The Giants were never really awful. They were, to be honest, probably pretty good. That was the most frustrating thing. That’s why this was the most frustrating season. The team wasn’t that bad, not by traditional metrics, not by advanced metrics, not on an individual basis, and not according to our own eyeballs. It was an imperfect team, maybe the kind of team that could end with 87 wins (their actual record) or 90 wins (their expected record) and make the postseason.
They made the postseason. I suppose we could talk about just how they made the postseason, but there are 20 teams who would kill to be in this spot. We should probably just appreciate that the Giants are here at all. Here, talk to yourself from March and see.
You: So the Giants are in the postseason.
You, in March: Awesome.
You: But you don’t understand. They had the best record in baseball for the first h
You, in March: Because so many things can happen over a year. The 2011 Giants probably would have made the postseason with a healthy Buster Posey, right? Just get them into the dance and see what happens. It’s worked well for them.
You: Yeah, but
You, in March: Also, I call the postseason "the dance" because that's really cool. Did they make the postseason because Cueto pitched well? Because Samardzija met their modest expectations? Because Bumgarner stayed healthy? Because the lineup stayed healthy?
You: Yeah, but
You, in March: You seem tense. The Giants made it! The postseason! What a time. You know the last time the Giants made the postseason four times in one decade was in the 1920s? The last time they did it, they had a Dinty, a Mule, an Irish, a Hack, a Grover, and a High Pockets on the team.
You: Yeah, but
You, in March: They made the postseason. Did they sweep the Dodgers in the last series of the year? I had a dream that they did.
You: Yeah, but
You, in March: This is so incredible. What a season. Do you have any GIFs?
Yeah, but ... eh, forget it. You’re right. The Giants are in the postseason, and it doesn’t really matter if they racked up the style points to get there. The division lead was historic, and so was the collapse, but if you were handed a chance at the Wild Card Game in March, you would have gladly accepted. Possibly because you knew the team was probably okay at at baseball.
This team is probably okay at baseball.
Consider this game, in which the Giants had 16 hits. The starting pitcher, Matt Moore, reminded you why he was one of the most valuable commodities in the game just a couple years ago. There were doubles, there was a triple, but most importantly, there was that feeling that anyone in the Giants’ lineup could get a hit in any given at-bat. Denard Span got on base three times and scored three runs. Brandon Belt regained his first-half form, and it set everything up. Buster Posey looks like he’s hot again.
It was the kind of game from the lineup that made you optimistic. And that’s before we get to Moore throwing eight innings of three-hit, one-run ball. The Giants were supposed to have a lineup that drove opponents mad, not their fans.
Consider this series, in which the Giants had to sweep the Dodgers to avoid a tiebreaker game, a playoff to get to the playoff to see if they could make the real playoffs. They had to face Rich Hill, Clayton Kershaw, and Kenta Maeda, all of whom have been murder on the Giants this year, if not longer. It wasn’t hard to see them dropping a game and thinking, "Eh, happens. They’re really good." Instead, it was a clean sweep, and the innings where the Giants looked likely to win outnumbered the innings where you weren’t so sure.
They now get the cruelty of the Wild Card Game, where a bad start, an ill-timed misplay, a cold lineup against Noah Freaking Syndergaard could end the season. All that work, all that time, just to guarantee a chance to face one of the best pitchers in baseball in his home park.
Sounds pretty good from here. Yeah, I’ll take it.
* * *
Conor Gillaspie did this:
And that’s when I realized that the Giants weren’t playing like bozos anymore. Like, really realized it. I know they just won a four-game series against the Rockies, and that they had already clinched a series win against the Dodgers, but that was when it all made sense. They had a former prospect diving into a camera well to make a catch, and it felt like an even year. Like they all actually wanted to make the postseason. Trust me, there have been a few times where we weren’t very sure.
The Giants outscored their opponents 38-11 in this homestand. I know that the opponents were the Rockies out of Coors and the Dodgers prepping for the postseason, but that’s still incredibly impressive. That’s over six games, with the pitching staff allowing no more than three runs in any of them. The Dodgers scored four runs all series. They had their eyes on the Nationals, sure, but you know that didn’t mean they weren’t actually trying to hit the ball against the Giants’ pitchers.
The Giants also finished the second half outscoring their opponents by 10 runs. They were 30-42, and they had to rally for their record to look that good. It was the weirdest finish to a season that we’ll ever see, hopefully, and it fits with the thesis at the top. They weren’t really the worst team in baseball. They were actually pretty okay, the kind of team that could reel off a hot streak for a week or two.
Or three or four? I don’t know, man. Seems greedy to even consider. It’s a good thing I’m really, really greedy, then. I’ve spent so much time complaining that the Giants portioned out their wins and losses like this, giving us hope in the first half and despair in the second. And yet it was probably better that they finished the season giving us hope with a fine week and a sweep of the Dodgers instead of having a dull, unremarkable march to 87 wins without any peaks or valleys.
Noah Syndergaard is very tall and throws 100 mph, and I loved him in Adventures In Babysitting. This isn’t going to be easy, and it might, in fact, be very, very difficult. But I’m proud of the Giants for not completely messing the bed. They messed it just a little, but then they changed the sheets, which was very respectful and polite.
* * *
If you’re looking for a lot of words about Vin Scully, why, do I have the treacly article for you. It’s from the perspective of a Giants fan, don’t worry.
But I’m touched and honored that he did the last game of his career in AT&T Park, and I can’t get enough of the highlights:
His post-game sign-off was fantastic, too.
Man, oh, man, how I’ll miss that guy. He was one of the very best parts of baseball, regardless of which team you root for.
(Though I’m not going to lie: It’s more than a little cool that his final call came with the Giants celebrating on the mound. Felt like it had something for everyone.)
The Giants are in the postseason. We'll take our chances from here, thank you.