You can never have too much of a good thing. Well, for the San Francisco Giants in 2011, every time they got a good thing going for them, something else seemed to fall apart down the assembly line.
Just when the pitching staff looked stronger than ever with the emergence of Ryan Vogelsong, Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez put the No. 5 slot in the starting rotation in question.
The offense looked better than ever with the return of the 2009 Kung–Fu Panda, Pablo Sandoval. Then, all seemed lost with season-ending injuries to Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez.
After Carlos Beltran was acquired as a measure to make a serious run at the postseason, he lasted just 11 games before being injured.
The defending champs' season has come into question as a result of an unfortunate series of events.
Here are five trends that may determine the relevance of San Francisco in the pennant race.
After joining the Giants, Beltran played in 11 games before being injured. He hit just .244 and has yet to make the impact that he was acquired for.
However, in his first game back since August 7th, Beltran went 2-for-4 with a solo home run. This is a promising indication for a strong return from the veteran.
They have desperately needed his bat in their lineup. Carlos will have to get hot to help the team catch Arizona, who they have conceded the lead to since his injury.
With the recent injuries and relative ineffectiveness of No. 5 starter options Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez, San Francisco’s starting rotation’s solidity has come into question.
With both struggling southpaws disabled indefinitely, San Francisco has a few shaky options for a fifth starter.
It is not likely that San Francisco will resort to a four–man rotation in fear of wearing out their superstars. Options in San Francisco’s Double-A affiliates include Eric Surkamp who has posted a 10-4 record and a 2.02 ERA.
Meanwhile, Steve Edelfeson took Brian Wilson’s roster spot when he was put on the DL. In his big league debut he pitched 1.1 perfect innings with two strikeouts.
Tim Lincecum lowered his ERA to 2.46, moving one point above his teammate Ryan Vogelsong and taking over the second best ERA in the National League.
While it is important that the fifth starter also gives San Francisco a chance to win games, the top four will continue to perform and be the reason that the Giants are still relevant in the race. They still lead the majors in quality starts and opponents batting average.
Pablo Sandoval has played in 87 games this season and has carried the offense through most of them.
He is leading the team with a .305 BA, a .345 OBP and 15 HRs. His production has been eclipsed by an otherwise dormant offense. However, he has provided the only pop in the order thus far and is a huge reason that San Francisco is still in the race.
Sandoval has been unable to face left–handed pitchers due to a strained shoulder. However, he will remain in the lineup.
Concerns were quieted by a game-winning two-run home run last week. Sandoval’s continued production will be key to the Giants postseason run.
Is it possible that San Francisco could rely more on their starting pitching staff? Well, now that two of their most important bullpen members are injured, they will have to.
Brian Wilson and Sergio Romo both remain disabled. Romo is making progress and could be activated as early as next week. This will be a an important return for the Giants.
Meanwhile, Brian Wilson has yet to pick up a baseball. He is eligible to be activated August 31, but has made no progress. Because it looks like San Francisco will not have a closer for some time to come, Romo’s recovery becomes even more crucial.
The Giants were awarded waiver claim’s on the Padres closer Heath Bell. While it is unlikely that the two teams will reach a deal that will bring Bell up to Northern California, this was an important blocking strategy.
Two of San Francisco’s greatest obstacles, Arizona and Philadelphia, both lack closers or bullpen staffs comparable to the Giants. Disabling either team from acquiring the All–Star will allow the Giants to keep their edge.
Despite the expectation of being San Francisco’s brightest up-and-coming star all season, Brandon Belt has been shuttled back and forth between the big leagues and Triple-A all season.
With the plague of injuries fallen upon the defending champs, room has been made for Belt to remain on the roster.
Carlos Beltran and Pablo Sandoval make for dangerous 3-4 punch, but it has been made clear that they cannot carry the offense alone.
Belt’s average has steadily increased and he has seven hits in the past two games including a three-run homer and a triple that proved to score the winning run of the game to give Tim Lincecum his 12th win.
Playing in an everyday role will give Belt the confidence he needs to continue producing and make the offense a little more threatening.