The Positives: The 2012 Giants are hitting the ball very well generally, just not with runners in scoring position. The G-Men just finished a 7 game road trip where they took 3 out of 4 from the Mets, and dropped 2 out of 3 to the Reds., overall a winning 4 win, 3 losses road trip. That puts them 2nd in the NL West to the smoking hot Dodgers (who are fattening up on the likes of the Padres, Pirates and Astros but who play the NL East leading Nationals this weekend). This is a team that is finding itself and playing more confidently every game. The Panda is awesome, is batting .333, and is going for a team record 19 game hitting streak to open the season tonight. He has played every inning of every game so far. Angel Pagan hit a 9th inning 3-run dinger yesterday to take a game from the Reds and looks good. Posey is quite simply stunning and is leading the team with a .362 average. If anything Posey looks better than last year. So far Posey is having an MVP caliber year. Schierholtz has found his groove, and is 2nd on the team in RBI’s (behind the Panda). Nate the great is going to be a mainstay in right field. He looks really good. Other notables include Cabrera, who is 3rd in team batting average and a really dependable hitter. Up until he hurt his arm in NY (more below) Crawford was making daily highlight reel plays at short and Burriss looks like the 2nd baseman that we all thought he could be. The Crawford-Burriss double play combo is like watching than the MLB plays of the week videos daily. It’s hard to believe that the team leader in ERA is Zito (with Cain close behind – Cain has been lights out and if he keeps it up he is cruising straight for a Cy Young this year), and MadBum leads the team in W’s. This is a team that is jelling quite nicely and the fact that (after a very rough start) the G-Men are above .500 is a really good sign. The Questions: Huff is on the DL with “anxiety” issues. That was after he missed covering 2nd base in the Mets game (when Bochy ran out of players), which cost us the game. Huff is hitting.182 and looking generally lost. He might be done. If so that opens the door for Pill and Belt, two good young players. Yesterday the Giants called up Joaquin Arias from Fresno to take Huff’s roster spot and Arias, a good young player, might end up replacing Ryan Theriot when Freddy Sanchez (in the minors right now doing rehab assignments and hitting very well) comes back. Hard to say because Bochy likes veterans and Theriot is the very definition of a grizzled veteran. I don’t think that there is any question but that the choice of Hector Sanchez as the back-up catcher was the call of the season so far. I just hope that Crawford’s elbow is OK. We will see tonight if he starts. The biggest question continues to be “who will close”? Wilson is out for the season and Casilla has done well so far in limited action but hasn’t been really tested.
The Negatives: There are very few that I see. Bochy and Sabean are doing a good job and the team is balanced well. It is true however that Timmy has yet to get really untracked, hits with runners in scoring position are hard to come by and the bullpen situation is really troubling. The G-Men have good arms but there have been melt-downs. Generally speaking this might be the strongest Giants team since 2002 and that team went to the big show.
The Division: The NL West is looking very tight (with one exception) right now, with the Dodgers on top (after, as noted above, fattening up on weaker teams), the G-Men in 2nd and the Rockies and the Snakes right behind and hovering around .500. Only the Padres have been out of it, but that might be because Petco is such a miserable place to play. I was down in San Diego this week and the word there is that they are very seriously considering bringing in the fences to help the stadium play smaller. When even the home team has a losing record in its own stadium you know the team is in trouble. The division race will go down to the wire. The other series to watch this weekend is the Dodgers versus the Nationals (who are red-hot and leading the NL East). That will tell us whether or not the Dodgers are for real..
The Series: The Padres are in town Friday through Sunday, the Marlins are in town from Tuesday through Thursday and the Brewers are here from Friday through Sunday. Even though the Padres are in last place they traditionally play VERY well against the G-Men (in fact they have owned the G-Men historically) so this weekend is a major opportunity for the G-Men to prove that they have overcome a historical problem. If the G-Men take the series from the Padres it will be a good weekend. The Miami Marlins (no longer the FLA Marlins) are struggling big time, and are last in the NL East. If the Giants play up to their potential they should take this series also. The Brewcrew are the real test. The Brewers are 2nd in the NL Central behind the torrid Cardinals (can you all believe what Beltran is doing? They are not missing Pujols there). The Brewers will be the real test.
Ciao, and GO GIANTS!