The SF Giants Heat Check crew has covered the San Francisco Giants in an in depth fashion from spring training (my favorite search term for the Spring Training Edition was “brandon crawford mormon”), all the way until now, the end of the regular season. It was a bit of an experiment for me personally to see if I could gather some very educated hardcore baseball fans and analyze the team from many different angles. I think we succeeded. It’s also been a lot of fun to discuss my favorite baseball team with people I’ve grown to enjoy “shooting the stuff” with.
It’s quite interesting to read our takes from early in the season. This Giants team went 94-68, exceeding all of our expectations. Though all of my cohorts except me picked them to win the division, I was the only one who picked them to win less than 92 games (whoops). We were a very unhappy bunch in May when the team was underachieving, but happier in the summer when they took charge of the division. This is our final Heat Check of the season. Well, that is, unless they win the World Series. If that happens, I have a feeling we’ll be back.
Before we get to the final (possibly) questions, I need to do a little house cleaning. First, as long as the Giants are still in the playoffs, I’m personally going to be writing about every game for this very website. If the Giants don’t make it out of the first round, my writing time will be short like leprechauns (Biggie Smalls voice). But if they do get far, I should have a pretty good narrative about their playoff run. It shall be fun either way.
Second, because the playoffs actually start today, I wanted to give my World Series picks. I think the Yankees are flying so far under the radar that it’s ridiculous. Detroit will struggle in games where Justin Verlander doesn’t pitch. Texas has the best roster in the AL, but they’re on the wrong kind of streak. The A’s stole the great story team from the Orioles (Tommy Hunter will fail a steroid test), but I’m not sure either has enough starting pitching depth to last. And who wins big games for either team? Chen Wei-Yin? Jarrod Parker? The Yankees secretly won the most games in the AL, have a balanced lineup, and have two starters they can count on. May Soriano give up a game that Rivera wouldn’t? Possibly. But I think they come out of the AL.
As for the NL, if I chose my Giants, I’d be jinxing the hell out of them so I’m avoiding doing that. If the Reds didn’t have to come to AT&T for the first two games, I think they’d have a legit shot to come out of the NL. Washington is a great team, but no matter how many games Gio Gonzalez has won, Strasburg is their best starter and you can’t just lose your best starter and be fine with it. If you take Stephen Strasburg out of their rotation, you’re probably three or four games worse in the regular season. The Cardinals won’t be able to repeat what they did last year, and if they do, after losing Albert Pujols, it will hurt my head and I don’t want that to happen. The Braves may not hit enough and their starting rotation is just adequate, but there’s something about that bullpen that gives me the feeling that they’ll be reckoned with. I think the Yankees beat the Braves in the World Series.
Onto the Heat Check …
1. What is your favorite memory of the season?
@ButchHusky (http://www.butchhusky.com): This is a funky year because I can’t think of one “defining” moment. This team has been a tremendous mash up of styles that came together at just the right time. Almost every Marco Scutaro at-bat could qualify. Pence’s first homer at AT&T. Pagan’s triples. Crawford’s glove. And I really enjoyed Melky hosing a runner at the plate in Milwaukee. I don’t care what he was on, that was a beautiful throw. Oh yeah, and Buster Posey.
@themarywalton: Definitely Matt Cain’s perfect game. He is a true Giant and nobody deserved it more. The way the D stepped up behind him was incredible. The only moment that rivals this was the moment they announced he signed a long-term contract.
@RealStephenMar: Gregor Blanco’s diving catch tied with Arias back stepping the last ball before throwing a rocket to Belt for the final out to the perfect game.
GG: Mary and Stephen’s call of the perfect game is a great one. It was the only game I’ve watched this season where I was actually nervous. However, I’m going to take a different Matt Cain game. It was Cain’s third start of the season and he was facing off against Cliff Lee. I was at the park with some friends, including THE Mary Walton. The game went scoreless into the 11th. Cain threw nine shutout innings, giving up just two hits. Lee threw ten shutout innings. The Giants scored in the 11th off Antonio Bastardo thanks to the base running of Handsome Brandon Belt. Okay, maybe it was more so because of Melky’s single to score him. But what I remember most is that Mary and I were calling Javier Lopez’s pitches to pinch hitter Jim Thome in the 11th. We were calling slider, slider, slider, and of course, he struck out Thome with a slider. It was one of those games that you rarely see; a true pitcher’s duel.
2. What single game or moment during the season made you think that this team was something special?
@ButchHusky: The first game after Melky’s suspension was announced, the team was shell-shocked. They played awfully and lost. Two nights later, they dropped a 10-1 drubbing on the Padres. They took no mercy. They just kept scoring. And smiling. The next night, they got down 4-1 early and came back to win, even held off the typical PETCO meltdown. Then they swept the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine. That’s when I said to myself, “It’s on.” And Buster Posey.
@themarywalton: The first game of the Dodgers series after Melky’s suspension and the subsequent games. The Giants could have tanked but they banded together and made all the Dodgers’ moves obsolete.
@RealStephenMar: During the All Star game and the few games afterwards when the Giants were the highlight of the exhibition game and the offense was firing on all cylinders. It’s something I haven’t seen since 2003.
GG: When Melky failed the medicine test, I thought the team was done. How can you lose such a big piece of your team and not regress? But then Buster Posey said, “Every team, whether it’s injuries or whatnot, you’re going to lose guys. We have to approach the rest of the year with a chip on our shoulders.” That was really the way to play this. Become the underdog. Play as if you weren’t expected to win now. And then the Dodgers went and traded for Adrian Gonzalez. That made the Giants an even bigger underdog to the national media. It was the first time that I saw that Buster could publicly lead this team. He was the emotional leader after losing most of his year to the injured ankle last year and he’s always been an on-field leader. At that point, he became the spokesman for the team.
@ButchHusky: their starting pitching will be inconsistent… unlike Buster Posey.
@themarywalton: our starting pitching will give up the long ball.
@RealStephenMar: the other playoff teams have better starting pitching than the Giants.
GG: their starting pitching is inconsistent, putting a heavy load on the bullpen, which doesn’t come through.
4. The Giants will win the World Series because …
@ButchHusky: they have just enough depth in every facet of the game to compete with any team in the league (and Buster Posey).
@themarywalton: our starting pitching has the experience and the stuff (if they can keep the ball on the ground and the offense continues to play sound, fundamental baseball, we will win).
@RealStephenMar: they have enough on offense along with Casilla in the 8th and the platoon of Lopez/Romo to shut down a game.
GG: Tim Lincecum transforms back into Big Time Timmy Jim in the playoffs.