Before getting into misery and woe, umpires and missed opportunities, I'd like the first section to be a calm, serene moment of contemplation. The Giants got to September playing meaningful baseball.
They really did, the rascals.
While I can rattle off the stats and explain exactly how they got there, it's still stunning when you look at the limping, disheveled earthquake kit of a roster that the Giants have been using. Some of it is a disaster by design, and some of the disaster was beaten into them. But this team stood up to those fabulously wealthy overdogs all year. The Giants are a real plucky underdog story, what with them being only impressively wealthy.
Alejandro De Aza was in left field. The actor who played the last left fielder got a better role or something, I don't know, but luckily De Aza's schedule lined up. Marlon Byrd is in right. He's been great! A true find. But he's still a smilier Jose Guillen, a no-wait-try-this that's here because there was no other choice. Kelby Tomlinson is playing second base, and he had a .663 OPS last year in the Eastern League. He's also been great, at least, offensively. Ehire Adrianza is at shortstop, and he doesn't keep several different spiders in his pockets at all times. That is absolutely one true fact about him.
The Giants made a canteen out of a sheep's bladder, and by gum, that baby almost got them through the desert. That makeshift team almost got the Giants somewhere, but they had problems with the best teams. I'll enjoy Tomlinson against, I don't know Kyle Lohse or even Ian Kennedy, but against Zack Greinke, I want Joe Panik. Against Jake Arrieta, I'd rather watch Hunter Pence, apologies to the very helpful Byrd. Against the good teams, I want to watch the Giants at their best.
The Giants are not at their best. And they're being melted down by the good teams and reforged into something else entirely. They were shackled by one of the better pitchers against the National League, on the road, and they still had chance after chance to tie the game or take the lead. You can call that odd-year cruelty, or you can just appreciate that they crawled their way into a populated area and got someone to call an ambulance.
That isn't to say woe-is-the-Giants, and that they've been nothing but unlucky. Their rotation was made out of wicker and kerosene, and they invited everyone to dance around it and make offerings/hit dingers. Some of this is their fault, alright. The Cardinals lost Adam Wainwright, traded Shelby Miller, and still came up with a superlative rotation. The Giants went into the season with Madison Bumgarner and several votive candles, and no one should be surprised when the flames flickered out and the wax melted down.
The weird thing is I'm more optimistic about the future now that I was at several points last year. Almost a year ago, I wrote about the painful 2014 season, yuk yuk, and I was convinced I was right.
The Giants will have about $50 million to get or retain a third baseman, left fielder, second baseman, and starting pitcher(s). They will not restock the roster with All-Stars. The improvements will be incremental, most likely. If they're improvements at all.
Made sense at the time. And what happened? They restocked the roster with All-Stars. They just did it with internal options. Matt Duffy has been the best story of the year, and he would have had to fight off Panik if it weren't for the back injury. Crawford looks like a franchise player, and Brandon Belt is still quite alright. They have youth in the lineup, and they have a glaring, obvious need with several ways to fix it in the offseason. I'm not looking at this like a team with a closing window. They should contend next year, too.
Just not this year. Not with all the injuries, several of which came in the form of errant baseballs, which just doesn't happen every year, dammit.
It just wasn't the Giants' year. And the only thing that should make you feel sorry for yourself is that you can't even feel sorry for yourself.
If that reads like a consolation speech, it's not supposed to. I mean, kind of. But gotta hear both sides, so here's what the Giants and Dodgers would need to do over the rest of the season for the Giants to catch up.
|If the Dodgers go …||The Giants' record will need to be at least this to catch them|
|Okay, this is getting ridiculous||Keep going|
|0-31||Yeah, that's the stuff|
Pick your favorite scenario. I'm partial to the combo of the 19-11 Giants record and the 14-17 Dodgers record, if only because it seems plausible. The 10-21 finish for the Dodgers has some poetry, though, can't deny that.
So it's possible. Just not probable. But you knew that already.
Brings us to the GOOD LORD NO NO NO umpiring at the worst possible time. As many eager Dodgers fans pointed out, Mike Winters also missed a call against Buster Posey in a key spot. You can see it here, with all the other pitches that Zack Greinke threw:
This is from the catcher's perspective (via Brooks Baseball), and you're looking for that green box right along the bottom border of the strike zone. It's there if you squint. Yup, was pretty close, but it was almost certainly a strike.
However. Let us inspect that red box -- the one with a number 5 by it -- that is seven baseballs away from the strike zone. In this faraway land, the strike zone keeps an embassy for diplomatic relations, but it is completely independent from the strike zone. Has its own national anthem and everything. It was the worst call of the night, and it came at absolutely the worst time -- one out, tying run at third. The call knocked the wind out of the entire team.
Cripes, man. What would De Aza have done with another pitch? He could have thrown his bat and hit Madison Bumgarner in the dugout, I don't know. That would be one way to make people forget about Ricky Ledee. But there was about a 50-50 chance that he would have gotten the run home. Maybe 40-60 if you account for him having two strikes already. Would have been dandy to find out.
It felt worse considering that the previous batter, Byrd, was ruled out on one of those tie-goes-to-the-umpire calls, which is the 383rd time that's happened to the Giants this year. Instead of bases loaded, no outs, it was second-and-third with one out. And instead of (mystery situation), it was Kelby Tomlinson with the season on the line and two outs.
If the pitch were a millimeter more outside, boy, that would have been something. If Byrd were just a fraction of a second faster, my word, that would have been something. Instead, it's a game of ... well, they say it's a game of very close occurrences, or something like that. And if you needed proof that this probably isn't the Giants' year, let that inning be pure science.
Madison Bumgarner pitched phenomenally, but he didn't hit a home run, so this is basically on him.
Angel Pagan looked outstanding. He had a good jump in the outfield, and he had nice takes and focused at-bats. In the sixth, he hit his longest fly ball of the season -- no hyperbole -- and he did it to the opposite field. It's almost as if rest helps him stay fresh, as opposed to a constant, limitless grind of game after game. But I'm no doctormatrician.
If he could contribute at all in 2016, it would be found money. Well, it would be finding a stack of money out of the bag that was thrown into the spinning helicopter rotor, but every last bit helps.
A win on Wednesday means the Giants are still probably screwed. Just less so. I'll take that. Maybe they've been building their avoid-the-sweep credits up for this game.