The San Francisco Giants‘ fast start is a product of each player knowing his role on the 25-man roster, a rarity at the beginning of a 162-game baseball marathon. While injuries and unexpected lapses will certainly take a toll over the course of the season, the Giants hold a distinctive early advantage over their division rivals. That fact has been evidenced over San Francisco’s first six games.
At this point of the season, it would be somewhat ill-faded to argue that San Francisco was completely overlooked in preseason power rankings, although it’s apparent the Giants are a much better ball club than they were a year ago. The Giants are a balanced team, featuring effective starting pitching and a deep lineup capable of scoring runs in a hurry. The Giants also boast a concrete bullpen, especially at the back end.
San Francisco’s 25-man roster doesn’t resemble what manager Bruce Bochy hoped it would look like at the beginning of Spring Training. Second baseman Marco Scutaro remains sidelined with lower back problems, while left-handed reliever Jeremy Affeldt continues to rehab a right knee sprain at triple-A Fresno. Those absences don’t change the fact that each player holds a specific role on the team, though.
Bochy has adopted a relatively unconventional approach in supplanting reserve outfielders Gregor Blanco and Juan Perez into left field during the middle innings for slugger Mike Morse, who lacks sufficient outfield range. The Giants have owned the advantage of building early leads in each of their first six games, enabling Bochy to freely make outfield substitutions without seriously handicapping the lineup’s ability to produce. Neither Blanco or Perez are threats at the plate.
Of the Giants’ 13 position players, each player comes to the ballpark everyday knowing he has a chance to help his team win. On the surface, the same could be said for every team in the big leagues, but not to the extent to which the Giants are employing their players. Every position player on the Giants’ roster has been granted the opportunity to start at least one game in the first week. That’s a unique phenomenon, considering that most teams begin the season with a static lineup, barring injury.
Bochy is renowned for mixing his bullpen arms to setup the most viable statistical matchups in favor of his team, which has helped Giants’ relievers immediately gain an understanding of when they’re going to be used. Left-handed specialist Javier Lopez is a prime example. Lopez is one of the toughest relievers in baseball against left-handed hitters, holding them to a .156 batting average in 2013. Lopez knows that he’s going to get the nod in a late inning situation against a tough left-handed bat. Practically every other Giants’ reliever is used in situations which fits his strengths.
At 5-1, the Giants own the best record in baseball. Their early successes have been positively influenced by defined roles. As the season progresses, a majority of teams in contention will adopt a customized formula based on player strengths in order to increase their chances of winning. At the moment, the Giants are ahead of the curve.