Why the Giants are the favorite to win the National League

Melky Cabrera is providing the offensive spark the Giants needed. (Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire)

Just two years from a magical season that ended with the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series over the Texas Rangers with dominant pitching, this 2012 team is set up to do the exact same thing.

As a matter of fact, this team looks to be even more pitcher dominant with added help from Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner. While Bumgarner was a part of the 2010 run, he’s an improved pitcher now, and along with Matt Cain, these three have become the most feared pitching staff in baseball. Through July 16, they’ve combined to throw 360 innings giving up 108 runs for a combined 2.70 ERA. They’ve struck out 305 batters during those innings while only walking 85 and have a 1.04 WHIP.

And, yes, they still have two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum on their staff. While his numbers have declined the past two and a half seasons, he can still be a top-of-the rotation pitcher, and if he ever gets it going, there is no chance for any team in the National League or the American League to stop them.

But we all knew they’d have a great pitching staff coming into this season. The reason this team is prepared to take over the National League is because of its offensive value in Melky Cabrera and a healthy Buster Posey.

In what I thought was a great trade for the Kansas City Royals in the offseason, the decision to give up Jonathan Sanchez for Cabrera has turned out to be one of the more lopsided trades.

After making tremendous improvements in Kansas City, Melky has proven that it was no fluke and he is for real. He was voted by the fans to start the All-Star Game and is currently leading the team in batting average at .353 and runs with 55.

With Melky in the middle of the order, they now form a dangerous three through five that includes Posey and Pablo Sandoval. The additions of Angel Pagan and Gregor Blanco have been huge as Bruce Bochy has been able to insert the hotter hitter at the top the lineup to help produce runs and let them be playmakers.

Even though they currently rank 12th in the National League in runs scored, they’re fifth in batting average and sixth in on-base percentage. They’re 15th in the league in hitting with runners in scoring position; a stat that can only go up as the season progresses. But the fact is they are getting men on base, which is something they struggled with in the past.

On May 11 the Giants were 15-17 and found themselves six games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. Since then they’ve gone 34-23 and now have a two game lead over their division rivals.

The fact that the NL West isn’t as great as many thought at the beginning of the season explains why the Giants should run away with this division. The Dodgers have a had a great year and could still be a wild card contender, but they’ve been without their star player Matt Kemp for too long, and the pitching staff has overachieved.

Going in to the second half of this season, I thought the Arizona Diamondbacks might have the best chance to sneak up and steal this division, but I don’t think they have what it takes to be a consistent winner the rest of the way with their pitching staff. And the fact that they’re looking to get rid of Justin Upton isn’t a good sign for a team that still has a  chance to compete.

As we saw in the All-Star Game, great pitching can stop great hitting. The Giants have three, sometimes four, of the best arms in the game. I have no doubt that if they make the playoffs they’ll be the clear frontrunner to win the league crown and the World Series.

As the summer goes along, be prepared to watch this team take hold of the league and continue another exciting run to a championship.

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