And just like that we are in the final week of the season. As we said last week: it’s been weird.
As expected, it’s going to be a wild final week for Major League Baseball. Unlike the American League, where there are some seeding positions still up in the air, but it’s pretty clear who the best 8 teams are, the National League is WIDE open.
Right now the Marlins (that’s right, the MARLINS) are the 5th seed. They could also not make the postseason depending on how this week shakes out. Meanwhile, the Rockies seem buried under a pile of mediocre teams, but a hot week could see them leap the field and sneak in. It’s that crazy.
What does this all mean for the Giants? Well, they are very much in the mix and will be at home all week.
Quick side note, the Giants road/home splits this year are fascinating and troubling. On the one hand, dramatic road/home splits in a year like this are not surprising. In a pandemic it makes a lot of sense that a team would be better at home than on the road. On the other hand, in such a short season can we even read into any of this? On a third hand, seeing the Giants recover a dominant home presence has been a passion of this blog for several years, so we are pleased in a strange way.
Perhaps the most fascinating part of this phenomenon is that the Giants have scored so many more runs at home. For years, Giants fans have longed for road trips because that’s where the bats seemed to come to life. This year it’s the total flip. Their offense has been disappearing on the road.
They’ve scored 5.5 runs per game at home, and 4.5 on the road (a number aided by the fact that they just put up 14 in Oakland yesterday).
Now, look at MLB standings and you will see that only elite teams are good on the road (with the exception of the MARLINS who are the only team with a winning record on the road and not at home). Outside of that, it’s the Dodgers, White Sox, and Rays with nice road records, and those are the 3 best in baseball this year (record-wise).
The Giants are not in bad company per se, but it’s been weird to see them crush the ball at home and then the offense disappears when they leave SF.
Now, to the question of the day: can they actually make the postseason?
Let’s look at some schedules:
- Miami Marlins: 7 games left, 4 against the Braves and 3 against the Yankees. On paper, that’s a tough week. The Braves series should be really tough. The Braves will want to clinch the division and start to set things up for the tournament. But the Yankees may or may not be super motivated. They are in, it’s just a matter of positioning at this point. Either way, we are Braves and Yankees fans this week.
- Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies are currently in as the 7th seed. They close out the season with 4 games agains the Nationals and then 3 against the Rays. The Rays may or may not be motivated in those games. They’ve clinched the division, but may be fighting for top seed in the AL. I’m not sure how much of a big deal that it is, but either way the Phillies end the season on the road for 7 games against teams with talent. It might be backwards race to the finish line for second place in the East. Either way, keep an eye on both the Phillies and Marlins this week!
- St. Louis Cardinals/Cincinnati Reds/Milwaukee Brewers: I include them all here because they are in the same division. One of these teams is going to finish second, get an automatic bid, and not really be competing against the Giants. Currently, that team would be St. Louis and they start the week against the very bad Royals, and then play the Brewers. So, in many ways it would be great if they could have a strong week, pull away from the pack and beat down on the Brewers this weekend. The Brewers start their week with the Reds before facing the Cardinals. The Reds end their season against the very good Twins (who might not be motivated this weekend…they are close to first in the division but if that’s decided by Thursday they might coast). Bottom line: root for the Cardinals, hope the Brewers split their series with the Reds, and then both the Brewers and Reds get bulldozed in the final weekend.
- The Mets and Rockies are behind the Giants and have an outside chance at the tournament. The Rockies play 4 with the Giants to start the week, so the Giants hold a lot of their fate in their own hands. If they throttle the Rockies, not only do they improve their own position but they will knock out a competitor in the meanwhile. The Mets play Tampa (an elite team) and then Nationals (bad record, but talented as we said) so it seems they have the longest of odds.
While that outlines our rooting interests for the week, the challenge for the Giants themselves is quite simple: they have to win games. As things have shaped up the magic number in my mind to get into the postseason has been 32 wins. For about a month I’ve had this sense. The Giants currently have 26 wins, and 8 games left. A 6-2 week is not out of the question, BUT they have to get them agains the pesky Rockies and the Padres who have dominated them so far this year.
The best way forward would certainly be to sweep the Rockies, keep the pressure on everyone else, and then hope for the best against the Padres (who may also be coasting this weekend with their postseason positioning locked up).
But, baseball is weird, and this week will undoubtedly provide a number of ups and downs as we wrap up an already weird season.