MLB: Back San Francisco Giants for glory

2010, 2012, 2014… 2016? The San Francisco Giants have a thing for even numbered years and they’re looking formidable in 2016.

Able to boast the best record in baseball come the halfway point of the season, the Giants are available at 5/2 (as of 16th July) to win the National League. Bruce Bochy’s outfit are dominating in the National League West, as they look to avenge for a relatively disappointing 2015.

Despite enduring a torrid time with injuries, the Giants have proven that victories do not need flamboyant home-run hitting performances or great offensive numbers to back up their success. Offensively, it has not been the best year for the Giants. Defensively, however, things have looked rosy.

Although the form of Jeff Samardzija dropped spectacularly off a cliff during the second quarter of the season, the Giants are still one of the best sides in baseball for starting pitchers’ ERA. The recovery of Jake Peavy, after a poor start to the season, along with the impressive few games started by Albert Suarez, has added to the brilliance of 2016 All Stars, Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto.

Bumgarner and Cueto sit cosily in the top five pitchers on their ERA and Cueto has pitched more innings than any other pitcher in the major leagues – including starting the All Star game for the National League. The two stars of Bochy’s rotation are the key to the Giants success, they make the task for the offense so much easier with their remarkable consistency and ease the workload on a troubled bullpen.

Matt Cain returns to the rotation, after injury halted him when he was beginning to throw well, leaving Samardzija as the main concern for Giants fans. His recent performances have seen him taken out of the game early, placing strain on the flaky Giants bullpen. The bullpen, itself, has been a real concern. The return of the artistry of Sergio Romo will have eased these worries somewhat, although Casilla must become far more reliable if the Giants are to claim another National League title (and maybe even another World Series).

Offensively, the Giants will soon return to something resembling their strongest line-up. Hunter Pence, Joe Panik and Matt Duffy are all likely to return from the disabled list within the next few weeks after a long period of unrest for the Giants. Angel Pagan, Denard Span and Ramiro Pena all faced brief spells out of action during the first half of the season, whilst the infield was home to players who were backup to the backups. Credit must go to Bochy for his ability to squeeze the best out of players who began 2016 at Sacramento, as he has juggled a largely inexperienced, depleted squad to a position of strength.

If Brandon Crawford, the best shortstop in baseball and Brandon Belt can continue their stellar offensive seasons, 2016 could just be another magical year for the Giants. As expected, Buster Posey has recorded some good numbers over the past 20 games, too.

No team in MLB comes close to the Giants defensively. Their pitching performances are one thing, but it is the remarkable performances of their infield particularly that really capture the imagination and set them apart from the rest. Although the offensive numbers might not reflect the Giants’ brilliance this season, it is hard to estimate the difference that their defensive displays make.

Led by the magnificent Crawford, the Giants’ defence makes them a safe bet to snatch the National League title with 888 Sport.