants are proving that that can only happen so often. Last year’s showing was truly a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.