There are few things more enjoyable in baseball right now than watching the San Francisco Giants. Despite having the third best record in the National League, being eleven games over .500 and leading the National League West by two and a half games over the Arizona Diamonbacks, the San Francisco Giants have only scored four more runs than they’ve allowed.
If you look at their Pythagorean Record they should only be a mere game above .500, and yet they remain an incredibly exciting an successful team largely due to their record in close games. The Giants are 22-12 in one run games.
I’m not just waxing poetic about a team whose bandwagon I jumped on last season. They’re even fun to watch during losses. Take last night as an example.
Trailing the Chicago Cubs by a run in the top of the ninth, after a fantastic pitching duel between Ryan Dempster and Tim Lincecum, the Giants somehow found themselves back in the game after putting together a rally and benefiting from back to back to back defensive miscues from Cubs center fielder Tony Campana. After tying the game, the bases were loaded with one out for Cody Ross. Unfortunately, last year’s “clutch” star grounded into a double play and ended the rally with the precision of an assassin.
In the bottom half of the inning, Campana redeemed himself and got on base with a weak infield single, got bunted over to second, advanced to third on a groundout and then scored on an Aramis Ramirez fliner to left field that dropped for a hit.
The thing about last night’s game that’s so representative of the Giants this season and last is that they found themselves in it even though they really had no business being there. With such an anemic offense it’s a wonder that they win any games at all, and yet they do, close and exciting ones (most of the time), usually thanks to a great pitching, both from their starters and relievers.
However, the idea that this team plays better than they should extends beyond just one run games. Looking at the contracts they’ve doled out and the players that they invest in, it’s almost as though this team wins in spite of itself.
The highest paid player on the Giants right now is Barry Zito, whom Giants GM Brian Sabean signed for seven years ahead of the 2007 season at a total cost of $126 million. Since 2007, Zito has contributed a total WAR of only 7.4. In 2008, the Giants overspent on free agent outfielder Aaron Rowand, signing him to a five year $60 million contract. Since that time, he’s contributed 5.3 wins above replacement. Despite the high salaries, neither player was even named to the team’s postseason roster last year.
Even when the Giants make a smart move, they somehow find a way to mess it up. Take Aubrey Huff as an example. Last year, San Francisco took advantage of an off year for Huff in 2009 and signed the slugger to a dirt cheap one year deal worth $3 million. He responded by putting together a 5.8 WAR season and was a major contributor during their playoff run. In the offseason, the Giants inked Huff to a two year contract worth $22 million. This season, he has the sixth lowest wins above replacement in the league, getting on base less than 30% of the time.
And it doesn’t end there. In addition to still being on the hook for $6 million to Mark DeRosa, the Giants signed Miguel Tejada to a one year deal worth $6.5 million. And instead of getting out of the Freddy Sanchez business, Sabean extended the $6 million he’s owed for this year to another $6 million next year.
On top of all this, there was talk yesterday that the Giants might be interested in picking up Juan Uribe from the Dodgers after he left San Francisco this offseason to sign a ridiculous three year contract for $21 million. This season, Uribe has a .578 OPS. Most Major League Baseball players can do put up those kind of numbers accidentally. The only thing interested in picking up Juan Uribe should be a garbage truck.
And yet, these are the San Francisco Giants, winning games, divisions and possibly another championship that they simply shouldn’t. It may not be predictable, but it sure is fun.
Update: Sabean is denying interest in Uribe.
And The Rest
The New York Yankees are bringing back Sergio Mitre.
Derek Jeter may go on an affiliate tour before returning to the Yankees next week.
Jonah Keri sees the Ryan Howard contract as a deal that had to be done for marketing purposes. You know what’s pretty easy to market? A really good baseball team.
How can you not like the new mascot for the Amarillo Sox? He likes you, like really likes you.
David Purcey’s struggles continue. Even utility outfielders are pitching better than him.
In Stuff We Knew Would Only Be A Matter Of Time: Erik Bedard is on the Disabled List.
MLB won’t allow you to create a Chapter 11 Los Angeles Dodgers jersey. Weak sauce.
Even The Far Side Cartoons love the Gamecocks.
Eric Byrnes takes out Harold Reynolds: