It's been a little more than 81 games (94 to be exact) and the reigning World Series Champions are having a surprisingly good odd year. They currently sit 2.5 games behind the first place Los Angeles Dodgers and are in the Wild Card mix. With several key injuries and big losses in power in the offseason, here are ten surprises from the Giants thus far:
10. Chris Heston Who?
The 27-year-old rookie made the roster after injuries to both Matt Cain and Jake Peavy early on in the year. Since his call-up, he has solidified himself in the rotation. Already with a 10-5 record and an impressive 3.18 ERA - he leads the starters in ERA, wins, home runs allowed and hits per nine innings. Did I mention he threw a no-hitter already?
9. George Kontos Emergence
Kontos has been a part of the Giants since his call-up in 2012. He has had a bumpy ride since then, splitting time between Fresno and San Francisco. This year, he has been the most reliable reliever on the roster. His 1.58 ERA and .85 WHIP leads all Giants relievers by a landslide and it seems like he has not inherited a run in forever - his 0.83 batting average against with at least one runner on base is very impressive.
8. Joe Panik Power
We knew from last season Panik could hit for average, but with just one home run last year in over 250 at-bats, the last thing Giants fans expected was him hitting for power. Until now. In 392 at-bats this year, his 7 home runs rank fourth out of all NL second basemen. He is on pace to finish the season with home runs in the 'teens. Plus his on-base percentage is .380 - second behind Buster Posey on the team.
7. The Nori Aoki Effect
When the Giants signed free agent Nori Aoki away from the team they beat in the World Series last year, fans thought they knew what they were getting. In the Fall Classic last year, Aoki hit .071 in 14 at-bats against the Giants. This year, in 262 at-bats Aoki is batting .317 - leading the team along with Posey. He is also among the top base stealers in the national league and almost made the all-star team earlier this month. More good news: he's expected back from the DL this week.
6. Brandon Crawford Is Very Good
We knew his glove was elite, but we had no idea his bat could be as big of a threat it has been all year. He is second on the team in home runs (13), RBI (58) and third in doubles. His career high in home runs in a season was the 10 he hit last year. He surpassed that about half way this year and has now hit two in the last two games. According to Fangraphs, he is the best shortstop in the league in terms of WAR with 3.1. Who is second place? Alcides Escobar of the Royals with 2.7.
5. Pablo Sandoval Is A Mediocre Third Baseman
Perhaps the Giants front office already knew it, but many fans were sad to see their fat and happy third baseman leave for Boston last winter. How is he doing now? Seven home runs, 30 RBI, a .263 batting average and a horrible -0.9 WAR. Yep, the Giants dodged a huge fat bullet by losing the bidding war on Sandoval.
4. Madison Bumgarner's Arm Hasn't Fallen Off
Last year, Bumgarner threw a league-high 270 innings. This year, he leads the team again and has already racked up 125. The guy is just unbreakable and remarkably tough. His numbers this year aren't amazing like his playoff numbers of last year, but he has remained the consistent starter (along with Heston) in the rotation to rely on.
3. Forgetting About Brandon Belt
Belt has been somewhat of an afterthought this season as he has quietly put together a nice season thus far. His WAR ranks 8th in the league out of all first basemen and 5th in the NL. His power is a tad less impressive than years past, but he has hit 10 home runs and his on-base percentage has been a delightful .350 considering his .274 batting average. He still strikes out a bit much, but I'm sure he's glad the pressure has been taken off him this year.
2. Casey McGehee is McGone
After frantically trying to fill the fat void at third base this offseason, the Giants traded a B-level prospect for Casey McGehee. He was a disappointment from the beginning. No power, no average, a mediocre glove and little personality - he was looking like another veteran Bochy and the gang would send out on the field to start most games. Not this time. The Giants DFA'd him (twice) and he is now back on the miserable Marlins. That quick move after only 49 games opened up a spot for...
1. Matt Duffy.
I don't know where to begin with Duffy. He never hit a home run in more than 500 attempts in his college career, had average numbers in the minors and was called up this year when McGehee went on the DL early on. The Giants never looked back. In 289 at-bats, his .298 batting average and 8 home runs have been the most surprising stat of the year. He is the sixth-best third baseman in the entire league and he is still a rookie. To compare, Sandoval is the 29th most valuable third baseman in the league. He's become a staple to the top of the order, along with Panik, Posey, Pence and Aoki.
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