By John Shea @real_johnshea on September 1, 2014
The playoff-hopeful San Francisco Giants excelled during the dog days, posting a solid 16-12 record during the month of August to climb back into contention in the NL West. The Giants' recent stretch of dominant pitching performances has catapulted them into a favorable position entering September. San Francisco controls its own destiny. The addition of a couple key bullpen arms and an increase in bench depth will prove vital down the stretch.
The Giants recalled backup outfielder Juan Perez for one reason: defense. The 27-year-old wet newspaper "slugger" owns a career .224 batting average in 152 career at-bats. He's recorded just 11 hits in 71 plate appearances in 2014. Perez has registered a career .991 fielding percentage in parts of two big league seasons and will likely see his only action as a pinch-runner and defensive replacement for Michael Morse.
After spending a decent chunk of the 2013 campaign with the Giants' big league club, Guillermo Quiroz has spent the entirety of the 2014 season in Triple-A. The 10-year veteran will likely serve the primary purpose of being the Giants' backup catcher, which is advantageous because it allows Buster Posey to shift to first base, spelling his tired legs. Rookie Andrew Susac should see an increase in playing time behind the dish.
Bullpen fatigue is a noticeable issue for a team that recently coughed up a 5-0 lead against the Washington Nationals as the 'pen allowed a whopping 11 runs in relief. Closer Santiago Casilla allowed five earned runs in August; he surrendered just five runs over the season's first four months. Left-handed setup man Jeremy Affeldt has also worn down, failing to record an out in two of his last three appearances while allowing four earned runs.
The biggest issue plaguing the Giants all season has been a lack of bench depth. Although the return of lead-off hitter Angel Pagan and the explosive emergence of rookie Joe Panik have helped, the Giants remain vulnerable in late and close situations that require bench help. Rookie Chris Dominguez will ideally supply a spark in limited action. The former third-round pick posted a .460 slugging percentage in 496 ABs at Triple-A in 2014.
The Giants' confounding decision to trade Heath Hembree as part of the deal that brought the orange and black Jake Peavy now becomes digestible. Hunter Strickland is the real deal. The right-handed flame-thrower averages a fastball that tops out at 99 MPH. He recorded a solid 2.02 ERA with a 0.813 WHIP in 35.2 innings at Double-A Richmond in 2014. His electric velocity is what the bullpen is missing. Look for Strickland to become a factor.
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