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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Giants getting boost from youngsters

A little over a month ago, the Giants were in desperate search for a halfway decent second basemen as they seemingly failed with every guy they trotted out there in Marco Scutaro's absence. Then all the sudden they found themselves in the need of a catcher after concussion issues with multiple players opened a major void behind the plate and Buster Posey.

Enter Joe Panik and Andrew Susac. The Giants top pick from the 2011 draft, Panik had a quiet start to his professional career before a solid season in AA Richmond last year and a torrid start at AAA Fresno this season. He's really been the story of the second half of the season and he just reached the 150 at-bat plateau making 2014 his official rookie year. It's not like his success has been a little 2-week lucky streak either, as he's shown he belongs. The 23 year-old second baseman has thrived in all aspects of the game since taking over the everyday job at second base August 4th. Since that date, he's hit .391 with 1 home run, 8 RBI, 11 runs and a .907 OPS in 87 at-bats. He's taken over the second spot in the order, finally allowing Hunter Pence to move back down into the middle, something I've been asking for since June. Panik's been a big reason why the offensive ship has seemed to right itself, and why the Giants are optimistic heading into September. After Saturday night's win over Milwaukee, they now sit atop the NL Wild card standings, and are now just 2.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West. What was once a black hole on the roster, and a spot that most assumed would go without a legitimate Major League caliber player the rest of the year not only has become a strength now, but a commodity for the future.

Andrew Susac, playing behind Buster Posey, hasn't had the chance to make quite the impact that Panik has, but he's made a strong impression on the Giants' staff himself. He's hitting .225 with 2 homers and 9 RBI in 60 at-bats, but has hit over .250 with both his HR and 8 RBI in the month of August. With Hector Sanchez likely out for the year due to concussion complications, and Brandon Belt still on the DL through at least mid-September with the same issue, the Giants will need Susac to avoid the rookie mishaps with a big role down the stretch. Michael Morse will continue to be the primary first basemen until Belt does return, and luckily Gregor Blanco is hitting a bit better out in left, but should things change and Blanco starts slumping and/or Belt doesn't return soon, it'll all lead to more playing time for Susac.

The Giants didn't make that blockbuster deadline deal, but they've gotten a shot in the arm from aforementioned rookies and the one deal they did make has slowly but surely begun to pay off. Jake Peavy took a no-hitter into the 8th inning Saturday night at AT&T Park vs. the Brewers. He did yield a one-out single to Mark Reynolds in the top of the eighth inning to lose the bid but put together his best outing in a Giants uni by far. He now sits at 3-4 with a 2.66 ERA in 7 starts since coming over from Boston and all of the sudden is looking like the San Diego Jake Peavy. With Tim Lincecum's move to pen likely permanent the rest of the year, the Giants will need everybody in the rotation to step it up and so far the results have been there. Lincecum did have that hot streak during his no-hitter where it did look like he was beginning to take that next step, but he's become a liability and a guy that's almost a guaranteed loss lately. Moving him from the rotation is addition by subtraction in itself, so if Petit pitches like he did vs. the Rockies Thursday, then this rotation will be much stronger down the stretch. Not to mention, Lincecum has shown to be brilliant in his short stints in relief during his career, so hopefully the Giants have an ace reliever to use in any situation down the stretch. A wild-card that Bruce Bochy could get real creative with.

Random Notes: The Giants offense as a whole seems to be heating up. Pablo Sandoval has been steadily warming up, Buster Posey has been hitting balls out of the ballpark and watching his average rise, and even Michael Morse is starting to drive in runs with more consistency. Brandon Belt isn't expected to start doing any baseball work for two more weeks, but this team may have enough to get into the postseason without him. At which point, they most definitely will need him, so they have to do whatever is necessary to get Belt healthy over the next month.... Besides the guys getting the headlines these days like the Peavy's and Panik's, there have been some unsung heroes as well. One of which has been Travis Ishikawa, who's finally given this team a professional bat off the bench and hopefully someone they can keep on the roster after Belt comes back (assuming Belt does come back)... We've hit the waiver trade deadline day, and unless the Giants get something done in the next 24 hours (highly unlikely), then they will be getting no more outside help the rest of the way, and if they do, that person won't be postseason eligible.
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The Giants Baseball Blog
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