But just because your favorite team is in the playoffs doesn’t mean we should avoid a great October tradition: the playoff rooting guide.
This time I’m taking a different approach, and asking four questions to help you figure out who to root for.
Spoiler: it’s the Giants. Root for the Giants.
To Beat LA now or to Beat LA later?
One of two very exciting things will happen: either the Dodgers will lose, which is always worth celebrating, or the Dodgers will win, which means the Giants will get the opportunity to do the honors.
Either way, Beat LA is the vibe.
If we were writing a dream script to the season — which, to be fair, it certainly looks like after 162 games — it would include the Dodgers winning, so the Giants could beat them.
But that’s a chance I’m not stoked on taking, so go ahead and do the honors, Cards.
Where are all the former Giants?
The Giants haven’t made the playoffs since 2016, which means we’ve all had plenty of time to think about who we’d like to win without San Francisco being an option. One great way to determine who to pull for is to find where the former Giants are.
Using this highly specific methodology, we can determine that you should root for the Giants this postseason. They have 26 Giants on their roster, which is substantially more than the other nine teams combined. If you’re a fan of the Giants, I’m here to tell you that science says you should root for the Giants.
We don’t know what the postseason rosters will look like, but five of the other nine teams had at least one former Giant on their active roster at the end of the season. Four of those five had just one Giant, and the fifth? Well, the fifth had four ex-Giants.
That team is, of course, the Atlanta Braves, who hoard former Giants like I hoard vices.
Neither Stephen Vogt nor Pablo Sandoval is on the roster anymore (though Vogt is on the 40-man, on the 10-day Injured List), but Will Smith, Drew Smyly, Ehire Adrianza, and Adam Duvall all are. That’s a whole bunch of Giants!
Four teams don’t have former Giants, though the Chicago White Sox and Houston Astros have players who were recently in camp with the Giants (Billy Hamilton and Jose Siri, respectively), while the Dodgers have Phil Bickford, a former top pick in the Giants organization.
Only the Cardinals seem entirely void of Giants representation, though that’s probably just because I’m missing something.
What’s the path of least resistance?
The Giants will spend the NLDS playing the winner of the Cardinals-Dodgers series. The Dodgers won 106 games, with a +269 run differential; the Cards won 90 with a +34 differential. It’s an easy choice for the path of least resistance through the Divisional Series.
The NLCS gets a little more difficult to parse. The Giants will play either the Braves or the Brewers; Milwaukee won more games (95 to 88), but Atlanta had the better differential (+134 to +115). The Giants went 3-3 against the Braves this year, and 3-4 against the Brewers.
Milwaukee feels a bit better than Atlanta, and figures to benefit more from being able to shorten their rotation — even if they lost one of their better pitchers to a wall.
As for the American League, I’ll say something that would have seemed unbelievable before the season started: the Yankees look like the weak spot. Their 92 wins is tied with the Red Sox for fewest among AL playoff teams, and their run differential of +42 is easily lowest.
So if you’re looking for the easiest path, root for a lineup of the Cardinals, Braves, and Yankees. Then grin and bear it when the Giants inevitably end up facing the Dodgers, Brewers, and Rays.
Who are we morally obligated to root for?
This is always a fun exercise, even if I’m not used to the Giants being in it. There’s a clear moral obligation for your rooting interests, and while I’ll surely get it wrong, I’d be doing my job poorly to not try. So here’s who to root for, starting with who not to root for, and focusing only on how much you’d like these teams to win it all, rather than accounting for the fact that the Giants might have to play them.
10. Los Angeles Dodgers
I am not going to elaborate on this one. Beat LA.
9. Houston Astros
The Astros have two very cool things going for them: they recently beat the Dodgers in the World Series, and Dusty Baker is their manager.
Other than that, they’re a cheating team of cheating cheaters who don’t deserve nice things.
8. Atlanta Braves
The Braves are a likable team full of likable players and plenty of former Giants. And every time you watch one of their home games, you’re subjected to a wildly racist chant echoing through the stadium.
If they were the Atlanta Ducks, they’d be damn high on this list.
7. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox are one year removed from trading one of the 10 best players in baseball to save money, and then they walked backwards into the postseason. They shouldn’t be rewarded for that tomfoolery.
6. St. Louis Cardinals
I still haven’t heard a single good explanation for why Giants fans should hate the Cardinals, but Giants fans should definitely hate the Cardinals, and doing so absolutely feels right.
5. New York Yankees
I am not an anti-Yankees person, who hates on the organization for spending the money that they should spend to try and build a good team. They should be applauded for that.
But they’re still not particularly interesting, and that organization has won way too many titles to get an extra one in a down year. Plus, they don’t allow facial hair, and I can never root for that.
4. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are a pretty meh team. They’re not offensive, Josh Hader’s past notwithstanding. They’re not interesting, either, though their pitchers sure are fun to watch (when pitching against teams that aren’t the Giants).
Their jerseys are forgettable, their players are unmemorable, and they just kind of exist, playing good, if uninteresting baseball.
3. Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are a super cool team with a super un-cool manager. Do with that what you wish.
2. Tampa Bay Rays
Just as I’m not here to denigrate the Yankees for spending the money that they should, I’m not here to applaud the Rays for not spending the money that they should. But even though the organization is grossly cheap, and even though that’s not worthy of applause, it is remarkable that they can run away with a division that features the huge market Yankees, huge market Red Sox, and a Toronto Blue Jays team that might end up with two top-three finishers for AL MVP.
The lack of spending isn’t admirable, but the way that Tampa Bay has developed players, found inequalities, and made advancements in baseball is. They’ve long been considered the gold standard of modern, analytic baseball. If you’re a fan of baseball evolving and becoming a better sport, you should be a fan of what the Rays do, even if you think they should spend an extra $100 million while doing it.
Also, a former McCovey Chronicles community member works in their front office, so I’m legally obligated to cheer them on.
1. San Francisco Giants