Here is an article I don't want to write: "The Mets can still win a wild card spot!" They're 5½ out and technically still in it, but they would have to leapfrog four teams with 16 games to go. An article like that would be an Internet kick-me sign, and I have a fragile ego.
Here's why that came up: The Mets are as close to the second wild card as the Giants are from losing the second wild card. So if there's no way I'd write that Mets article, the corollary should be that I would have no problem writing an article about how the Giants are guaranteed a playoff spot. Right?
Ha ha ha, no. I'm not stupid. I remember 1998 and how the Giants got to play in a 163rd game. I remember two months ago, when the Giants were the 2003 Tigers without the good parts. There's a lot that can go weird in 16 or 17 games.
While I still don't not believe that the Giants have a shot at the NL West -- just 2½ back with a series at home coming up! -- there's probably some utility in looking at what the Giants need if they're going to do the bare minimum. Like this:
|If the Giants go …||Then the Braves/Brewers would have to do at least this to tie them …||The Marlins would have to go at least ...|
If you're like me, you probably yell at the playoff odds at Baseball Prospectus and/or FanGraphs a lot. "How can you be so sure? Stop jinxing everything! You are stupid, bad numbers! Stop it, numbers!" BP has the Giants with a 98.8-percent chance to make at least the wild card game. FanGraphs has them at 98.1 percent. If you want to figure out the scorched earth of the one/two percent, it's there in the table.
Say the Giants play like absolute dunderheads over the next three weeks, just sub-Rockies goons, and they go 5-12 at the worst possible time. It would take a 10-6 stretch for the Braves or Brewers to tie the Giants and force a playoff for the playoff to the playoffs, and it would take an 11-5 stretch for either of them to overtake the Giants.
That's possible. You can make a table like that for what it would take to lose a 9½-game lead in the division in a month, and by gum, the Giants used hard work and perseverance and did it.
But the Giants would have to really work hard at it. They couldn't just be bad. They would have to be exceptionally bad at the same time the Braves or Brewers would have to be especially good. And the fans of those two teams hate them just as much as we hated the Giants a coupe weeks ago.
Remaining schedules for the second-WC hopefuls:
@ Rangers (3)
vs. Nationals (3)
vs. Mets (3)
vs. Pirates (4)
@ Phillies (3)
vs. Marlins (1)
vs. Reds (3)
@ Cardinals (3)
@ Pirates (3)
@ Reds (3)
vs. Cubs (3)
Note that any scenario of the Braves or Brewers going nuts would likely hurt the Pirates, who are currently in line for the second wild card spot, which would further help the Giants' chances. We can discuss later just how exciting it is to sneak into a second wild card spot (not very!), but it beats the alternative of being completely empty-handed in October.
Also note that if the standings at the start of today held up, the Giants would play a wild card game where the reward was ... to face the Dodgers in the NLDS. The thought of a Giants/Dodgers playoff series loosens my bowels in a way that even Taco Bell food-safety scientists have never seen. I want to go back to sleep just thinking about it. This is what we're rooting for.
Beats not rooting for anything at all. Now stop thinking about the worst-case scenarios, and hope for the Dodgers to lose 17 in a row. Like usual.
And if you think I'm being a jinxy bastard with that table, note that I did this for the end of 2012, so BACK OFF.