The Giants went 7-2 on their recently concluded homestand and have won 7 of their last 10 games, and I’m no math whiz, but that’s playing .700 ball. So why does it feel like it’s all falling apart?
Yes, I’m sure my perspective is skewed a bit by having attended Wednesday’s game in person, one of the most frustrating losses of the season. (It was great to see Surf Maui and Vail Sunshine, though!) But really it’s because playing .700 ball while the Juggernaut to the South is playing .900 ball is, well, just not good enough right now. Over the last ten games, while playing .700 ball, the Giants’ four-game lead in the NL West has shrunk to a 1.5 game lead. And with the Giants playing a good and always-motivated A’s team in Oakland while the Dodgers play the hapless, free-falling Mets at Dodger Stadium…it’s not too hard to imagine a scenario in which the Giants finish the weekend out of first place for the first time since late May.
No matter how much we tell ourselves that this season, however it ends up, has been a wonderful surprise and a gift–and it has!–it’s still somewhat depressing to contemplate the immediate present and near future. So let’s be objective about this rather than wallowing in worst-case thinking.
Reasons for Pessimism
- The schedule: The Giants have 40 games left. 25 of those are against teams over .500, and they include two series with the first-place Braves, four games at home against the first-place Brewers, three remaining games against the Dodgers, and ten games against the Padres. Both of their series against the Rockies, who are 42-21 at home, are at Coors Field. 42-21 is almost as good as the Giants’ record at home (42-19), so we should probably consider those six games as being against an over.-.500 team, too. That’s also not counting the upcoming series in New York against the Mets, who until this week were over .500. It’s a brutal schedule. Other than a few games against the decimated Cubs and the dreadful Diamondbacks (who actually have played .500 ball over the past month), there are no breaks, no soft spots. If the Giants are going to make the postseason or aspire to win the West, they will definitely have to earn it.
- The (starting) pitching: As of this moment, the Giants have three (3) healthy starters: Kevin Gausman, Logan Webb, and Alex Wood. Anthony DeSclafani is not (yet) on the injured list, and his MRI came back clean, but…we just don’t know. Johnny Cueto, who is still on the IL, is back in the Dominican Republic following a death in the family. The Giants don’t have a fifth starter right now, and that may not be a big deal because with off days, they won’t need one until next Saturday in Atlanta, but until we know about T-Bone, they don’t even have a fourth starter. And Wood these days is looking more like a long reliever than a rotation piece (he can give you a few good innings and then that’s it for him). Aaron Sanchez and Conner Menez were DFA’d, Tyler Beede’s season is over, and in AAA, there’s…well, there’s Scott Kazmir and Sammy Long, and that’s about it. The Giants’ rotation carried the team in the early part of the season when the offense wasn’t clicking and the bullpen was melting down on the regular, but it’s leaking oil now.
- The offense: Ironically, for the first time pretty much all year, the Giants’ offense is at #FullSquad capacity–and they’ve gone ice cold. They had just five hits in Tuesday’s win, seven hits in 12 innings in Wednesday’s loss, and just five hits in last night’s loss in Oakland. The Wednesday game was especially horrific, with the #3-7 spots in the lineup going 0-22 (Bryant, Belt, Crawford, Casali/Posey). I had a really good view of it, and it was hard to watch.
- The Dodgers: They’re winning nearly all of their games despite being down to basically a two-man rotation (albeit a really good one, since it’s Buehler and Scherzer!). They’re getting enough pitching to win from a bunch of no-names (OK, David Price isn’t a no-name), and their offense, even without Mookie Betts and with Cody Bellinger hitting .175 for the year, is good enough to carry them. If they get Kershaw/Urias/Betts back, they’re just going to get better–and they almost never lose right now. In fact, they’re basically doing their own version of Zombies™, unfortunately.
Reasons for Optimism
- The offense: Yeah, yeah, I know this is on both lists. But this is a good offense that’s finally healthy. Even Mike Yastrzemski, who’s been in a horrific slump, hit a homer last night (and still, by the way, is tied with Brandon Crawford for the team lead in homers). It is unlikely that a group of good hitters that is this deep is going to stay this cold for much longer.
- The (relief) pitching: After spending the first six weeks of the season as the weakest link of the team, the Giants’ bullpen has quietly been very, very good. As frustrating as it was to watch Wednesday’s game, the job that a parade of relievers did from the time DeSclafani left the game with one out in the top of the second through the eighth inning was mesmerizing. It was like they put the Mets in a trance or something, not to be awakened until Jake McGee hit Pete Alonso and, oh, never mind, you know what happened next. Anyway, here are some great stats for the Giants’ bullpen: 3rd in MLB in ERA, 1st in WHIP and batting average against, fewest walks. The combination of a good offense and a solid bullpen can win a lot of games for you, even with a shaky rotation.
- The Padres: I’m not sure what all’s going on with the Padres lately, but they’ve gone 13-17 in their last 30 games and have fallen 12 games behind the Giants. This is obviously relevant if the Dodgers take over the lead in the NL West and the Giants are looking at a wild card berth for October. (I’m not borrowing trouble, but this is possible because…see above.) Now, the Giants do still have 10 games against the Padres, but the Dodgers have nine. So one of two things could happen here. Either the Padres get a second wind and help us out against the Dodgers, or they don’t and continue to fade, and those 10 games against the Giants in September aren’t as big of an obstacle as they’ve seemed all season long. They’re also a weak road team (27-32), and two of their remaining series against the Giants are in San Francisco.
- The Magic: People wrote the Giants off all year long–before the season, after the Giants’ strong start, despite them having the best record in baseball at the All-Star break, on August 1, on August 15–and still today on August 21. What they’ve accomplished has defied everyone’s predictions for a range of under-the-radar reasons (great preparation! next-gen coaching!), so it would be foolish to write off this resilient team regardless of the reasons for pessimism outlined above.
I think August 15 should be Dallas Braden day for @SFGiants going forward. #ResilientSF pic.twitter.com/8i8kM9OtOE
— Stephanie Mack (@SoCaliSteph) August 17, 2021
Giants at A’s, 1:07 p.m. at the Stink Bowl in Oakland
Kevin Gausman (12-5, 2.40 ERA) vs. Sean Manaea (8-8, 3.77 ERA)
Let’s get SisterLefty a win today for her birthday! Lefty out.
*hat-tip to MrLefty for today’s title. He’s the Creative in the household.