Hello. I’m the goofball who spent the last two months telling you why the Giants were bad. What this post presupposes is ... maybe they weren’t?
That’s an oversimplification, so let me explain myself. For the last two or three months, the default mode of this site was "I can’t believe the Giants are actually bad now. I just can’t believe it." With every loss, I slunk deeper into a hole of, "I mean, maybe? It just seems so unlikely." I think it was after the Ryan Schimpf game where I buried myself in potting soil in my backyard and started dictating these posts to a neighbor through a straw because I wanted to hide from the baseball.
I got better. Apparently the Giants did, too. They’re in the middle of their best stretch since before the All-Star Game, and they’re bugging the crap out of the rest of the baseball world, which is usually a good thing. This brings us to a natural question, one that we’ve struggled with for a couple months now.
Are the Giants actually good?
To help us, we’ll turn to an old friend of the site, Jeff Sullivan, who was fired from his previous job at SB Nation and latched on with FanGraphs because he knew somebody there. He spent time rating all the postseason teams, and while he didn’t spend a ton of time on the Giants, specifically, there are two takeaways for us:
- The Giants bullpen just might be the worst of the remaining postseason teams.
- Both the starting pitching and lineup match up quite well with the remaining postseason teams.
There should have been a pause for dramatic effect for that first bullet point. But it’s true. I’ll say it again for emphasis. The Giants bullpen just might be the worst of the remaining postseason teams.
The good news is that, uh, roles have been shuffled and adjusted, so it’s possible that we won’t see the worst relievers in the highest-leverage situations.
With the other parts of the team, though, things are looking a-ok, comparatively. Sullivan looked at projected WAR totals for the current team going forward, and looked at what each team’s current depth chart might do if they played a full 162-game season. The Giants had the fourth-best lineup (defense included) among the remaining postseason teams, and they had the fourth-best rotation. So even though they had the eighth-best bullpen, it all added up to projected 162-game records of ...
- Dodgers, 105-57
- Cubs, 102-60
- Red Sox, 98-64
- Blue Jays, 94-68
- Giants, 93-69
- Nationals, 92-70
- Indians, 89-73
- Rangers, 88-74
Why are the Dodgers so freakishly high? Because they get extra starts from Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill without having to bother with a fifth starter. That part of this exercise stinks.
But you can see that the Giants belong. This is based on computers looking at the first half, averaging it all with the second half, assuming neither extreme is true, and evaluating the players on hand. This team is probably better than their 87-75 record.
More importantly, how does this team look to you? What do the eyeballs say? It’s a team with a much, much better rotation than 2014. There’s a co-ace for the first time since 2012. There’s more depth in the #3 and #4 spots than usual. And the lineup is relatively healthy. There’s no Michael Morse missing, no prime-year Angel Pagan or suspended Melky Cabrera gone from the roster. Once Eduardo Nuñez returns to the lineup, this team is #FullSquad.
For this to be the best of the four postseason teams over the last six years, the Giants will need Buster Posey to hit, Brandon Belt to stay locked in, Joe Panik to get some hits to fall, Derek Law to hold onto his velocity and command, Hunter Strickland to miss bats, and to score more runs than the other team.
That last one is my Key to the Series™.
Those are all things that can happen without trolling the world. It doesn’t have to be Conor Gillaspies all the way down. Although that would be really funny, it turns out this team isn’t a bunch of fluky weirdos that the projection systems hate. They’re pretty alright, right there on the second tier of teams, below the Dodgers, Cubs, and Red Sox. And they’ve been in this spot before.
That doesn’t mean they won’t get swept. The Cubs are almost certainly the best team they’ve faced in the postseason, even when compared to the 2010 Phillies or 2012 Reds. But if you’re worried about the Giants being a complete product of last-second luck, don’t be. They’re probably a team that deserves to be here. And by here, we mean talented underdogs without home-field advantage against a ridiculously talented team.
There are lots of worse places to be.