Monday, August 24, 2009

A Giant hunt for Red October

Go Gigantes!!

Its end of August and the SF Giants are still in the playoff race. Not just the wild card..... they are still not out of the NL West pennant race (Standings: NL West, NL Wild Card). As of today, they are 3 games behind the Rockies in the Wild Card race and 6 and half games behind the Dodgers in the Division Standings. With over 35 more games to be played in the regular season, they are at least bound to keep it interesting till the end of September.

Today, the Giants are completing their 11 game road trip. They went 5-5 after the first 10 games and could head home with a winning record if they beat the Rockies at Coors Field tonight (they are up 1-0 as of now). Could they have done better on this trip? Yes, but if you had told me they would come back home 5-6 or 6-5 after such a long road trip, I would have taken it right away. The frustrating part is that they could have easily had atleast 2-3 more wins, which they gave away this road trip. So has been the story of the Giants this season so far: They have lost more games that they should have won than they have won games they should have lost. Yet they are still in it and it is hard to believe but there is hope!

Its no secret that the strength of this team has been its pitching. Lincecum (above) and Cain have been lights out for the most part (especially the first half of the season) in spite of the sub-par run support from the offense. They have been going late into ball games keeping the bull pen fresh for the relatively shorter starts by Zito, Sanchez and the fifth starter position. And I cannot overstate how good the bull pen has been (of course I am discounting this last road trip which has been a nightmare for the bull pen and hope its just an anomaly). Defense has been average. Some nice plays thrown in with some sporadic mind-numbing errors, combine that with some bad breaks from mediocre umpiring, defense should get a B. Its the anemic offense that is the clear Achilles heel for this team. The addition of Freddy Sanchez and Ryan Garko definitely was an upgrade, but not even close to make them a contender. They clearly lack a decent clean-up hitter. Molina hitting clean-up is an indication of the offensive shortfall this team has. He should be hitting 7 or 8 in a line-up of a potential contender.

Despite that why do I have an optimistic outlook? Here is why: Of late, the Giants have been loosing starts by Lincecum and Cain. This is surely not going to continue for long. They are both too good to let this continue. I hope that turn for the good will take place at the coming home-stand. Also, Zito has been having a good run after the All-Star break, which he is historically known to do. If he keeps that up we will get back to having 3 front-line starters. After that if Sanchez and Joe Martinez even pitch .500 baseball, winning every other game they pitch, we should be well placed for a final push in mid-September. I also thing it is a good thing the giants cooled off now. The best chance they have if and when they make the playoffs to go deep is if they are hot at that time. Nothing says a playoff team is hot more than a good streak of play closing the regular season. So hopefully by mid September the giants can hang on keeping the dodgers and Rockies withing eyesight, remain healthy on offense (hello Freddy Sanchez), and make that final run at the wild card (or the pennant too if it is within reach). I am sure we would rather have a hot team on a streak make the playoffs than a team limping in to get blown out. Also, the Rockies have been hot since July, it does not bode well for them if they stay this hot till mid -September. They are bound to cool off sometime and I hope that happens just before the playoffs, when the playoff pressure would add to the slump. This is true with the Dodgers too. But they have a fairly easy schedule the rest of the way making it harder to think they may falter. But hey, you never know when you have about 35 games left. That's why the games are played and not decided on paper.

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