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The Giants and Cardinals aren't so different this season

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They have roughly the same record, after all. It's how they got there that makes the difference.

Because I could, that's why.
Because I could, that's why.
Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

The Giants are poison. If you watch a Giants game right now, especially in the ninth inning, your arteries will harden and vines will grow out of your ears. Everyone who lived or worked within a mile of AT&T Park this year will live an average of five years fewer than they otherwise would have. The Giants are the worst team in the league, if not their generation, and they will never win another game.

The Giants are currently leading the wild card race, and they still have a great chance to make the postseason.

Both can be true! But I’m focusing on the first paragraph lately because, well, it’s coming from the heart. It’s not a lot of fun to watch a team lose like the Giants have in the second half. Sorry if it can be a real drag, man.

The Cardinals are coming into town for a four-game series. Are you ready for this?

cards

Sure you are. This could be the entire season. If the Giants win the series, they can go three games up on the second wild card spot with 14 to play. If they sweep, they could be five games up.

If they split the series, well, we’ll see you back here on Monday.

And if they lose the series, they’re tied for the second wild card. If they get swept, they’re suddenly out of postseason position for the first time since May. They should probably avoid getting swept. But more than any series so far in the second half, this has the potential to be the one that we look back on with the most affection or regret.

The point you need to remember: The Cardinals have been just as bad as the Giants. A game worse, even. They’ve just done it in a much more palatable way. That’s the only difference.

The Giants’ Pythagorean record is 79-66. The Cardinals’ Pythagorean record is 79-66. The Giants have a new closer after the last one immolated. So do the Cardinals. The Giants have very, very clear weaknesses that stand out with every loss. So do the Cardinals. The Giants have four players who combine for 20 homers. That’s almost like the Cardinals, who have four players who’ve hit 20 homers. The Cardinals have been hurt because of a superteam within their own division (Cubs). The Giants have been hurt because of a superteam within their own division (Padres).

The Cardinals have been outscored by 20 runs in the second half and won 30 games ...

[grinds teeth]

... while the Giants have been outscored by 15 runs and won 20 games.

They’re basically the same.

The difference is that the Cardinals can point to an underperforming rotation as the reason they haven’t pulled away from the Giants and Mets, if not challenge the Cubs. They have four starters with an ERA between 4.45 and 4.60, which is impressive! In half of their innings, they give up a run in every inning.

The other difference is that the Cardinals can call on their farm system to help, with Luke Weaver and Alex Reyes looking sharp lately. The Giants’ lineup and bullpen is the Giants’ lineup and bullpen is the Giants’ lineup and bullpen. Ain’t no fixing that now.

But back to that point above, where the only difference is that the Cardinals have gotten to 76 wins by winning more than they’ve lost, and they’ve sprinkled the hot streaks in with the cold streaks. Baseball-Reference has a visual guide to every team’s season, which I just love, and the Cardinals’ looks like this:

The height of the bars is the margin of victory or defeat. And the Cardinals’ season, to me, looks something like this:

  • Oof
  • Yay!
  • Eh
  • Yay!
  • Eh
  • Yay!
  • Oof
  • Eh
  • Yay!
  • Oof
  • Eh
  • Yay!
  • Oof
  • Eh

The Cardinals’ best month this season was 16-11. Their worst month was 12-13. Nice ‘n’ steady. A real game of Yahtzee, they are.

Now for the Giants:

That translates to something like:

  • Yay!
  • Aieeee!
  • Yay!
  • Yay!
  • YAY!
  • I’ve paid my duuuuues
  • Time after tiiiiiiiiime
  • I’ve done my sentence
  • But committed no crime
  • And bad mistakes
  • I've made a few
  • I've had my share of sand kicked in my face
  • But I've come throuuugh
  • (And I need to go on and on and on)
  • Weeeee are the chuuuuuarrrrghgagaghgghhhfff
  • OH GOD BOLT THE DOOR
  • RUN SAVE YOURSELF
  • NO NO NO IT’S INSIDE THE HOUSE WE HAVE TO GO
  • IT’S INSIDE THE HOUSE
  • WE HAVE TO GO
  • [trying to start car that won’t turn over]
  • COME ON COME ON COME ON
  • HONEY, HURRY, IT’S RIGHT BEHIND US
  • I’M TRYING I’M TRYING OH GRRARHHRRHH

So while Cardinals fans have been patiently waiting for their team to catch that one sustained hot streak, Giants fans have been impatiently waiting for their team to stop playing like they’re really, really high. Yet they’re roughly at the same place after all that.

The permutation shouldn’t matter a whole lot. Sure, statisticians always like to weigh what’s happened recently just a little more than what happened three months ago, but I don’t think it’s outlandish to believe both of them are good flawed teams, unless they’re flawed good teams.

The conclusion? These are two evenly matched teams, and this should decide everything, unless there’s a split or decides very little. But it’s nice to have a little perspective. The Cardinals aren’t the kind of team that would win their first nine games against the Padres and then lose the next six. They’re the team that would win five of their first nine and four of their next six. They end up in the same place. You just don’t want to give the Cardinals the middle finger quite as much.

I mean, technically you do.

Because we’re really good at it. But the larger point is that the Giants might not be this bad. All you need to do is look at a team like the Cardinals, who got to the same place in a very different, much more orthodox way.

A much more preferable way.

Don’t screw this up, Giants.