The Positives: Well, there is Cain’s perfect game for one! The Gigantes are playing good ball. The defense is getting better (less errors, more spectacular plays) with every game. The outfield (all four players, Cabrera, Pagan, Blanco and Schierholtz who is getting regular time) is the best (and the fastest) that I can ever recall seeing. Crawford and Theriot are awesome up the middle of the infield and Brandon Belt’s glove has never been questioned. Posey and Sanchez are both quality receivers and with Arias backing up the Panda in the late innings the defense is stellar. On the hitting side Belt has apparently found his home run stroke (and his power bat) which is the next step in his development as the quality first baseman that we all believe he can be (isn’t confidence wonderful?). Cabrera continues to stun with a .351 batting average and the team as a whole has probably raised its batting average by 15 percentage points over the last three weeks. Buster is leading the team in dingers (something that we can finally talk about) and the speed on the base paths (more stolen bases to this point in the season than in the entire year last year) is really fun to watch.
From a pitching perspective you can’t get much better than Cain, Bumgarner and Vogelsong. The new guy, Shane Loux, looks really good and it doesn’t get much better than Romo and Casilla (although Casilla giving up a bottom of the 9th 2 out, 3 and 2 count 3 run homer to a rookie on the A’s last night wasn’t entirely endearing).
Expect to see at least three Giants on the All-Star team (Cabrera, Posey and Cain) and maybe more. God knows that Blanco has been playing like an All-Star. Speaking of Blanco, his 7th inning catch that saved Cain’s perfect game reminded me of the great Mickey Mantle 7th inning catch (almost the same play) that saved Don Larson’s perfect game in the 1957 world series.
The Questions: The Panda is still not completely back and his weight is still an issue. That’s why Arias is a late inning replacement. On the other side of the weight issue Timmy lost a lot of weight in the off-season and some are blaming his inconsistent performance (one inning great, the next horrible) on not having enough heft to get behind his pitches. On Timmy, will his talks with his original coach (his Dad, who he didn’t want to include in the “what’s wrong with Timmy” discussion) may make a difference? We will see. On the whole this team is jelling pretty well and we now know what we have.
The Negatives: Is the team good enough? The Giants are probably the 4th best team in the NL at the moment but they have a disturbing habit of losing to good teams (like the Angels and the Marlins). The biggest problem is the two starts (Lincecum and Zito) whose games have become an adventure in wondering when they will flame out and allow a big inning. Zito starts tonight against the Dodgers and we will see.
The Division: It’s now all about the Giants and the Dodgers. The teams are three games apart and this week will tell us a lot. The Dodgers come into AT&T for the first time this year tonight. While this week is important the bigger test will be in September when almost all of the games are division games. Right now the goal should be to keep things close.
The Series: This is the test. First the Dodgers, who lead the NL West, and then Dusty Baker’s Reds, who lead the NL Central. This series will establish how good the G-Men actually are. This home series will tell us if the G-Men are for real. I’m ready.