San Francisco Giants Coming Together in the Face of Injuries


In the San Francisco Giants‘ latest playoff push, many of the familiar faces from previous years — Madison Bumgarner, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence etc. — are still contributing at the highest level, but it is the addition of young players and acquired veterans that are keeping the Giants in contention with all the injuries that have impacted the team over the course of the season.

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In the immediate aftermath of Angel Pagan going down with a bout of knee tendonitis, Gregor Blanco came up huge for the Giants, batting .291 with an on-base percentage of .375 and 24 RBIs on the season. Blanco had remained the one Giants outfielder who hadn’t had a stint on the DL until a left hip strain sidelined the usually reliable utility man.

His replacement? Juan Perez, best known for bobbling the ball in the World Series and nearly giving all Giants fans a heart attack in game seven.

Surprisingly though, since being called up Perez has batted .444 in his last four games with four hits and two RBI’s to his name. Add in his usually strong defensive play and one incredible wall-climbing basket catch against the Cardinals, and Perez has managed to make the sting of losing Pagan and Pence hurt a little less.

Another huge blow to the Giants has been the loss of All-Star second baseman Joe Panik, who has been struggling with a lower back injury since August 3rd. Panik recently resumed taking ground balls on the field, but it has been a long road back for one of the Giants’ key contributors.

Taking his place in the lineup has been rookie Kelby Tomlinson who has been a revelation for the team in the same way that current everyday third baseman Matt Duffy was last year.

August 25, 2015; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants first baseman Brandon Belt (9) grounds out scoring second baseman Kelby Tomlinson (37, not pictured) during the sixth inning against the Chicago Cubs at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Tomlinson, the lanky 6 foot 3, 180 pound second baseman, has become an unlikely hero for the Giants, and has been making up for his sometimes shaky defense by hitting .385 in his last five games, with five RBIs, an on-base percentage of .467 — and his first home run, which just happened to be a grand slam against the wildcard rival Chicago Cubs.

Panik is supposed to return on the Giants’ next road trip, but if the team is set on having Tomlinson’s bat in the lineup they could move him over to shortstop if Brandon Crawford is still out with left oblique tightness, or use him as a right-handed bat off the bench.

When the Giants let free agent Pablo Sandoval walk and sign with the Boston Red Sox during the offseason, many premier baseball minds thought that they had made a serious mistake. But after Casey McGehee didn’t work out at the hot corner, rookie Matt Duffy truly saved the day, allowing the Giants to source the position from within to incredible success.

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Duffy has been in the Rookie of the Year conversation practically since the All-Star break, with a slash line of .306/.344/.454 and has the third highest WAR rating on the team (4.5), behind only Crawford and Posey. His ability to stay healthy — with the exception of an ankle scare against the Cubs that he was able to shake off — and his remarkable consistency has payed huge dividends for the Giants in 2015.

Another unfortunate injury to a Giants postseason veteran took place with Jeremy Affeldt being placed on the 15-day DL on Tuesday with a left knee injury which was the result of a freak accident where he slipped on a platform near his offseason home in Spokane, WA. Stepping up to take his place in the Giants’ aging bullpen has been 26 year-old lefty Josh Osich who has accumulated a 1.88 ERA in 14.1 innings pitched.

Osich along with Hunter Strickland and Mike Broadway, are undoubtedly being groomed as the future of the Giants’ bullpen and are getting crucial experience as the postseason looms ahead in the schedule.

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  • One of the things that sets winning organizations apart is their ability to create depth within their system and, when necessary, make economical and valuable trades at the deadline that address their needs going into the pennant race at a reasonable price. Similar to years past, the Giants didn’t make any huge blockbuster moves, but they did address two of their biggest needs — their starting rotation and their injury plagued outfield.

    The first move that the Giants made was acquiring Mike Leake from the Cincinnati Reds for infielder Adam Duvall and pitching prospect Keury Mella. Even though Leake landed on the DL with a hamstring strain after his first start in a Giants uniform, he has pitched brilliantly in his two starts for San Francisco, giving up less than three earned runs in both.

    He also provides needed depth to a rotation that has already lost Tim Hudson and Tim Lincecum to injury, and can act as a number two behind Madison Bumgarner. In addition, in ten starts against fellow playoff hopefuls St. Louis, Chicago, and Pittsburgh, Leake is 4-1 with a 2.41 ERA and a .193 opponent’s average.

    The other move was trading Double-A pitcher Stephen Johnson to Cincinnati for Marlon Byrd. The Giants are Byrd’s ninth team, and the 37 year-old veteran is hitting .238 with 48 RBIs and 21 home runs this season, one of which came in his first at-bat as a Giant. Though Byrd can be streaky, his presence in right field and in the clubhouse and his potential for game changing power are sure to make him a valuable asset down the stretch.

    Whether the help has come from young players within the organization or veterans gained through trades, the Giants have been able to stay in the playoff conversation as a result of contributions coming outside of their usual performers.

    If they can stay 2.5 games behind the division leading Dodgers with two-thirds of their usual starting outfield and half of their starting infield suffering from injuries, hopefully when those players come back they will be able to make a run at yet another Orange October.

    Next: How Will Angel Pagan's Return Impact the Giants?