I noted that the San Francisco Giants are ranked fourth in the Memorial Day power polls, up thirteen slots from the last one a month ago. Inevitably, these polls are subjective to the point that they provide little more than an overview as to the state of Major League Baseball, and allow the reader to form his or her opinion of where any given team actually belongs.
With that thought in mind, I proclaim that the San Francisco Giants belong at the top of the heap and I will give you seven reasons why, standings notwithstanding.
Let’s begin with hitting. The Giants lead the National League with a .274 batting average after presenting one of the league’s most anemic offenses the first month of the season. Currently they have four hitters (Brandon Crawford, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Matt Duffy) batting over .340 for the month of May, two more than any other team in MLB.
The significance is that a team which encounters adversity early and overcomes it, is destined to come away from the experience a stronger team, both from the results on the scoreboard and from the renewed sense of confidence. The Giants have their mojo back and they know what to do with it.
Secondly, San Francisco batters are most lethal when the pressure is greatest: two outs and runners in scoring position (RISP). The other night during the first game of the series between the Brewers and the Giants, CSNBA put up the stat that Brandon Crawford was hitting .500 (11 for 22) with RISP, two outs, AND two strikes.
Intrigued, I went to the stats page to see how other Giants were doing, with RISP and two outs. Here is what I found:
Nori Aoki: 15 at-bats, 6 runs, 8 hits, 11 RBIs, .533/.682/.600/1.282
Brandon Crawford: 24 at-bats, 13 runs, 11 hits, 16 RBIs (!) .458/.519/.750/1.269
Matt Duffy: 21 at-bats, 3 runs, 9 hits, 9 RBIs, .429/.455/.571/1.026
Hunter Pence: 8 at-bats, 4 runs, 3 hits, 5 RBIs, .375/.444/.625/1.069
Buster Posey: 19 at-bats, 7 runs, 7 hits, 9 RBIs,.368/.478/.526/1.005
Brandon Belt: 21 at-bats, 11 runs, 7 hits, 10 RBIs, .333/.440/.571/1.011
Joe Panik: 23 at-bats, 9 runs, 7 hits, 5 RBIs, .304/.429/.478/.907
These numbers are more impressive than anything else you could ever show me. The Giants are second in MLB with 82 runs scored under these circumstances to Arizona’s 86. You want to know how many the Los Angeles Dodgers have scored with two outs and RISP? They rank 27th with 42.
The statistics I just listed are the most tangible evidence that this is a highly competitive team, and belongs at the top of any power poll. The ability to perform in the clutch is the penultimate measure of a championship team, not only because of the win/loss column, but because of the demoralizing effect that a run-producing rally can produce on an opponent.
In Monday night’s game against Milwaukee, the Brew-Crew had a 4-1 lead and Tim Lincecum had just been removed from the game, when the Giants erupted for seven runs in the top of the sixth innings.
There were six consecutive singles, in a vulgar display of pure hitting. Methodical, with no muss and no fuss, San Francisco hitters just beat the cover off of the ball, and the Brewers assumed their last-place demeanor, rolled over and died.
Pure, unadulterated baseball beauty.
Moving on, the Giants are mostly home-grown, with both catchers, the entire infield, four of the five current starting pitchers, and a couple of key relievers all originating in the Giants’ farm system. This means these players have been groomed to play for AT&T Park, with its emphasis on defense and teamwork. It is no coincidence that the Giants do not go after power hitters, so much as hitters who spray the ball around the field.
There was a fascinating spread of Buster Posey’s six home runs hit in Milwaukee, that showed an evenly distributed pattern from straightaway left field, across the outfield to straightaway right. He isn’t picky and will hit one out in any direction.
Home-grown is always going to win out over store-bought.
Fourth, the Giants have been able to rely the kids. Pressed into service, Joe Panik, Chris Heston, Matt Duffy, Andrew Susac, and Hunter Strickland have come through this season in admirable fashion. It is a strength of the organization that it has been able to keep the party moving by providing an ongoing supply of under-the-radar quality players for the big club.
Fifth, there is the sterling pitching, always the pitching. The Dodgers replace two-fifths of their rotation each season while other teams going even further. The Giants have the same core of pitchers that they have had since their inaugural World Series run in 2010. Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Sergio Romo, Santiago Casilla, Jeremy Affeldt and Javier Lopez have all been a part of three championships.
Madbum is 6-2, Timmy is 5-2, and Ryan Vogelsong is 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA in his last three starts. Chris Heston helped keep the team afloat early on, and has been invaluable, and Tim Hudson is the ageless warrior.
Ryan Vogelsong has been a part of two titles and Jake Peavy and Tim Hudson (the winningest active MLB pitcher) have also collected rings with the Giants. The old axiom that good pitching beats good hitting has proven true in three confrontations with American League teams that were judged to be more offensively potent than the Orange and Black.
Why not give credit to a formula for success?
This leads to the sixth reason why the Giants belong atop MLB polls: the on-the-field leadership of Bruce Bochy and Dave Righetti and the front-office engineering of Brian Sabean and Bobby Evans. Success begets success, and this team of leaders is as good as it gets. I do not need to run a parade of reasons for this choice, just flash three rings, casually if you like.
Seventh, and most importantly, there is that cohesive camaraderie of which my reader S.D. Craig likes to speak so eloquently. We have only to see the effect of Hunter Pence’s return to the lineup to see this chemistry in action. The Giants won their first seven games with him back in the lineup, and have gone 9-2 overall.
They will not play at that pace for the rest of the season, but they will know that they have that ability.
They also know when to use it to their best advantage. After all, we don’t refer to Orange October because of Halloween.