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San Francisco off to a Giant Start .
by Richard Van Zandt, BaseballEvolution.com
April 18, 2010

Well almost two weeks into the season the San Francisco Giants, by the estimation of some, have been among the surprise teams out of the gate. At 8-3 at this early juncture, they sit atop the NL West, but whatís been most encouraging hasnít been the way theyíve played (which really has been very encouraging), but the obvious confidence with which theyíve been playing. You can see that this is a team that believes it can win and that kind of confidence is something that goes a long way in Major League Baseball.

Not surprisingly, their pitching has been strong, posting a 3.18 team ERA in the early going, second only to the Cardinals in that category. They also lead the senior circuit with three shutouts after leading the Majors last year with 18, their latest coming on Saturday against the division rival Dodgers with their ace, back-to-back Cy Young award winner Tim Lincecum, leading the way.

Speaking of Tim, heís shown every indication that heís well on his way towards his third straight Cy by posting a 0.90 ERA in his first three starts, with a ML leading 24 strikeouts against just three walks in 20 innings pitched.

Where the Giants have been surprising, however, has been at the plate. The Giants are third in the NL in team batting average (.295), on-base percentage (.364) and slugging (.460) and they are tied for fifth in home runs (12). Four regulars, 2B Juan Uribe (.333), SS Edgar Renteria (.326), 3B Pablo Sandoval (.326) and CF Aaron Rowand (.304) are hitting over .300 and a fifth, C Bengie Molina, is hitting closer to .450 (.448 actually). Eight different players have driven in at least 5 runs, with Uribe (9) leading the charge. Even Lincecum tallied three hits and three RBI in his 9-0 win over Los Angeles.

Molinaís fast start has also allowed the Giants to resist any temptation to call up top prospect Buster Posey despite Poseyís fast start (.357/.449/.476 through 10 games) at Triple-A Fresno. Even Bengieís backup, Eli Whiteside, got into the act with a three-run home run against Pittsburgh.

Rowand, however, will be lost to the team for at least two weeks following a beaning on Friday night. He suffered a concussion and fractured bones in his cheek when he was hit by a pitch thrown by Vicente Padilla on Friday night and he was placed on the DL on Saturday.

Meanwhile new addition Aubrey Huff has a team high seven walks and 11 runs scored while batting .282 with a .417 on-base percentage (though I personally have serious doubts about his ability to hit off-speed pitches) and he showed off his wheels with an inside-the-park home run against the Pirates. Fellow newcomer Mark DeRosa (.222/.333/.361), on the other hand, has yet to get on track after homering on Opening Day, and he strained his hamstring on Saturday in L.A., though reportedly not seriously.

But make no bones about it, this is a team that is built on its pitching, and early indications are that they are going to live up to expectations. Veteran Barry Zito has a 2.25 ERA in his first two outings and Matt Cain, at 25 already the longest tenured Giant, has been solid in his two starts. Jonathan Sanchez was a little off in his first appearance, but followed that up with a gem reminiscent of his no-hitter last fall, allowing just three hits and striking out 11 in eight scoreless innings against the Bucs. And out of the bullpen, Sergio Romo (5.0 IP), Dan Runzler (4.2), Guillermo Mota (4.1) and closer Brian Wilson (4.1) have all gone un-scored upon while top set-up man Jeremy Affeldt has allowed just 1 earned run in his first four appearances.

You hear it every year, grizzled veterans speaking to the media telling everyone how different itís going to be in the clubhouse and on the field this season, only to see that team come up short yet gain. Itís a sentiment Iíve heard expressed this spring by Renteria, among others. And while I, a blogger on the outside looking in, canít possibly expect to know if this year things really are different, I canít help but feel that they just might be.











Questions? Concerns? Comments? Rich lives in San Francisco, California, and can be reached at rich@baseballevolution.com.

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