The major league-leading San Francisco Giants flaunt a 25-man roster with average talent at best, but much like their championship seasons in 2010 and 2012, their team has gelled as a unit to form the “best” all-around squad in baseball. The Giants are the most efficient clutch-hitting team in the big leagues, registering a .283 batting average with two outs and runners in scoring position. Their ability to perform well in clutch situations has propelled them to an outstanding 42-21 mark through the season’s first 63 games.
On paper, San Francisco doesn’t boast the name brand personnel that satisfies what fans and pundits consider “championship worthy.” The Giants are, in many ways, the quintessential polar opposite of the arch-rival Los Angeles Dodgers, who were looked at as a team capable of running away with the NL West in Spring Training. Now, the Dodgers find themselves frantically trying to chase down the Giants, who stand atop the division a full 10 games ahead of Los Angeles in the loss column.
There are several reasons that can be attributed to the Giants’ early season success, but the most vital aspect of their ability to consistently win on a nightly basis is the productivity they’ve received from their bench. Giants’ role players have collectively become an irreplaceable commodity. While their numbers don’t exactly jump off the stat sheet, players like Gregor Blanco and Tyler Colvin have added depth to a team that ranks seventh overall in runs scored (278).
Blanco supplies the Giants with stellar late-inning defense (1.000 fielding percentage in 180.1 innings). He also has the ability to spell leadoff hitter Angel Pagan at least once per week, locking down the top of the order. Blanco has recorded eight hits, including three for extra bases, in 30 at bats in the leadoff spot this season.
Scrap heap pickups Brandon Hicks, who has proven to be an asset as the Giants’ starting second baseman in the wake of Marco Sctuaro‘s lingering lower back ailment, and fifth outfielder Tyler Colvin (.739 OPS in 62 at-bats) have been solid to date. Hicks’ .188 batting average might appear ugly on the surface, but he boasts a respectable .305 on-base percentage out of the bottom of the order. He also has eight home runs and 21 RBIs. Hicks and shortstop Brandon Crawford have combined to record the most RBI of all eighth place hitters in baseball (24).
The Giants are not a flashy ball club; rather, they’re a team that thrives in clutch situations and gains valuable contributions from just about everybody on the roster. At the beginning of the 2014 season, it didn’t appear as though San Francisco’s bench would be a strength, but they continue to prove doubters wrong.