The Giants have been long known for throwing away money. The Barry Zito deal alone will go down in history as one of the most overpaid contracts. They threw $9 million at Edgar Rentoria (or Rentashortstop if you will). They way overpaid Aaron Rowand. And all that spending got them was a great pitching staff and a feeble offense that couldn't get the job done. In a striking contrast to their history, the Giants may well have bought another pennant, but this time on the cheap.
If the Giants beat the Padres again, they will have closed the gap that seemed impossible to close just a couple of weeks ago. And if they do, it will be on the backs of cheap players like Pat Burrell, Aubrey Huff, Jose Guillen, Andres Torres and Buster Posey. The latter has simply killed the ball since he was called up. His success allowed the Giants to finally end the Bengi Molina years in San Francisco. Posey, of course, as a high draft pick, made a good bit of money to sign, but he's still a better value than Molina. Posey has already racked up a WAR (wins above replacement) of 2.1 in just 85 games. Molina's BEST FULL season in WAR was 2.3 and Molina made over $6 million that year.
Pat Burrell has been outstanding. Left on the scrap heap by the Tampa Bay Rays, the Giants scooped him up on the cheap since Burrell is still making $9 million off the Bay Rays, All Burrell has done for the Giants is hit 15 homers in 244 at bats and has driven in 40 runs in 76 games. His On Base Percentage is .377 and his OPS+ is sitting at 137. That was a pretty snazzy pick up. In hindsight, if the Bay Rays had simply stuck Burrell in the line up every day and left him there, he would have been better than anything they've used as DH since. The thing is, according to Baseball-reference.com, Burrell is playing his best outfield in years as well. So that's another 2.1 WAR on the cheap.
Aubrey Huff has had a very underrated career. He's been a really good offensive player for a very long time. Last year was his worst year since 2005 and he still managed a combined 15 homers and 85 RBIs between the Orioles and Tigers. Unfortunately, he didn't do anything for the Tigers in their stretch drive last year and he found himself as a free agent. He ended up signing with the Giants for an unbelievably cheap $3 million. What a bargain! Fangraphs has rated Huff's performance in both the field and at the plate at $20.4 million this year. That's quite a return on the investment. Huff is closing in on 300 career homers and his career should be a lot more appreciated than it is.
And you can't forget the impact Andres Torres has made on this club. His defense is amazing and his offense is cooking along at a 117 OPS+. He is making $426,000 this year. That's near minimum and according to Fangraphs, he's been worth $21.8 million with his defense and his hitting. Incredible.
There is one more shrewd move that helped propel the Giants to the brink of winning the division. The front four starters of the rotation will all make 30 or more starts this season. That's a remarkable run of health. Their fifth starter was Todd Wellemeyer, a pitcher who has had some decent success, but really isn't a great pitcher. Wellemeyer made 13 unsuccessful starts and then the Giants turned to Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner was not an unknown for the Giants as he was their first round pick in 2007. He made his debut last year and was effective in his ten innings of look-see. This year, since his call up, he's made 14 starts and he's been delightful. He has a 124 ERA+, a 2.65 K/BB ratio and he has won five games for the Giants. His control is excellent for his age and he gives you quality starts.
The Giants' pitching has been the story for years. Not only is their rotation good, but they may have the best closer in the National League this side of Billy Wagner (Brian Wilson). But they couldn't win at pitching alone. Earlier in the year, the Padres beat them regularly by beating the Giants at their own game. Since those early days, the additions of Posey and Burrell as well as the steady beat of an Aubrey Huff having a great season along with Andres Torres' great defense and good offense have changed the dynamics of the rivalry. No longer is it a battle of pitching staffs. Now the Giants can get some offense. And for once in the Giants' history, they got that offense cheaply.