I've always had a weird appreciation for the San Francisco Giants despite that godawful debacle in 2012. As if watching Kevin Mitchell mash 49 dingers and make barehanded grabs in the outfield wasn't enough, I spent my entire Little League career on the Giants being a foot shorter than everyone else and jumping away from each and every pitch thrown while at bat even if they were right down the pipe. Stupid late growth spurts.
And, as many of you know, this was one of my most prized possessions.
The former NL West rivals of the Cincinnati Reds roll into town tonight to begin a four game weekend series, and each time these two teams clash I get a bit extra excited. Nostalgic, too.
After their loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 19th, the Giants sat just 4-10, losers of 9 of their last 10, and it looked as if the weird odd-year curse was once again settling in for the reigning Wolrd Series champs. Since then, however, they've gone 13-7 - including a 5 game win streak to begin the month of May - and they'll face off tonight against Cincinnati with both teams sporting identical 17-17 records. How the two teams have gone about getting to that point couldn't really be any different, though.
While the Reds have bashed 42 dingers and seem intent on fielding a low average, low OBP, high pop offense, the Giants have built a squad that has hit .260 as a team and sports 21 more doubles than the Reds. They've had a hard time turning those doubles into runs, however, as the 3.3 runs they've averaged per game is better than only the Philadelphia Phillies among NL squads. In fact, their -0.5 run differential per game is the 4th worst in the NL, but that's been largely mitigated by a pitching staff that has kept them in most of the games they've played and a bullpen that runs laps around what the Reds have rolled out.
They've done this all without the services of All Star RF Hunter Pence, who has missed the entire season thus far with a broken forearm, though he appears to be rehabbing that quite effectively. The Giants have also been without the services of their highest paid pitcher, Matt Cain, who has been sidelined with a flexor tendon issue akin to the ones that befell both Jonathan Broxton and Homer Bailey in the past. As of yesterday, Pence appears set to return to the Giants next week, while Cain is still weeks away, so neither should factor into this weekend's series.
The Giants still have Buster Posey, who is doing fairly typical Buster Posey things, and they've been buoyed by the healthy return of Angel Pagan and the RF signing many Reds had hoped for in Nori Aoki. Coupled with the torrid start to the season from SS Brandon Crawford, and their offense has rebounded from a sluggish start to show decent depth and ability. On the mound, the familiar trio of Tim Lincecum, Madison Bumgarner, and Ryan Vogelsong are all around and will each face the Reds this series, with Lincecum finding success again, albeit in a much different way than in his flamethrowing, Cy Young days. The Reds will miss the ageless Tim Hudson, and instead will get to face 27 year old rookie Chris Heston, who has transitioned from relative unknown reliever and minor league starter to a guy on pace for a 4+ bWAR season.
In other words, the same core that has won three of the last five World Series championships is still largely around and intact, and there really shouldn't be too many surprises on the field as the teams clash this week. Their success has been annoying as hell to some - and there's no denying that the 2012 NLDS has a holy hell of a lot to do with that - but the way I look at it, the Giants are the one thing that has kept the filthy St. Louis Cardinals from establishing a dynasty over the last half decade. So, for that, I thank them.
For more insight into the Giants, I reached out to McCovey Chronicles' Funnies-In-Chief Grant Brisbee to see what he had to say. Here's that: