The San Francisco Giants are no longer contenders, however there may be upsides to this team missing the playoffs.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have not officially clinched the division. However San Francisco is currently 8.5 games out of first place.
They would have to go 16-0 for the rest of the season while the Diamondbacks finished 7-7 in order to tie for the division. Although it’s possible, the Diamondbacks have given us no reason to believe that they are going to stop winning and the Giants have given no indications that they are going to change their fate in such a small window of opportunity.
It is time to forget about 2011, and look forward to 2012.
The final stretch of this season will allow the team to gear up for next year, and the absence of October baseball in San Francisco will give the team an extra month to re-energize for another promising season.
Here are three silver linings to the Giants missing the postseason.
After going all the way in 2010, skeptics had their doubts that San Francisco’s young pitching staff would hold up through another championship season.
Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner have proved their durability, all posting quality numbers in 2011 despite the least amount of run support in all of the majors. Cain and Lincecum both own ERAs well under 3.00, while the 22-year-old Bumgarner boasts a solid 3.33 ERA.
Ryan Vogelsong has done a fantastic job since emerging as San Francisco’s No. 4 starter. He leads the team’s pitching staff with a 2.66 ERA.
However, Jonathan Sanchez showed the fatigue of pitching through the end of last October. He was sidelined with bicep tendinitis early in the season, and later sustained an ankle injury that has kept him out of the starting rotation. While healthy, Sanchez was ineffective, posting a 4.26 ERA with a record of 4-7.
Barry Zito may have been worn out before the postseason last year, as he was not even placed on the 2010 playoff roster.
The workload that won the Giants a championship in 2010 has already taken its toll on the back end of the starting rotation.
Despite high hopes for a repeat this season, the pitching staff will benefit from missing the playoffs. In the long run, this will protect San Francisco’s most valuable assets and make them stronger for a promising 2012.
2011 has been a tumultuous year for the Giants. Injuries to Freddy Sanchez and Buster Posey did more than just knock out two of the team's biggest contributors and leaders.
These circumstances have given other players a chance to step up to the plate. Some of these attempts have failed, and the Giants subsequently missed the postseason.
Now San Francisco has reached a whole new level of hopelessness, with focus turned away from 2011 and to the season ahead. With this shift, players are put under evaluation more than ever.
Manager Bruce Bochy made clear that every player has an obligation to put forth their greatest effort. Ironically, these games that mean less than ever can be the most telling about which players belong on the field.
Some players are already thinking about their October vacation plans. However, “This is when you find out about players,” manager Bruce Bochy commented in a pregame conference. And the players that come out with the “warriors spirit” in these final games may shape how the organization sets itself up for success next season.
Brandon Crawford and Brandon Belt have been back and forth between the big leagues and Triple-A all season. Crawford has shown his value for the club at shortstop, however it has appeared that he could use some more seasoning to hit in the majors. Belt has been gearing up to take on an everyday role in 2012.
However, as San Francisco has fallen out of contention, the opportunities have arisen to take risks on other potential replacements for players that have proved ineffective this season.
Brett Pill, Justin Christian and Eric Surkamp are among players being tested to see if they can fill the holes that the Giants so desperately need to address.
Christian hit .338 with 36 steals for Triple-A Fresno this season and will challenge Andres Torres' role as leadoff hitter and center fielder for San Francisco. Pill made a grand entrance homering in his first two big league games, and also became the first Giant since Will “The Thrill” Clark to homer in his first at-bat in the majors.
The chance to look at how players within the organization will or will not be able to make a contribution in the big leagues will dictate San Francisco’s offseason activity.