This was not a good week for our POWs from the last post. Matt Duffy got hurt and Jeff Samardzija reverted to bad Jeff. Meanwhile, the Giants lost both starts by Madison Bumgarner this week despite 14.1 great innings.
All that makes it sound like it was a terrible week, but, no, no it wasn’t! The Giants still won 5 of 7, increased their lead in the NL West, and now stand with the best record in the National League. That’s just how this season is going.
We hit the half-way point this week, so let’s look for a moment at the big picture, and then an interesting, smaller story line.
Big Picture: as mentioned here several times, the off-season/pre-season mantra for the 2016 SF Giants was “if they can stay healthy.” We heard it again and again. That was the key to everything.
The answer, we now know, is “no, they can’t.”
Now, granted, they haven’t lost Buster Posey or Madison Bumgarner, and their “big 3” have made all their starts (in fact only one starting pitcher, Matt Cain, has struggled with injuries). But, the injury/hamstring bug has hit them at every level, especially the line up. And yet they have the best record in the NL (and are only half a game behind Texas for best record in all of baseball).
The Giants will need Duffy, and Hunter Pence, and Sergio Romo to make a deep run at a World Series, but so far the “need to stay healthy” maxim is proving incorrect.
Smaller Story: assuming everything went well for the Giants (health, again), it appeared heading into the season that the only glaring weak, potentially, was in Left Field. Yes, there were questions about the back-end of the rotation. Yes, there were questions about the bullpen. Yes, there were question (here we go again) about health. Yes, there were questions about the bench.
But, expecting reasonable outputs from each player, left field seemed to stick out. Angel Pagan got off to a great start, however, alleviating those concerns pretty quickly. But, as it always seems to go, Pagan got hurt, and then Pence got hurt, and suddenly the outfield was in disarray.
We are ever grateful for Gregor Blanco, but a question I had about the 2016 Giants was “could this be the year that a home-grown outfielder makes his way into the conversation.” That outfielder, in my mind, was Mac Williamson.
There are many reason to root for Mac. He’s young, cheap, a good enough defender in left, and has tremendous power. He’s also a right-handed bat who brings some balance to the left-handed heavy Giants. I like Pagan and he’s been a good Giant. But Williamson could be answer not just for 2016, but beyond.
Williamson was stashed in AAA to continue developing to start the year, but has been yo-yoed back and forth with all the injuries. This week he finally seemed to turned a corner, and had a couple really nice games, and beyond the numbers just looked more comfortable.
I get very excited about this lineup:
- Span CF
- Panik 2B
- Posey C
- Belt 1B
- Pence RF
- Crawford SS
- Williamson LF
- Duffy 3B
- Pitcher (or switch the Pitcher/Duffy)
However, Pagan has returned with a vengeance, such a vengeance that rumors are flying about bringing him back for 2017!
Who knows how this will all turn out. Since Barry Bonds retired, the Giants have done just fine with a revolving door approach to LF. I’m still rooting for Mac to take over.
Week In Review: won 3 out of 4 in Pittsburg, and took 2 of 3 from the Phillies at home. 49-28, 8 game lead in NL West.
Hitter of the Week: back to the LF conversation! Mac Williamson went 4 for 7 with a home run, 2 RBI, and 3 walks. The walks are just as important as the home run, as patience has been a problem for big Mac. Angel Pagan answered the challenge from the young buck, hitting .440 this week with 4 extra base hits and 9 RBIs! Hat tip to the other “scrubs” (Parker, Pena, and Gillaspe) who along with the LFs round out the top 5 statistical heroes of the week.
Pitcher of the Week: The POW should be Madison Bungarner who had two great starts (Peavy was the only main comp from the rotation, but he only started once). However, Bumgarner went 0-2 through no real fault of his own, and that means we bump the award to the bullpen.
Cody Gearrin had an outstanding week, appearing 4 times and allowing no runs. I’ve been slow to come around on Gearrin, but Bochy is clearly a huge fan, and Cody made him look brilliant this week. I still feel that Hunter Strickland is going to prove to be the most important reliever for the Giants down the stretch, but Gearrin’s quality has brought stability and order to a unit that was sorely lacking both a month ago.
Looking Ahead: The Giants play 4 in the Bay to get the week started (2 at home, 2 in Oakland), and then head to Arizona (it seems like they are always going to Arizona) for a three game weekender. These are two teams with poor records, but the A’s always play the Giants tough, and they are playing for their season right now. If things don’t turn around quick, word on the street is the Billy Beane fire sale is just around the corner. Arizona has been playing much better, and Zack Grienke has quietly turned his season around. This is another sneaky tough week.