Time for the San Francisco Giants to Adjust Expectations?
Before the 2010 Major League Baseball season began, I really wanted to put the San Francisco Giants atop the division when previewing the National League West .
Instead, I stuck them in second and gave them the NL Wild Card because I figured the more grandiose vision was the product of the fan in me.
Furthermore, I thought granting them a postseason berth was still setting the bar pretty high. Possibly a little too high.
Well, a month into the season, I'm beginning to wonder whether I might've undersold the Gents. I bet I'm not alone.
With their win on Saturday over the Colorado Rockies, los Gigantes have ensured themselves at least a 6-3 jaunt through a nine-game gauntlet consisting of the St. Louis Cardinals, Philadelphia Phillies, and Rox.
If the fellas can win behind Jonathan Sanchez on Sunday, they'd register a sweep of the team many (including myself) picked to win the division, and would emerge from a trio of series against 2009 playoff teams with seven wins.
Now, it's true the G-Men missed Chris Carpenter when the Redbirds came through and Phils were short Jimmy Rollins. Meanwhile, the Blake Street Bombers are down starters Jorge De La Rosa and Jason Hammel, along with closer Huston Street.
However, San Francisco isn't exactly at full strength—Aaron Rowand should make his first appearance on Sunday, closer Brian Wilson is shelved with a mild groin strain as is Edgar Renteria, and Juan Uribe is playing through a hot elbow.
There's also the matter of Freddy Sanchez, who's still rehabbing from offseason surgeries, and Buster Posey, who is caught in the Super 2 chains of baseball economics.
So the Giants might not have faced the most formidable clubs in the Senior Circuit at full strength, but they didn't have all hands on deck either.
Furthermore, they touched up two elite right-handed aces in Adam Wainwright and Roy Halladay while battering a very good lefty in Cole Hamels well enough to win (I'll leave it at that).
In the finale against Colorado, San Francisco might get yet another tough assignment in Ubaldo Jimenez, but no tougher than what they've already seen.
Regardless of the outcome, the Orange and Black will depart for Florida having completed a highly successful home stand against the best the NL has to offer. That's reason enough to get at least a bit starry-eyed.
Granted, the 2010 season is all of 23 games old for the Giants—that's not exactly a conclusive sampling, but it is a meaningful chunk.
It's not crazy to think the general form might hold for the remainder of the slate.
You can etch it in stone that the San Francisco offense won't hit a collective .280, which is good for third in all of the Show . C'mon, that's higher than the Tampa Bay Rays, New York Yankees, and Philadelphia Phillies—no way it holds up.
Nor will the .768 team OPS, good for fourth in the National League.
A more accurate barometer of the splinters' prowess is probably the combo of runs scored and batted in—the Gents check in at 12th and tied for 12th in those categories, respectively.
Nevertheless, there are signs that indicate the offense might be better than most observers thought, which would put it somewhere in the mediocre range.
Pablo Sandoval is the real deal so his performance should stay right around its current brilliance—.352 BA, .965 OPS, 12 R, 10 RBI, 3 HR, and 2 SB. Bengie Molina won't rake all year at his current .343 clip, but the OPS of .871 is sustainable for Big Money.
Likewise, Renteria, Rowand, Uribe, and Aubrey Huff will certainly cool off as the weather gets warmer, but they'll stay productive so long as they don't go into the tank and that unpleasant specter would require a precipitous decline from their April output.
The x-factor in the batting order is Nate Schierholtz.
Obviously, nobody is fool enough to believe a 26-year-old getting his first extended taste of regular playing time will hit .373 over 162 games. Additionally the 1.01 OPS will fall.
Yet the kid has every one of his five tools plated in gold —he can fly, the ball jumps off his bat (though AT&T Park will keep his big fly totals down), you see the average, his defense is nice in a difficult right field, and just ask Ryan Howard or Chase Utley about the cannon hanging from his right shoulder.
The relevant question, then, is how far will those gaudy stats drop?
And a reasonable answer is, not that far.
If Nate the Great can keep himself in Big Money/Little Money territory, that would give San Francisco a third genuinely dangerous weapon holding maple or ash.
Given the April just turned in by the pitching staff, a trio of thumpers to go with a host of complementary pieces would be more than sufficient to turn this preseason playoff hopeful into a legitimate World Series contender.
That sounds utterly insane given the comparably weak lumber, but few teams can match the potential suffocation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and Barry Zito. Especially if the aces can finish as blindingly as they started.
Again, the first week of May is still much too soon to draw any firm conclusions about a season that endures until October. But it's not too early to start dreaming.
And the San Francisco Giants have just given us the beginnings of a very sweet one.