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The Giants shouldn't tank

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A mild take

Bruce Bochy has a large head
Bruce Bochy has a large head
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

As the Giants slip farther and farther away from a playoff spot, the idea grows a little stronger: Tank. They should tank. Maybe it's crossed your mind, or maybe you've just seen other people say it. But it's an idea, and it's out there, and it's in some comments here, and let's talk about it:

No.

/wipes hands
"Nice work, boys. We really did a good job here."
/leaves crime scene

Maybe you want a better draft pick. I'm sympathetic to that! Having a better draft pick next year would be better than not having a better draft pick, because things that are better are better. And there are other benefits too, like okay actually that's it. So the question is, is tanking in order to move up several spots in the draft a good idea?

No.

/wipes hands
"Nice work, boys. We really did a good job here."
/leaves bar
/comes back three minutes later, after having forgotten my pants

The draft is a delightful way to build a baseball team. The entire starting infield, as well as most of the backups (excluding Hector and Adrianza, who were both international free agents) was drafted and developed by the Giants. The farm system is good! I like the farm system. But the marginal gain of moving up a couple spots doesn't offset the negatives of losing games. It's not a certain enough thing that the 14th pick in the first round will be better than the 17th that you should forfeit any games to move up, especially when you add into the mix that the Giants operate differently than other teams, and have done very well in finding value much later in the first round.

Let's start with the first problem with tanking: losing sucks. It sucks to watch, it sucks for the players to go through, and it's generally just the suckiest bunch of suck that ever sucked. And yes, that matters. We watch baseball because it's enjoyable, and losing is the opposite of enjoyable.

But what if they play the kids? See, tanking would involve playing worse players than usual, and if the Giants want to evaluate some of the younger guys on the team, now's the time! Just imagine a regular starting infield of Susac, Belt, Tomlinson, Adrianza, and Noonan, with Jarrett Parker and Juan Perez taking up two spots in the outfield. That team wouldn't do a lot of winning, but the Giants sure could figure out what they have! And hey, watching young players make mistakes is a whole lot more fun than watching old dudes make the same mistakes, so there would also be some entertainment value, in a trainwrecky "Ohhhhh, Shyamalan's making another movie" way.

But would it really help to play any of them? The Giants already have their own evaluations on each of these players, and aside from Tomlinson and maybe Susac, they know what they have: backups and non-MLB caliber players. They don't need to watch Jarrett Parker for a month to know he strikes out too much, they don't need to watch Noonan for a month to realize he's not any kind of answer, and no one ever, for any reason, needs to watch Ehire Adrianza for a month. And even if they saw something, it would be just as likely to be a SSS fluke as anything else. Back in 2008, Emmanuel Burriss got 274 plate appearances, and hit .283/.357/.329. That's almost half a season, and it still didn't reflect his true talent level (which was, for the record, very low). Evaluating players is a wonderful thing to do, and it's somewhat easier when they're starting every day in the majors, but it also goes on every day of the year, no matter where a guy is playing, and that has a lot of value.

But the real crux of the tanking argument is that the Giants barely have a shot at the playoffs. Dan Szymborski ran some ZIPS projections last night, and the results were that I'm incredible because I spelled his name right on the first try. I know, I know, it's impressive, but I spelled it one letter at a time and in the end, it all came together. D-A-N. Still can't believe I did it!

The projections said that the Giants have a 2.5% shot of winning the division. That's very low! It's also not impossible. By WPA, it's about the same as a road team being down two in the top of the ninth, with a guy on first and two outs. Would you turn that game off? Would you say "Oh, yeah, this is over. I'm gonna go do something else, like talk about how this game is over on the Internet"? Probably not. There's still hope. It's faint, and it's not likely, but hell, if they win it, it'll be the kind of thing we talk about for decades. That's literally why we watch sports.

And if the Giants are building for 2016, they can't give up now. They just can't. Because they'll be rebuilding their rotation through free agency, and here's something that no free agent pitcher will ever think: "How smart to tank! I would love to play for a franchise that sets itself up for the future so well. It's not just every team that would totally abandon a year from Bumgarner and Posey in their prime, and I support that move. Unorthodox strategies are the best strategies!" If you want any shot of David Price or Johnny Cueto or Jeff Samarz . . . Samardijaz . . . or Jordan Zimmermann coming here, then they have to believe the Giants will be competitive, and part of that is acting like the team will be competitive. And yes, that does mean trying.

Look, I'm not happy about how the last few days have gone, but they don't mean the Giants are doomed. They've certainly put the team closer to the precipice, but they aren't over yet. And sure, they got swept by the Dodgers, but they've gotten swept by the Dodgers in each World Series winning season. They just had to check that off the list, and now they're home free to win the division! Doesn't that make sense?

(No)

/wipes hands
"Nice work, boys. We really did a good job here."
/leaves crack den

But it also doesn't mean they should stop trying. Give it everything you've got, Giants. Let's see something spectacular.