|Chicks actually dig the triple...|
And this process was successful beyond anyone's wildest imagination, providing a formula that took them to the World Championship in 2010. The next year, the same formula worked, with the Giants leading the division until, late in the season, the pitiful offense finally collapsed utterly, and even with their great pitching they simply couldn't win enough games to make the playoffs.
This year looked like they had finally perfected the formula they knew could take them to the promised land. The starting pitching was incredible, even with the regression of superstar Tim Lincecum to quivering head case, and the bullpen was the best ever, even after accounting for the loss of quirky closer Brian Wilson. There were some early problems on defense, but those were more than offset by an effective offense build around speed and good on-base guys at the top of the lineup and RBI guys Posey, Sandoval and Pagan farther down. And sure enough, it all came together in June, behind consistently brilliant pitching, reliable defense and enough runs, and the Giants took over first place a week before the all star break.
Then came the road trip from (to?) hell. Three in Washington and three in Pittsburgh over the Fourth of July holiday week in the midst of a record setting heat wave. The result? A one and five trip and some very serious questions about what this team is actually about. Because it wasn't the offense that went south (although for the most part the hitters didn't cover themselves in glory), it was the pitching that collapsed. The thing to keep in mind is that these were two first place teams with powerful young hitters, the weather was over one hundred degrees with high humidity in games played on the East Coast. There was every reason to think that the pitching would collapse - just as there is every reason to think they will return to their previously dominant ways when they get back to the West Coast.
But that's not the answer. Even with the expanded playoffs, in order to make the post-season the Giants are going to have to win on the road, against good teams in the heat. And because they go to these smaller ballparks with such a severe offensive disadvantage, especially in the area of the home run, they will remain deeply dependent on their pitching to hold powerful lineups to very few runs. Because even at the trade deadline, power hitters don't want to come to San Francisco, and the Giants would actually be foolish to pursue them, because their home run numbers will be a shocking disappointment. I remind you, because it's hard to even remember at all, that Carlos Beltran was a Giant last year. It wasn't fun for Carlos, and it wasn't good for the Giants.
Nope. This team can't try to change its spots. If the Giants can't win with their starting pitching, bullpen and defense, then they can't win. Maybe the pitchers just need a few days off. Maybe they'll come back from the break refreshed and renewed. Maybe what we saw over the last week was an anomaly. Better hope so. Because the alternative explanation is that the Giants are exposed, that their vaunted pitching isn't good enough, and in a few weeks we'll shrug our shoulders, say "wait'll next year and start watching Alex Smith and the Forty Niners...