I’d like to proudly welcome Krash Davis, as the newest contributor to the sportsglutton.com team. The immortal Mr. Davis will be sharing his unique take on baseball and other topics relevant in sports, etc. Enjoy his first post on the slumping San Francisco Giants. -Sportsglutton
By Krash Davis
Fresh off their first World Series crown since 1954, the San Francisco Giants are still reaping the benefits from last year’s improbable title run. AT&T Park has been at capacity, merchandise is flying off the rack, players are treated like rock stars and they have their own reality show, The Franchise, on Showtime.
Quietly behind all the fanfare though, an interesting side story is developing. Do the Giants have enough to fend off the surging Arizona Diamondbacks and win the National League West title again? They appear to have the mettle and experience to win the division, but a lot has changed since last November.
First and foremost, the Giants have endured significant injuries to key players throughout the season, most notably, season-ending injuries to last year’s National League Rookie of the Year, Buster Posey and Freddy Sanchez – a former batting champion in his own right. You just don’t replace players of their caliber. Although Giants fans have to be pleased with General Manager Brian Sabean’s trade deadline deals, acquiring Carlos Beltran, who is a proven commodity and RBI guy and Jeff Keppinger whose glove and ability to get on base will help fill the void left by Sanchez. Then again the verdict is still out on the acquisition of Orlando Cabrera, although it’s an upgrade over Miguel Tejada, and Brandon Crawford. Crawford is a great prospect and has a great glove and arm, but he needs more time down in the minors to work out his swing.
Perhaps of greater concern for the Giants and their fan base is the team’s inability to score runs. Heading into a year where most felt their offense was actually better than the previous year, the offense has stumbled, scoring the second least amount of runs in baseball only behind the last place Seattle Mariners.
You can’t ignore what the Diamondbacks have done either. They too got better ahead of the trade deadline by solidifying their 5th starter spot by acquiring Jason Marquis from the Nationals, and strengthened their bullpen by adding Brad Ziegler from Oakland. Manager Kirk Gibson is a strong leader and has done a good job managing the club, and you would expect guys like Justin Upton, Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson to keep the Diamondbacks in the race.
I believe there are three key to the Giants winning their second consecutive NL West title:
Pitching – It’s no secret that this team is built on pitching and how they perform down the stretch will ultimately decide their fate. Can Jonathan Sanchez emerge from the DL and provide a much-needed lift in the 5th spot in the rotation? Can the bullpen, which has been lights out all year, hold up after logging heavy innings over the last two years? It will be interesting to see how it all plays out, but make no mistake, it’s all about pitching in San Francisco.
Resurgence from heroes of 2010 – What do Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff, Andres Torres have in common? They were all three major contributors to the Giants title run whose production in 2011 has regressed significantly. There have been some signs recently that all three may be finally snapping out of their funk, but time will tell. The real key is Torres. Like any leadoff hitter, when he gets on base, good things happen, but his ability to get on base will be even that much more important for the Giants, who again, scratch and claw to score runs.
Mesh factor – As noted, the Giants were very active at the trade deadline. We hear that Beltran, Keppinger and Cabrera are all three good clubhouse guys. Sabean’s 11th hour moves last year, adding Ross, Pat Burrell and lefty specialist Javier Lopez was nothing short of genius, but will it work again this year? I think at a minimum, two out of the three moves need to pan out.
The way the schedule has played out, it’s not surprising that the Diamondbacks overtook the division, but chances are the Giants reclaim the division later in the month and never look back.
Fans want to talk about a potential Phillies vs. Giants National League Championship Series rematch, but as Sabean recently pointed out, the focus should be all on winning their division. And it should be. As the Giants demonstrated last year, win the division, get into the playoffs, and amazing things can happen.