Last year, I decided to give out my own awards to players, teams, and moments I felt contributed to the Giants’ memorable season. Although the Giants didn’t reach the postseason this year, I still want to highlight some of the highs and lows from 2011.
Buster Posey vs. Scott Cousins. Need I say more? Didn’t think so.
Freddy Sanchez vs. his shoulder. Sixteen days after losing Posey to the DL, Sanchez rolled over a ground ball from Brandon Phillips, dislocating his shoulder in the Giants’ second season-ending injury of the year.
Jeremy Affeldt vs. frozen hamburger patties. I’m sure there’s a list of forbidden activities on off days, things like bungee jumping, playing with knives, or any other high-risk hobby. Unfortunately for Affeldt, this now includes trying to separate frozen hamburger patties with a knife, which he accidentally drove into his non-throwing hand.
Most Surprising Player
Pablo Sandoval. It was surprising enough that Panda managed to slim down over the 2010 offseason. What put him over the top, though, was watching his AVG spike from .268 to .315, with an OPS of .909 (.732 in 2010). Keep in mind that he played 35 fewer games this year, but factoring in a nasty hand injury in late April, it makes his accomplishments even more impressive–not to mention hitting for the cycle!
Ryan Vogelsong. Ryan’s was the ultimate feel-good story of 2011. He jumped into the rotation after Zito went on the DL this spring, finishing the year with a 13-7 W-L record and 2.71 ERA. He was warmly accepted by fans and teammates, recipient of the Willie Mac Award, National League All-Star, and ranked 6th overall for lowest ERA. Not too shabby for a guy who hadn’t pitched in the majors since 2006.
Miguel Tejada. Well, I never said the surprises were good ones. It makes me sad to think how excited I was about Tejada at the beginning of the season, only to see him slide from a .269/.312/.381 season with Baltimore and San Diego to a .239/.270/.326 season in San Francisco. And then there was the way he left the team in September… but more on that later.
May 20-22 vs. Oakland. Take your pick: there was Huff with the walk-off single in Game 1, Lincecum with 6 K’s and 3 hits in a Game 2 shutout, and Burriss with another walk-off single for the sweep.
June 28-30 at Chicago. Not as sweet as a sweep, this was a 4-game split with the Cubs. However, what makes this series so remarkable is June 28–a doubleheader where the Giants’ winning streak expanded to 7 games, Zito earned his first win of the season, and the team dominated with a total of 30 hits and 19 runs.
September 15-18 at Colorado. Injuries, slumps, and struggles aside, this was not the team we’d grown accustomed to in 2011. Pablo lead the charge, hitting for the cycle in 6 innings of Game 1, then hitting 2 homers in the 4th inning of Game 4. Altogether, the Giants emerged from the series with 35 runs, 48 hits, and 8 consecutive wins… not to mention a very pleasantly surprised fan base.
Oddest Move by Management
Sending Belt to Fresno. And bringing him up. And sending him down. And bringing him up. And sending him down. And bringing him up. I’m not saying Belt would have thrived on the team had he been allowed to play a full season, but you can’t blame his numbers (.225/.306/.412) on a lack of readiness alone.
Releasing Tejada and Rowand. It was the day we all hoped for, but didn’t dare dream of. After an unfruitful season by both players, management ate over $15M in contracts and designated them for assignment before the final month of regular season games.
Giving the boot to Bill Neukom. Sorry, that’s supposed to read, “Bill Neukom chooses to retire.” Only his retirement came in the middle of September, a shock even to the team. The problem? None that was outlined clearly, as Larry Baer’s transition to CEO needed to be made smoothly. According to Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy: “The action is believed to be the fallout from a series of disagreements with the committee during Neukom’s three-year stewardship of the team.”
Most Promising Rookie
Brandon Crawford. In his first major league game, Crawford ripped a grand slam. It would be his first of only 3 home runs in 66 games, but the flashy glove at shortstop didn’t hurt–especially with a .972 FP. He spent the entire month of August in Fresno, and is polishing his fielding and batting skills with the Scottsdale Scorpions this offseason. My only hope is that he can pull up his AVG from .204 when we see him in the starting lineup in 2012.
Eric Surkamp. Surkamp made his major league debut in August, issuing 3 walks, 1 earned run, and 4 K’s over 6 innings. He fared slightly better in his subsequent five games, pulling out two wins against the Padres, but slipped in the last few games of the season, giving up 6 runs to Arizona for an embarrassing 15-2 loss that ended any thought of the playoffs. Despite leading the minors with a 1.94 ERA in 2011, his slip-ups in the majors mean we probably won’t be seeing Surkamp in a starting role anytime soon.
Brandon Belt. Belt has been heralded and defended and championed throughout the 2011 season, even as he was often passed over for Aubrey Huff (41 times, by my calculations). Whether or not those decisions were justifiable, Belt has had a decent season, considering all the traveling he’s done from SF to Fresno and San Jose. He debuted on Opening Day as the starting first baseman, and split the remainder of his games between first base and left field. Now, Belt is honing his skills in the Dominican Winter League, which will hopefully give him the edge he needs to be seriously considered in 2012.
What do you think? Vote in the comments, and stay tuned for the results!