What's interesting about the San Francisco Giants' recent run of success (World Series titles in 2010, 2012, 2014) is that they have not even made the playoffs during the odd years. In an era designed to prevent dynasties and repeat champions the Giants have found a loophole, creating a mini-dynasty by only winning every other year. Whether that is a byproduct of an organizational philosophy or simply a coincidence we don't know. What we do know is that it's an even year and the Giants are back at it again.
Over the weekend San Fran took two out of three from the Cubs, giving them wins in ten of their past eleven overall, which is good for first place and a four game lead in the NL West. The Cubs are still the best team, the Nationals have a better record, and the Mets are defending NL champs, but nobody wants to play the Giants come October.
The reason for this, of course, is Madison Bumgarner. In addition to his highly impressive post-season resume MadBum is having a career year. Including last night's 7.2 shutout innings versus the high powered Cubs, the Giants have won each of his past six starts. During this stretch Bumgarner is 5-0 with a 1.25 ERA. Overall for the season he is 6-2 with a 2.17 ERA and 77 strikeouts in just 66.1 innings pitched.
What makes the Giants dangerous in 2016 is the addition of Johnny Cueto. After signing a reasonable six year, $130 million contract this off-season the 30-year-old is having a career year. Through nine starts he is 6-1 with a 2.70 ERA and a league-leading two complete games. He is taking advantage of spacious AT&T park, having given up just two homers in over 66 innings. Cueto is also allowing a career low 1.6 walks per nine, which has been a big part of the team's overall pitching success. While the Giants rank 10th out of 30 teams in overall ERA, they are giving up the third fewest walks per nine in all of baseball.
On the offensive side the Giants are taking advantage of walks. Out of 30 teams San Fran ranks 14th in runs, 11th in batting average, 11th in stolen bases, and 27th in home runs. However, they rank fifth in OBP and fourth in walks. If we learned anything from Moneyball it's that walks had more value than we thought. While this is now common knowledge it shows the franchise has adjusted after finishing 2015 ranked 19th in walks per game.
While Buster Posey is off to a slow start Brandon Belt and Hunter Pence are having good seasons to carry the offense. Closer Santiago has pitched to a 1.93 ERA. The 2016 Giants are following the same formula as the former championship teams and are once again positioned for a deep playoff run. Death, taxes, and the San Francisco Giants in an even year.