It’s a great time to be a sports fan in the Bay Area. All the teams are doing well — oh wait. The Oakland Athletics and San Francisco 49ers were atrocious last year, and last year’s 7-9 record for the Oakland Raiders was a game shy of their best in 15 years.
The San Francisco Giants, on the other hand, won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014. Because it’s 2016, and even-numbered years seem to bring championship magic for the Giants, is it time for another championship?
So far this season, the Giants haven’t inspired much hope for their fourth title in seven years. Sure, they have ridden a six-game winning streak to sit atop the National League West, but that doesn’t mean they’re running away with the division. The West is bundled within 5.5 games, and any team can still take the title.
There’s certainly reason to believe the Giants can evolve into a team capable of a deep playoff run, and perhaps that’s starting to come together. But well-rounded teams such as the Chicago Cubs and the New York Mets, reigning NL Pennant winner, will be difficult roadblocks for the Giants.
From an offensive perspective, the Giants are among the top teams in the MLB — but the offense can always be better. They have plenty of hits and runs, but they lack the speed and power that brings about wins in October. It hasn’t made much of a difference yet, as the team still finds ways to manufacture runs. But this is probably because of Bruce Bochy’s smart managing ability and finding efficient ways to get runners across home plate.
It’s hard to believe that the pitching staff of Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Jake Peavy and Matt Cain isn’t among the best in baseball. Bumgarner, Cueto and Samardzija are crafting productive seasons, and some combination of the trio — if not all three — could make the All-Star game. Led by Bumgarner at 2.45, the threesome all register an ERAs under 3.00 — a stat only 25 starting pitchers can boast this season — and have a combined ERA of 2.76.
Beyond the trio, however, Peavy and Cain need to resurrect some of the pitching magic from earlier in their respective careers. While injury has plagued both pitchers’ careers since 2012, neither has the pressure to function as the staff ace, and the team doesn’t need them to reach that form. As Peavy and Cain round out the starting rotation, they only need to eat up innings to prevent excessive wear of the bullpen and keep the games close enough for the offense to win some of its starts.
The pitching staff on all three World Series rosters were pretty stellar, and while there’s still three-quarters of a season left for the team to prove itself, there’s still plenty that the Giants need to do if they want another World Series run.
Peavy, Cain and the bullpen need to figure out a way to stop giving up runs. While it’s not necessarily causing the Giants to lose, it’s certainly not generating wins, and the team can’t afford to wonder about its potential inconsistencies down the line. The bullpen, currently registering an ERA nearing 4.00, should strengthen on its own when some pitchers return from the disabled list — though obtaining extra arms is never a bad idea. The hope is that Peavy and Cain will settle down at some point before the eventual playoff hunt.
The Giants could be one or two trades away from cementing themselves as a World Series contender. Finding someone who can provide speed and power won’t be cheap or easy, but it could greatly impact late-season contests by reducing pressure to constantly manufacture runs. The Mets’ Curtis Granderson could be a solid trade target for the Giants.
With an ongoing six-game winning streak, the Giants are starting to produce results experts were predicting in the preseason. Baseball has a long season, and there are at least another 100 games before a clear picture will be painted. The Giants might only be a move away, but with titans waiting in the postseason, the team needs to conjure a bit of their even-year magic.
Contact Chris Zheng at [email protected].