It’s August 27. The San Francisco Giants are 65-66, and somehow, they’re still in this thing.
If you had told me last year that the Giants would be contending for a playoff spot late in the season, I’d ask you to pass the bong, because you’re clearly smoking high-quality stuff. The 2018 team was mediocrity incarnate, and even with the arrival of Farhan Zaidi along with big-time free agency gets such as
Bryce Harper Gerardo Parra and Dallas Keuchel Drew Pomeranz, there was no reason to believe this iteration of the Giants would be even halfway competitive.
But lo and behold, here we are with 31 games left, and the Giants are somehow, some way, only 4.5 games back of the second Wild Card.
That leads to the question: What will it take to turn “in this thing” into “in the playoffs”?
So far in August, the Giants have gone 10-13, which isn’t great for their playoff chances but seems about right for this team. Despite the emergence of Mike Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson, the semi-resurgence of Madison Bumgarner, decent turns from veterans such as Evan Longoria and Kevin Pillar, and a bloody good bullpen, we can’t forget that this is a team safely ensconced in the NL’s bottom five in batting and starting pitching.
Of the top six teams fighting for a Wild Card spot, only the Giants boast this ignominious combination. By wRC+, the St. Louis Cardinals are only a few points better than the Giants (90 vs. 86), but they also have one of the better starting rotations and the best bullpen in the NL. The New York Mets’ bullpen is a trash fire, but when you have a starting rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Zack Wheeler, and Steven Matz, it doesn’t really matter. The Philadelphia Phillies are a talented bunch with some bad pitching, but that’s nothing a Bryce Harper walk-off grand slam can’t solve. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers are a top-five offense, and the Washington Nationals are just really, really good.
And the Chicago Cubs? Well, the Giants saw what they can do.
Right now, the Giants are trying to drive uphill in San Francisco in a Smart car pulling a U-Haul trailer full of nostalgic memorabilia. The fact that they haven’t crashed and burned yet is a wonder. I don’t mean this to be cynical—I actually think it’s worth lauding. This team has been a season-long showcase in heart and perseverance, and it’s hard to discount any group of players that manage a 19-6 record in a single month.
Still, the Giants don’t have the offense, and they don’t have the starting pitching, so they’re going to have to fall back on luck and a bullpen that’s helped them achieve a truly fantastic record of 30-13 in one-run games.
The Giants have 31 games left. Sixteen are against tough opponents—the Cardinals, the Atlanta Braves, the Boston Red Sox, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The other bunch is against ostensible bottom feeders that will no doubt annoy, as is wont of the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies. If the Giants want a shot at the playoffs, they’ll have to shoot for 84 wins, at least. Realistically, it’ll probably take 88 wins, or a record of 23-8 for the rest of the season. In other words, another July.
Can a bottom-five offense and rotation pull off a second miracle month and shock the baseball world? Probably not. But the fact I’m telling you there’s a chance is more than I could’ve hoped for before the season started.