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A Daydream about Contending

If you constructed a preseason scenario in which the 2008 Giants made the playoffs, you probably had to ignore big chunks of reality. It was probably like a bad sci-fi movie; "okay, so the aliens attack, and then the world's all messed up, but then one of the characters takes a couple of minutes to write a virus that knocks out the alien computer system" became "okay, so Randy Winn hits for power like he did when he came over from the Mariners, Barry Zito wins another Cy Young, and Aaron Rowand's production doesn't decline a bit." You might have done it in the name of short-term satisfaction, but you still just ended up insulting your intelligence.

Doing a similar scenario for the 2009 Giants still requires some imagination, but you don't need to break laws of nature to get there. Let's see, Matt Cain takes a huge step forward (25% chance of happening), Aaron Rowand rebounds substantially (25%), Pablo Sandoval hits .320 with power (25%), and Barry Zito is a league-average pitcher (25%), and the Giants are contenders! That sure reads nice, but 25%4 comes out to about .4%. All four of those happening at the same time? Not bloody likely. But there are an infinite number of permutations that would lead, however unlikely, to a playoff berth. My dream scenario of what an unlikely contender might look like:

  • One of the two players on wretched long-term deals, Zito or Rowand, performing well enough to make us temporarily glad that they were on the team
  • One of the older, not-really-prospects like Fred Lewis or Kevin Frandsen having an unexpectedly fantastic year
  • One of the players that I don't have a lot of faith in, like Travis Ishikawa or Manny Burriss, making me look real stupid
  • Pablo Sandoval going nutty. This one is a fixture in every scenario
  • A prospect -- not necessarily in the top 10 -- producing immediately upon reaching the big leagues
  • Matt Cain moving from really good to fantastic, or Jonathan Sanchez moving from inconsistent to really good
  • Parasitic worms! Parasitic worms! Parasitic worms in a Dodger post-game spread!

That would be a ridiculously fun season to watch. Imagine a team with Lewis, Sandoval, and Burriss all performing up their 90th-percentile PECOTA projections while the starting rotation does well. Favorite. Team. Ever. After being forced to consider players like Marvin Benard and Pedro Feliz the best examples of Giants' homegrown hitting talent in the past decade, a team with two or three homegrown hitters contributing to a playoff run would be tattoo-worthy. Like, huge Sandoval and Lewis likenesses covering my entire back. And one of them would be rocking out on a Flying V while the other one wrestled a wyvern with his bare hands. That's how awesome this team would be if it made the playoffs.

You say, "Pfft. So unlikely, it isn't even worth a second of my time." I say, "1997." A combination of J.T. Snow, Kirk Rueter, and Shawn Estes busting out with career years, Julian Tavarez getting a double play grounder whenever he wanted, a magic journeyman catcher, and having a winning record despite being outscored is far more ridiculous than what we're doing here. Even if bleak, Giants-related cynicism has totally blackened your sad little heart, you probably still give the Giants a 1% chance of contending. So share that scenario with us in a....

Comment starter: Your unlikely dream combination that leads to a Giants' playoff run.