We are at the halfway point of the season, and no team in baseball has a better record than the San Francisco Giants. At 57-33, they have a better record than any of the championship teams in recent years. It is certainly starting to look like that “Even Year Magic” has some merit to it after all.
The #SFGiants are 57-33 (.633). It is their best start through 90 games played since 1993, 60-30 (.667). They finished 103-59 (.636).
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) July 11, 2016
The Giants are wining with pitching. They are led by All-Stars Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. Bumgarner has the numbers to back up being the team’s ace, but Cueto has been right there statistically. Cueto is 13-1 with a 2.47 earned run average and 115 strikeouts. “Johnny Beisbol” might already be the best free agent signing by the Giants since Barry Bonds.
The Giants have eight complete games (Cueto has 4, Bumgarner has 3). No other NL team has more than 3.
— Andrew Baggarly (@extrabaggs) July 11, 2016
The Giants are winning despite only 50 games so far from Hunter Pence, who is out with an oblique injury and 58 games from Angel Pagan, who has also been out with various injuries. Pence and Pagan have been a huge part of what has made the Giants offense work the last several years, and yet the Giants have had to rely on young players from their system to help fill the void. Rookies Mac Williamson and Jarrett Parker have been called up this season to play the outfield and their contributions have helped continue the team’s winning ways.
The infield is just as unhealthy, with Joe Panik and Matt Duffy each playing only 70 games so far this season. Both are still out as the team heads to the All-Star break. “The Brandons,” Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, have picked up the offensive slack, along with the team’s best hitter Buster Posey. Posey, who is starting at catcher once again in the All-Star Game for the National League, is expected to be the best bat in the Giants lineup. What might be more surprising is that Belt has actually had the better year so far. He leads the team in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He has certainly earned his first trip to the Midsummer Classic.
The Giants bullpen has struggled mightily all season, blowing 17 leads overall. Sergio Romo, who has been one of the best relief pitchers for the Giants in their championship years, was also hurt for most of the first half of the season. Romo has only seven appearances, where rookies Josh Osich and Hunter Strickland have 43 and 41 respectively. Relying on young, unproven arms has made things difficult for manager Bruce Bochy in the late innings. Closer Santiago Casilla has four blown saves, but he also has converted 21 saves with a 2.86 ERA. The team is still the hottest team in baseball heading into the break.
40-15 since May 11
— #SFGStats (@SFG_Stats) July 11, 2016
In 2011, 2013 and 2015, injuries were one of the reasons the Giants missed the playoffs. So how do the 2016 Giants have the best record in baseball despite missing so many key players? The Giants have had dominant pitching before, but the staff has been especially good this year. Bumgarner and Cueto have led the way, but the team’s other big free-agent signing, Jeff Samardzija, has also been excellent. Jake Peavy has had a roller coaster first half. Peavy’s first nine starts were rough and fans were clamoring for Peavy to be sent packing and the team was wondering what to do with the veteran. His next nine starts were excellent and has re-established Peavy as one of the team’s most reliable pitchers. As I noted on Twitter, Sunday, Peavy has had a tale of two seasons already in 2016.
Jake Peavy in 2016:
1st 9 starts: 41.2 IP, 38 ER, an 8.21 ERA & 1.917 WHIP
Next 9 starts: 52 IP, 15 ER, a 2.60 ERA & 1.096 WHIP
— Candlestick Will (@CandlestickWill) July 11, 2016
Matt Cain has also had a rough season so far, as well as multiple trips to the disabled list. Minor league free agent Albert Suarez has stepped in during Cain’s absence and really helped solidify the rotation.
That’s the other huge component to this year’s steady play is the contribution made by several minor league call-ups. Conor Gillaspie, Ramiro Pena, Grant Green and Ruben Tejada have stepped up and helped the Giants find ways to win. Each has been let go by other organizations and are embracing this chance to be a part of a pennant race.
Ultimately, having the best record in the game means very little in July. It will only matter if the record at the end of the season is good enough for a playoff berth. If 2016 is going to be another magical even year for the Giants, they will have to keep this momentum into the Fall. Getting healthy could be as important as any trade they could make, but don’t be surprised if the Giants front office looks to address their bullpen before the trade deadline. All things considered, there isn’t much to complain about when you are the best team in baseball.