Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why the Giants Can Win the NL West Without Melky Cabrera

by Elijah Abramson

Melky Cabrera’s suspension on August 15 for use of a banned substance was a huge blow to the Giants’ offense.

At the time, Cabrera was leading the National League in hits and was battling Pittsburgh star Andrew McCutchen for the league batting title. The follow-up drama with the fake site to justify his steroid use added to the disrupting media coverage surrounding the Giants most productive hitter.

But in the games since the suspension, the Giants have more than held their own. In three series that included the rival Los Angeles Dodgers and contending Atlanta Braves, the Giants have won seven of 10 games, with a five-game win streak headed with a sweep of the Dodgers in Los Angeles.

That was the first time the Giants have swept the Dodgers in five years.

Matt Cain has continued to hold up his end of the rotation since the suspension, going 2-0 in 15 innings of work with only 2 ER. Surprisingly, the same cannot be said of Ryan Vogelsong, who led the league in ERA earlier this year at 2.27.

Vogelsong has a posted an abysmal 6.39 ERA in the month of August.

While there is certainly hope that Vogelsong can rebound, other starters in the Giants rotation have picked up the slack and will be critical down the stretch.

Two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum is pitching tonight for the Giants. While his ERA is a disturbing 5.30, he has the opportunity to salvage his first month this season with a winning percentage above .500 and is hoping to improve upon a 3.10 ERA since the All-Star break.

And after a forgettable start against the Mets at the beginning of the month, the Giants have won all of Barry Zito’s last four starts.

While that may have more to do with offensive output during his starts, performances like Zito’s last start (8 IP and two ER in the ninth inning due to Affeldt’s inability to prevent Zito’s two baserunners from scoring) might be enough to hold up the back-end of the rotation.

Buster Posey’s batting average is north of .370 since the beginning of July, which has held the Giants offense together—and put himself in the discussion for National League MVP.

Hector Sanchez has helped take some of the wear and tear off of Posey, and even though Sanchez’s offensive numbers of late are less than stellar he has proven to be capable of handling the Giants rotation—no easy feat for an inexperienced catcher.

Although he may be well under the radar, Joaquin Arias is an important player for the Giants to be successful. During Pablo Sandoval’s mid-season injury, Arias stepped up and his flexibility defensively is something that the Giants are very lucky to have.

Hitting .420 in the month of August is not too shabby, either.

While a closer-by-committee situation is less than ideal, the Giants do have multiple capable late-game relievers. Bruce Bochy is probably doing the right thing by riding whichever pitcher is hot, whether it’s Affeldt, Romo or Casilla.

The second team in the NL West
 that Gonzalez has played for.
The recent blockbuster trade between the Dodgers and Boston Red Sox may worry Giants fans, but the reality is that it should not.

This season, Beckett has 11 losses and an ERA above 5.00. Carl Crawford has had season-ending Tommy John surgery and even though Adrian Gonzalez is a powerful bat in the middle of the order, he is not worth the $100+ million he is due over the next six years.

With no other real competitor in the NL West, if the Giants can hold off the Dodgers and continue to get timely contributions from their entire organization, the division championship trophy will soon be sitting in San Francisco.

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