Are the San Francisco Giants Ready to Win Another Title?
The San Francisco Giants are off to hot start in 2016. After taking 2 of 3 against the Milwaukee Brewers, they came home and took 3 out of 4 from the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Giants were within a botched double play ball of beating Clayton Kershaw and sweeping the 4 game series, but head to Colorado to start a 6 game road trip sitting at 5-2.
In a series where the Giants overcame 4-0, 2-0 and 5-0 deficits in their wins, it is clear the offense never believes they are out of a game and left the Dodgers and their pitching staff clearly frustrated. The most encouraging win had to be Friday night, where Ross Stripling had no hit the Giants for 7 1/3 innings. After issuing a walk and throwing 100 pitches, manager Dave Roberts went to his bullpen. Chris Hatcher came in and surrendered the game-tying home run to rookie catcher Trevor Brown. Brandon Crawford won it with a home run in the tenth and just when it looked like it was on its way to being historic, sent the Giants home feeling like they are never out of a game.
Two days later, new high priced starter Johnny Cueto gave up 5 runs in the 1st as the Dodgers batted around. In years past, the Giants would have been out of this game, but this year clearly looks different. They quickly chipped away with RBI singles in the 1st by Matt Duffy and Brandon Belt. Then they tied it with a home run by Buster Posey and 2-run shot by Belt. With the game tied in the 6th, Joe Panik came through with another clutch hit; doubling in Angel Pagan and Denard Span. Pagan led off the inning with a double, batting out of the 9 hole, something Bruce Bochy seems committed to.
Batting Pagan 9th allows him to either lead off an inning if the pitcher makes the last out or extend the inning for the top of the lineup acting as another lead off hitter in front of Span. We have seen this strategy some before, but it is a growing trend and one that the Giants will look to employ the majority of the season.
The new San Francisco Giants lineup will grind out at-bats and the quality and depth of it gives them the ability to put up big innings. In all 5 of their wins they have trailed at some point showing the capability to battle back and put up crooked numbers. They have scored 3 runs or more in an inning 6 times and have hit 14 home runs through 7 games, with each starter hitting at least one. Two of four bench players have hit a home run, Ehire Adrianza off Kershaw and the other game tying bomb in the 8th inning by Trevor Brown. Madison Bumgarner also showed the pop is still in his bat, crushing a home run off of Kershaw, as well.
Last year, having hit only 136 home runs ranking 27th in the majors, the more explosive offense should help ease the pressure off a pitching staff that has helped carry the team in the past. Having spent over $200 million on Cueto and Jeff Samardzija, the Giants are confident in their starting staff to eat innings and keep the team in games. With veterans, Matt Cain and Jake Peavy, rounding out the back of the rotation, the San Francisco Giants could have their deepest starting staff since 2010.
It’s early, but every starter has gone at least 5 innings as they ease into the season. The bullpen returns largely intact, adding only right hander Cory Gearing after the retirement of Jeremy Affeldt. With a mix of veterans and younger arms like Hunter Strickland and Josh Osich ready to take on bigger roles, the Giants do not have many holes. Early in the season it is easier to nitpick weaknesses and in their two losses, the pivotal runs were scored by lead-off walks by Javier Lopez and Santiago Casilla. Those mistakes may stand out now, but over the course of the year bullpens will blow saves and lose games.
With a stronger rotation that should ease the the load and a deeper lineup that should provide bigger leads, Bochy should be able to avoid taxing the pen too much and keep the arms fresh. If the staff can pitch close to expectations, the Giants could be playing deep into October, with the hope of keeping the even year magic alive.