Until the last week or so, the Chicago Cubs were considered the best team in baseball. But after a rough stretch – the Cubs (49-26) have gone 2-6 in their last eight games – that thinking has changed, at least a little.
That’s because the San Francisco Giants (49-29) are 32-11 in their last 43 games and have won 13 of 15 overall. The fact that it’s an even year doesn’t hurt, either. The Giants won the World Series in 2010, 2012 and 2014, so in a way, they’re due.
The best part? The Giants actually believe that.
“Well, you know in sports you try to grab onto anything that’s going to give you some positive vibes and (make you) think you can win,” MLB Network analyst Harold Reynolds said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Being around the Giants in spring training, they openly talked about, ‘It’s an even year. Look out.’ So I guess there’s something to it. I don’t know if they all of a sudden think they can re-up or spend more money, but they went out and got a couple pitchers this year in (Johnny) Cueto and (Jeff) Samardzija. They changed their roster a little bit, and they’re playing well. I think right now, if you ask me, they’re the best team in baseball. They’re playing great. And this is without Hunter Pence and really the full depth of their lineup, but they’re really good. They catch the ball, they don’t make a lot of mistakes, they put the ball in play and they pitch. Those are the things that are different in today’s game. If you can do those things consistently, you’re going to win.”
Cueto is 11-1 with a 2.42 ERA, while Madison Bumgarner is 8-4 with a 1.99 ERA. Together, they have 27 quality starts in 32 outings.
The offense is pulling its weight as well, especially Brandon Belt. The 28-year-old first baseman leads the Giants in average (.301), OBP (.403), hits (78) and homers (10) and is second in RBIs (38).
“I’m a big fan,” Reynolds said of Belt. “It’s been interesting watching him change his swing. Here’s a guy who hit the ball to left-center field, left field a lot when he first came up. And he’s understood that in that ball park, if I’m going to hit a home run, it’s going to have to be pulled. He went from a pull hitter to now he’s back spraying the ball again. That ball park is tough. The numbers are not going to translate in that ball park for 81 home games, but if he can hit home runs on the road and drive in runs and do what he’s doing, he’s very productive. I think the Giants are comfortable enough to (put) him in the middle of the lineup. He’s protecting Buster Posey, they feel real good about him, and I just like how they’ve developed.”
Brandon Crawford and Joe Panik, meanwhile, are first and third, respectively, on the team in RBIs, with 44 and 36. They’ve also combined for 13 homers, eight triples, 22 doubles, 74 runs and eight steals.
That’s pretty good middle-infield production.
“They let Brandon Crawford develop. They let Panik (develop),” Reynolds said. “They didn’t platoon these guys (and sit them against tough lefties). They let them play through their lumps, and now you’ve got three bonafide left-hand hitters that are a big part of the thing you’ve got going on out there. So I really like how they’ve gone about it, and Belt’s been right in the middle of their development.”