Freddy Sanchez Is Spark San Francisco Giants Need for Postseason

Kevin O'BrienCorrespondent IAugust 5, 2009

SAN FRANCISCO - AUGUST 02:  Freddy Sanchez #21 of the San Francisco Giants bats against the Philadelphia Phillies during a Major League Baseball game at AT&T Park on August 2, 2009 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

Say what you want about the Freddy Sanchez-for-Tim Alderson trade that happened shortly before the trade deadline: a classic example of Brian Sabean mortgaging the future on one player at the deadline, a grade-A exhibition of a GM overvaluing veteran over young talent, whatever.

At the end of the day, though, getting Sanchez will be worth it to Giants fans.

Never mind he's 31 years old or has suspect knees.  Sanchez is going to be a vital cog in the Giants' playoff push these next couple of months.

I understand it is still early.  Sanchez has only played in four games, hardly a big enough sample to make a realistic assumption of how he is going to affect this team during these next couple of months.

That being said, I don't need any more confirmation after today's 10-6 win against Houston.

What Sanchez has shown these past four games is a prime illustration of why he is the missing link this team has been looking for.  He is a spark at the plate (exhibited by his seven hits, three RBI, and home run in his first four games as a Giant), and he is a dependable anchor at the second base position that has seen more suitors than Madonna in her heyday.

And if that is not good enough, Sanchez has made his Giants teammates better. Pablo Sandoval has been on a tear since Sanchez's acquisition.  Is it a coincidence?

Perhaps, but I also feel that the "Panda" is more confident at the plate because he knows he has a solid guy hitting in front of him at the two-spot.

It is obvious that he feels more comfortable in a spot where he can help by continuing to have big innings rather than just by starting innings at the plate.  Look what Sandoval has done statistically with Sanchez batting ahead of him: eight hits, two doubles, four RBI, and a home run.

There's a reason why Jeff Kent was such a great hitter when he was in San Francisco: he had an excellent hitter in front of him in Barry Bonds.  Thus, it isn't a shock to see Sandoval excelling with a great hitter like Sanchez hitting in front of him, rather than an average one like Randy Winn or Edgar Renteria.

Now I know a lot of pundits will point to last season's drop-off and Sanchez's poor July at the plate during his waning days as a Pirate.  Yet, I believe a variety of factors affected him in Pittsburgh that resulted in his sub-par July.

For starters, the Pirates were losers—plain and simple.  GM Neal Huntington was getting rid of everybody and basically packed in the season by the end of June.  Sanchez, like any other baseball player, is a competitor, and knowing that, he is playing for a losing cause took its toll on him at the plate.

In addition, Sanchez had been in the middle of trade rumors since the beginning of July, along with longtime teammate Jack Wilson (who ended up getting shipped to Seattle).

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Add that with the contract negotiations that fell through shortly after the All-Star break, and I'm sure Sanchez was feeling the heat and pressure of not knowing his place on the Pirates team, or where his future was heading.

A lot of fans don't think those factors matter, but they do.  Look at Jason Bay this season.

After a hot couple of months to start the season for the Red Sox, his season stats took a dip when reports came out that his agent brought up the idea of asking for "Mark Teixiera money" (e.g. an insane, unthinkable amount of cash) when he became a free agent at the end of the season.

Thus, it isn't impossible to think that Bay felt the pressure from those high standards and it took a toll on his play.

Now that he is officially a Giant, Sanchez doesn't have to deal with any more drama in Pittsburgh.  He's free of all the trade rumors and he knows his place in San Francisco—as the starting second baseman.

You can see the rejuvenation out there when Sanchez takes the field or digs into the batter's box.  Sure, his bum knee still shows now, especially when he is running, but the guy not only grits it out, he excels, despite this nagging presence in his body.

He hasn't had a bad at-bat in a Giants uniform and you can feel that his presence gives everyone on this Giants team confidence.

The hitters feel confident with Sanchez in the lineup.

The pitchers feel confident with Sanchez in the field.  Manager Bruce Bochy is more at ease knowing that he doesn't have to go through the Ferris Wheel-lineup of Juan Uribe, Matt Downs, and Kevin Frandsen anymore.

When a team has that kind of force on a team, it bodes well.  The Giants offense hasn't really broken out for good this season.  They have shown flashes, but even as you watched them play, you had a feeling they were just that: only flashes, nothing concrete.

This recent stretch with Sanchez is far from that.

You don't feel it's just a flash, but rather a sign of what this team is going to be not only for the rest of the regular season, but perhaps even in the postseason this year and next.

Postseason?  Should I be so bold as to say that?

I will make that prediction, though: Sanchez can help the Giants to the postseason if he continues to be healthy and stays in the lineup.  He changes this team from a fringe playoff team to a legitimate one.

The Giants have the pitching—both starting and relief—and the right guys that can get hot at the plate at the right time.  Just watch out for Aaron Rowand; he'll prove a lot of his doubters wrong sooner than you think.

Maybe we will regret losing Tim Alderson.  Maybe we will regret losing out on that dream rotation of Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, Alderson and the other Sanchez—Jonathan.

That being said, I have a feeling we won't regret getting Freddy Sanchez.

Believe me, you will have the same feeling I do when we're starting postseason play in October.

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