The San Francisco Giants Senior Vice President and General Manager Brian Sabean has been the leading force behind some brilliant acquisitions this season, namely Marco Scutaro and Hunter Pence. During the weeks leading up to the MLB Trade Deadline, the Giants were quietly looking for improvement. Then, left-fielder Melky Cabrera tested positive for performance enhancing drugs, ending his MVP-caliber season with a 50-game suspension. Consequently, the Giants were left dazed and scrambling to fill their offensive void. Enter Scutaro and Pence.
The Giants acquired second baseman Scutaro on July 27, hoping he could fill a much-needed void on the right side of the infield. Since his arrival, he has been lighting up pitchers like it’s the Fourth of July. In 49 games with San Francisco, he has garnered a team-high .355 batting average and .372 on-baser percentage. Couple that with a staggering .455 slugging percentage, and you have one of the best second basemen in the game since the All-Star break.
While Scutaro doesn’t possess a power swing, his sweet line-drive stroke through the strike zone makes onlookers swoon. The 37-year-old star has accumulated a team-best 71 hits since being acquired, while accounting for 29 runs. That’s more than a run a game. Not bad for a team who struggled mightily to score runs in their previous two years. And now, he has earned a 0.8 Wins Above Average (WAA) and a 1.4 Wins Above Replacement, both above average numbers for the season.
So how can anyone see his late-season surge coming?
In all, Scutaro’s pedestrian numbers with the Colorado Rockies coupled with his hot-hitting has led him to a .293 batting average, with six homers and a .724 OPS, just in line with his career marks. While he’s been a solid, all-around player during the length of his career, forecasting his recent dominance is either a mark of a sorcerer or a genius of a general manager.
Likewise, the acquisition of Pence has made the Giants a clear contender for the World Series crown. Since his mid-season struggles, he has affirmed his slug-happy role behind Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval and made the Giants a scary post-season foe.
“I think he’s gotten settled in over here and [his] at-bats have gotten better and better,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “He’s gotten some big hits for us, and I think we’ve got a good player. as he gets some time here, he’s getting more and more comfortable. It’s not that easy to get traded to a different club, but he’s settled in and now his bat’s picking up.”
It sure has. Pence has hit a hot streak during the last few weeks of September, hitting safely in 17 of his last 20 games entering Tuesday. In Monday’s game against the Rockies, he drove in the go-ahead run to top their NL-West rivals 2-1, while extending his team-best mark of 35 RBIs since he joined the ball club.
Pence’s blissful arrival into San Francisco wasn’t all glitz and glamour. After a sluggish couple outings, his name was quickly met with speculation and unsupportive rhetoric. The offensive drought continued through 25 games, where the former-Philadelphia Philly batted a meager .191 with little to no production in the fifth spot. Then signs began to change, with little reason.
“Hitting is a funny thing; it’s hard to explain sometimes,” Pence said. “You can be feeling pretty good and getting out, and sometimes you won’t be feeling great and getting on. I feel fine, and I feel good. I’m going to keep going up there and stick with what I’m trying to do and it’s been working out.”
While Pence never got off to the start he wanted with the Giants, he eventually earned his keep and the trust of San Francisco fans. Even MLB analysts jumped in to say Pence would eventually return to his career .287 batting average and .340 on-base percentage (he currently hits .259 with a.326 OBP). And maybe the all-knowing Sabean saw it coming. A player of Pence’s esteem doesn’t usually fall into a year-long slump, especially during the prime of his career. Hats off the Giants scrupulous management, and their one unsung hero.
Let us also not forget about the offseason acquisitions of Cabrera and Angel Pagan. While Cabrera’s PED use and subsequent 50-game suspension has been the butt of much speculation, he empowered the Giants atop the NL-West with NL MVP numbers. Moreover, Pagan’s presence in the ball club has sured up the center field position, a spot which has been abandoned since the decline of Andres Torres and other failed players. Offensively, he has given the Giants a punch at the top of the lineup. In fact, the Puerto-Rican native celebrated his league-leading 14th triple of the season during Tuesday night’s 6-3 win against the Rockies, which marks a Giants’ franchise record.
If there was ever a formula to build a World Series-caliber team, Sabean has done it before, and all signs point to him doing it again. The emergence of Scutaro and Pence are arguably the two best acquisitions for the price.