Photo Courtesy of SD Dirk/Flickr
It’s no secret that the San Francisco Giants perform better in even calendar years. The last three even years have each yielded a World Series championship to the team that plays in the Bay.
This year is no different: The Giants are currently leading the MLB with 49 wins and hold an eight game division lead over rival Los Angeles Dodgers. The team owes this domination to their starting pitchers, as they have elevated them from above average to consideration for the Major League’s best.
This past offseason, Giant’s Director of Baseball Operation Brian Sabean, made it a priority to bolster the team’s starting pitching. He signed former Kansas City Royals pitcher Johnny Cueto and former Chicago White Sox pitcher Jeff Samardzija.
These two moves are paying off. Cueto is having a career year in his first season in the orange and black. He has been dominant at times, posting an 11-1 record with a 2.42 Earned Run Average. Samardzija, who was an ace early on in the season, has cooled off lately, but has still posted an 8-4 record with a 3.59 earned run average.
While both Samardzija and Cueto have been great, Madison Bumgarner is in the midst a CY Young-worthy season, an award given to the best pitcher in the league.
The postseason legend is having the best regular season of his career, posting an 8-4 record with a 1.99 ERA and 122 strikeouts. The team has failed to give him the run support that they have given Cueto, but his numbers speak for themselves.
The other two starting pitchers, former aces Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, have been less than stellar this year. While Peavy has been hot this past month, they both boast ERAs over five and are a combined 5-11. Perhaps Sabean will look into the trade market with the trade deadline approaching and try to bring in another stud to bolster the Giants’ starting rotation.
Starting pitching may not be the only place that Sabean looks as the deadline approaches. When right fielder Hunter Pence went down with a hamstring injury that has sidelined him for the past month, many wondered if Sabean would pull the trigger on a deal to bring an outfielder to San Francisco.
While he has yet to make a move, as the trade deadline looms, it would not be surprising to see Sabean explore the market in order to bring another bat into the Giants order.
That is not a knock on the Giants offense, more of a shot at the Giants lack of outfielder depth with Pence on the shelf. While no player has been a standout for the Giants offense this year, they have all made their contributions and embraced the concept of team effort.
Guys like catcher Buster Posey, second basemen Joe Panik, shortstop Brandon Crawford and first baseman Brandon Belt have all come through in the clutch for the Giants. No player is having the type of season that some of the starting pitchers are, but the group has made enough plays to compliment the staff.
The other big free agent signing for the Giants this offseason was center fielder Denard Span. Span started hot, but has cooled off as of late. However, he provides the Giants with a player that the team has not had during their recent three World Series championship runs. Span is a spark plug; he is the type of player that embodies everything that the Giants are about. He gives a maximum effort and brings his A-game day in and day out.
However, Span is not scared to jaw with the umpire over balls and strikes, or try to turn a single into a double. While this type of spark plug play can be costly if it leads to ejections or suspensions, it can also be the type of play that energizes the team late in a key game and rallies them to victory.
If the Giants keep up this pace of play, they will be playing in those key games down the stretch and into the postseason that Span could have an impact on.
Of course, the play of the starting pitching will need to remain the same in order to keep the Giants on the quest for their fourth World Series title in seven years. Luckily for Giants fans, that’s not a farfetched proposal.