The Oak Leaf

The Giants have a chance, but can they make it work?

Christopher Jackson, Staff Writer

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There is a lot happening in Bay Area sports. The Warriors fired Don Nelson, thank the Lord, and they are rumored to be involved in Carmelo Anthony trade discussions. The 49ers fired offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye, in hopes of turning things around after three disappointing games. But let’s face it, Anthony would never in a million years come to Oakland, and the Warriors are going to be as horrible as ever without Nelson. Plus, the 49ers will continue to struggle in the NFL’s weakest division; the only thing we really have going for us here are the Giants, and they’re going great.

With the sweep of the Diamondbacks, the Giants only need to win one game against the Padres in the final series of the season to win the National League West and earn a spot in the playoffs for the first time in six seasons. How the Giants got here is a mystery to me, because this season seemed as torturous as ever, but a few smart roster moves liberated them from their quagmire of mediocrity.

Ridding the team of Bengie Molina in a trade with the Texas Rangers, that sent reliever Chris Ray to the Giants, is the biggest reason for the Giants success this year. Watching Molina play early in the year, it was obvious he had given up on the team. His at bats lacked any sort of passion or effort, and on the rare occasion he got to first base, he was so slow it would take someone hitting a triple for him to be able to score from second. The real benefit from Molina’s exile though was it made room for Buster Posey to catch fulltime. Posey, the clear choice for NL Rookie of the Year, has a .313 batting average, 17 home runs, and 66 runs batted in. Fantastic numbers all the more extraordinary considering he is doing it at the most complicated position for a young player to adjust to, catcher.

Aaron Rowand’s demotion to benchwarmer was a beautiful sight, as Andres Torres has been a revelation this year. Having an actual lead-off hitter at the top of the order has been a benefit to all the Giant’s batters, because instead of coming up with one out guaranteed, they instead get to follow Torres with his 43 doubles, two behind the NL leader.

At the start of the season I thought Aubrey Huff was going to be a bust, and the same for Pat Burrell when he was acquired from Tampa Bay. I’m glad to be eating my words concerning both. The duo, which played together at the University of Miami, has been crucial to the Giants offensive turnaround this season. Burrell, a homegrown talent, has belted 20 HRs with 64 RBIs in only 362 at bats. Project that over a full season, around 550 to 570 at bats, and at 33 Burrell is still a 30 HR 100 RBI threat playing at AT&T Park. And Huff, well, he only leads the Giants in HRs and RBIs with 26 and 85 respectively, while hitting a solid .290.

These are the men who will take the Giants to the playoffs, but if they are to make waves come the Divisional Series, it’s going to be the pitching that makes it happen. The old adage is “pitching wins championships,” and if it holds true the Giants are in great shape. Shrink the staff down to a four-man rotation for the playoffs, and the Giants have the most formidable starting pitchers around. Tim Lincecum has returned to his Cy Young form. Matt Cain has once again been the most reliable pitcher on the team. Barry Zito has finally started earning his contract. Jonathan Sanchez has put together a nice consistent season. Along with a great bullpen and the best closer in the majors in Brian Wilson, the Giants have a chance to win it all for the first time since 1954.

They just have to beat the Padres once.

 

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The Giants have a chance, but can they make it work?