7 Days…

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.

Postseason Predictions

I’ll be back soon with some thoughts on the 2018 Giants’ season, their search for a new General Manager, and the quest for Bryce Harper (smiley face emoji).

But quickly: my predictions for October.

NL Wild Card: Cubs over Rockies
AL Wild Card: A’s over Yankees

NL Division Series: Brewers over Cubs, Dodgers over Braves
AL Division Series: Astros over Indians, Red Sox over the A’s

NL Championship Series: Brewers over Dodgers
AL Championship Series: Astros over Red Sox

World Series: Astros over Brewers

What MLB would like to see happen: Rod Sox/Yankees vs Cubs/Dodgers
What I would like to see happen: I’m rooting for the Indians
 

Contenders vs. Pretenders, Pt. III

Here’s the final post of the series. We are looking at the contending teams in MLB this year to see which of them fit the championship profile we created this winter. Here’s the rest of the NL (we already looked at the Phillies, Braves, Pirates, and Giants).

NL EAST

  • 2010 Mets: 6.9 K/9, 3.70 ERA, 106 ERA+, 1.37 WHIP
  • 2011 Mets: 7.0, 3.92, 96, 1.32

I included the Mets because, well, there were no other teams in this division with a winning record, so at 47-47, they seemed perfectly average. They are. Enough said. Giants fans, this is what so many other baseball fans have to deal with. Be grateful!

NL CENTRAL

  • 2010 Reds: 7.0 K/9, 4.01 ERA, 103 ERA+, 1.33 WHIP
  • 2011 Reds: 6.9, 4.17, 94, 1.33
  • 2010 Cardinals: 6.8, 3.57, 108, 1.30
  • 2011 Cardinals: 6.5, 3.96, 92, 1.31
  • 2010 Brewers: 7.9, 4.58, 89, 1.44
  • 2011 Brewers: 8.0, 4.15, 96, 1.32

Based on the analysis so far, the edge in this division has to go to the Pirates. They have seen the most dramatic improvement out of these four teams. I worry about them because they are not a strikeout team and rely so heavily on defense, but the evidence is there. Out of these three teams, I still favor Milwaukee. Greinke is finally getting it together, Gallardo has been better lately, and Marcum has been a little banged up. I can seem them pushing their ERA+ over 100 before the season ends. I’m afraid the Reds have no chance, and the Cardinals always seem to beat the odds and the stats. None of these clubs, though, profile as a championship team.

NL WEST

  • 2010 Diamondbacks: 6.7 K/9, 4.81, 89 ERA+, 1.43
  • 2011 Diamondbacks: 6.9, 4.07, 97, 1.32
  • 2010 Rockies: 7.7, 4.14, 114, 1.34
  • 2011 Rockies: 6.9, 4.13, 110, 1.33

The D-Backs have definitely improved, but they still are not league average. Undoubtedly this speaks to the improvements the team has made in the bullpen and the fact that they have a couple of good starters. So, good for Arizona, they are making progress. But this is not really a contending team. The Rockies are really interesting. They are down a bit in their strikeout rate (due to losing De La Rosa and a poor season from Jimenez), but they are still pitching really well. Better than any team in NL Central. There are a lot of rumors swirling about trading Ubaldo but how foolish would that be? They have the pitching to contend, but, amazingly for Colorado, their offense is letting them down. This confirms my suspicion that the Giants are actually competing against the Rockies for this division.

So, there you go, a look at MLB through a narrow lens of pitching stats. Comment what you will. The reality is the Giants, Braves, and Phillies are going to do battle this postseason and whoever walks out of that will likely win the World Series. And to be quite specific, the road to the championship goes through Philly this year.

(-SB)

Nick’s Prediction Reboot

(note: nick’s article was submitted on may 6th, before the completion of the Giants-Rockies series).

AL EAST

Well the Red Sox certainly blew up my prediction for a dominant run at the AL title. That being said I still see them recovering nicely and being in the playoff hunt for the rest of the season. I still think I’m sticking with them for the title since the Yankees seem to be falling apart. As for the Rays, they’ve sold me after a really rough start. That, in addition to the terrible Central and West mean I’m picking them as my new AL Wild Card winners.

AL CENTRAL

I still think the Royals are a few years away, but good lord do the White Sox suck right now. No hitting, no pitching, no nothing. I have no clue what the Tigers really are and I don’t know if I can trust the Twins with Morneau and Mauer out so much. Looking at the Indians I think they’re the real deal, or at least real enough to win the Central.

AL WEST

Not sold on the A’s anymore and I’m changing my pick to the Rangers. Losing Feliz and Hamilton didn’t help, but Neftali is coming back and when Josh returns the offense will continue to swing large. The A’s could make a run and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, but it’ll be down to those two teams as the Angels don’t seem to have the pieces necessary to win and the M’s are the M’s.

NL EAST

I don’t buy the Marlins at all. I know everyone says that and then they go win a World Series, but I don’t see that pitching and offense outlasting the Phillies or the Braves. That being said I still have the Phillies winning the division but after watching Atlanta this past few weeks, It’s going to be a LOT closer than I thought, close enough that I think the Braves will take the Wild Card in the NL.

NL CENTRAL 

I know St. Louis is playing really well, but honestly I still see this as the Brewers’ division to lose. I’m not picking them to win the NL anymore, but this division should still be there with good pitching and REALLY good hitting.

NL WEST

I just don’t know what to make of the Giants. They look SO bad some times, but they have had no Torres, Pablo, Zito, Wilson, Ross or Casilla and a bad hitting Belt for some or most of the season, and they’re still within a stones throw from the Rockies. The Rockies, on the other hand, are REALLY good. I’m sticking with the Giants out of plain homerism but I wouldn’t be betting against Colorado to win the division at this point.

(-NW)