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What to root for over the final 12 games

Individual performances, mainly.

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San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Kelsey Grant/Getty Images

The San Francisco Giants are 73-77, leaving just 12 games for the team to do two of the following things which I deem important:

  • Get to 75 wins
  • Get to 81-81

81-81 is an extreme longshot, but 75 wins is well within reach. We might even see it happen this weekend, even though the Giants are 34-41 on the road this year and 5-8 against Arizona (1-5 in Arizona, where they begin a three-game series tonight).

But 75 wins affirms Farhan Zaidi’s formula, a line of his from 2014 that I have not stopped thinking about since the day he became the Giants’ President of Baseball Operations:

You can build a 75-win team just based on sound analytical principles, and you can do that year in, year out even with a $50 million payroll.

Adjusted for inflation, that’s $62.55 million today. Giants payroll is around $155 million this season, meaning they’re not getting much bang for the buck for wins above 75, should they get there. They’re just two wins away — I think they can do it!

And, of course, it will be embarrassing if they do not at least get to 81 wins, on account of 107 wins last season. But we’ve all been preparing for that since, like, mid-June, so, I guess it won’t be all that embarrassing. Still, there’s definitely a very slim chance they could pull it off! I mean, I’m looking at the rest of their schedule (3 in Arizona, 3 at home against the Rockies, 3 at home against Arizona, and then the final three in San Diego) and I can squint and see it possibly, maybe happening.

What’s more possible are these few individual performances that I think, if nothing else, you should tune in and watch to see possibly, maybe, certainly more likely than 81-81 happen.

Carlos Rodón to win the strikeout title

At 220 strikeouts, Carlos Rodón is third place in all of baseball in strikeouts pitched. He’s got Dylan Cease behind him at 217 and Corbin Burnes (223) directly ahead of him and Gerrit Cole number one at 236.

What might hold him back?

Rodón has been dealing with a blister issue which pushed his scheduled start out of Colorado and to Arizona. A combination of the blister and Arizona blistering him again like they did back in July (in two starts at Chase Field, 9 earned runs in 11 innings — but also 17 strikeouts!) could hold him back. The Diamondbacks — against whom he could make two of his potentially final three starts this season — are the 7th-best team in the NL at avoiding strikeouts (22.1%) and Colorado and San Diego have done even better (both 21.2%)

The Yankees might not give Gerrit Cole a rest in the final week of the season and with his wide lead a skipped start might be exactly what Rodón needs to have his best chance.

I’m more or less ignoring the Corbin Burnes aspect of this only because he and Rodón are so close that I’m considering it neck and neck.

What might help him?

Rodón has been striking out everybody! He has ten double-digit strikeout games, one already against the Rockies and Padres and two against the Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks have been striking out at a rate of 24.1% in September. The Rockies are Rockying something fierce and the Padres could be playing for the final Wild Card. Pressing might draw them deeper into Rodón’s clutches.

At the very least, Rodón has an excellent shot at being the NL strikeout leader to go with him being the best pitcher (by fWAR) at season’s end.

Wilmer Flores to hit one more home run

He already has a career-high in home runs (19) and RBI (69), but one more home run puts him at 20 and 70, which scientists from 2007 call “The Pedro Feliz Zone.

What might hold him back?

A really poorly timed cold streak or injury.

What might help him?

He’s already homered in Chase Field this season, and by virtue of spending a season playing for the Diamondbacks, he’s hit 13 there overall (10% of his career HR total); but, he’s also hit the majority of his home runs at Oracle Park. Nine games out of the final 12 in places he’s comfortable and knows how to dong.

Brandon Crawford to get 16 more hits

As much as I want Brandon Crawford to run around and do cool things on the field next season as a 36 year old, I am also rooting for him to finish this year on a high note.

I’m figuring that Crawford will start 10 of the final 12 games, for no other reason than the math rounds out better if I do that. Figure four at bats per game, that’s 40 more at bats. Add that to his 370 already on the season and now we’re at 410. He has 84 hits now, 16 more puts him at 100. 100 hits divided by 410 at bats = .244 batting average. What’s the significance of a .244 batting average? Nothing! I just think it’s something worth to root for!

What might hold him back?

Have you seen his hitting metrics????

What might help him?

Getting to face Rockies and Padres pitching. He has 19 multi-hit games in 2022, three of those against the Rockies and two against the Padres.

Alex Cobb to not allow a home run

This one feels outlandish, even to me, one of the most outlandish people to ever exist. Rooting for a pitcher to prevent something is a fool’s errand, but if Cobb can prevent a home run from being hit against him for the rest of the season (he’s allowed 9), then he will lower his HR/9 to 0.5. What’s the significance of that?

Last season, his HR/9 was 0.5. His FIP was 2.92, his K/9 was 9.5 and his K/BB was 2.97. This year, he’s at 0.6, 2.92, 9.1, 3.40. He’s basically as good as he was last season when he became a Baseball Savant darling. He’s been one of the best free agent signings of the last five years. Great job, Giants! Great job, Alex Cobb! You will make either an excellent trade chip or rotation presence for the Giants next season.

What might hold him back?

Giving up home runs in Arizona is unavoidable. The Padres bring the thunder. And don’t discount the possibility of Charlie Blackmon going off at Oracle Park one last time. The remaining twelve games, however many of those wind up being Cobb starts, are filled with landmines.

What might help him?

Uh, good scouting and pitch sequencing?

Hmm... how about... in starts 1-9 he gave up five home runs, then in starts 10-15 he allowed zero, and then in 16-25 just four have been hit against him. He’s either due to give one up (which would ruin the ratio, unless he manages to average more than 5.1 IP in however many starts he has left) or he’s entering another six-start stretch of dominance (he last allowed a home run on 9/7 against the Dodgers).

Joc Pederson to hit three more home runs

Pederson’s 22 home runs this year bests his 18 from last season, but a far cry from his 36 in 2019. Still, he has been the Giants’ most productive hitter this season and seeing him finish on a strong note might soften the blow of his potential contract extension that could prevent the Giants from re-signing Brandon Belt and possibly Aaron Judge (sure, I’m just firing off speculation, but let’s see how this offseason plays out).

Also, if he gets to 25, that’s Barry Bonds’ jersey number, and Barry Bonds is Joc Pederson’s hero.

What might hold him back?

The math. His home run rate is 1 out of every 6.8 PA. That puts him on track for 23.8 home runs. 24 is good, but 25 is better!

What might help him?

Pederson has hit 13 of his 22 home runs on the road... but zero in Chase Field and Petco Park. So, he’s due!