The San Francisco Giants are dead. Long live the San Francisco Giants. This weekend, they will be brutalized and atomized by their arch rival the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that is better in every single way and could very well be for the rest of our lives.
There’s no denying this and there’s no stopping this and the entire program of the San Francisco Giants has resolved to work around this unstoppable force by aiming for the consolation round and hoping that the wackiness of a short series helps them out by causing them to beat better teams while the somebody else takes out the Dodgers, paving the way for them to advance to the World Series.
It’s a sound strategy. Not fun, though, and liable to make the fanbase irrationally angry. I grappled with this idea on the latest Giants Chroncast with former contributor Doug Bruzzone in part because of superfan Grant Brisbee’s piece the other day in The Athletic (subscription required) and in part because I’m irrationally angry, too.
For starters, why can’t I be irrational about a bunch of grown men hitting and throwing a ball in their pajamas? I’ve already given my time over to something silly — why must I (or we) adopt the values and language of our oppressors (the owners who won’t spend $300 million+ on their rosters every year).
The next part of this is — and I swear I’m going to come around to a preview about this four-game series that starts tonight — that it’s a lot easier to get really, really mad at a handful of people rather than a whole team. Grant has five theories for why we fans are big mad:
The Dodgers will never be bad again
The empty free agent promises
The heightened expectations of 2021
The Giants are boring
The Giants are too reliant on analytics
Ultimately, the probable answer is parts of all five theories; however, he rejects the premise of the fifth theory and I’m with him in that very narrow view.
Grant also writes,
Except I also get why this team’s specific brand of analytics is so irritating. The decisions are so, so omnipresent in what is, to you, an escape or a hobby. It’s Duke Ellington stopping every five seconds and saying, “Now I’m going to play a C7#9” before he actually plays it. You just want to hear the danged song.
And I think this is why the anger levels are so intense. It’s much, much easier to say, “I hate my team because I don’t like what the guys are running the team are doing,” and when those guys are making it very clear that the team is only functional because of what they’ve been doing — and that’s an undeniable concept, I think — the irrational part of the human brain can’t help but go “decision-maker decision makes bad team says don’t worry about it now I big mad.”
On the podcast, I talked about how Zaidi and Kapler are human beings just like us with their own foibles. They’ve been pretty savvy about not giving the media much to hook onto — no “I am not an idiot”-level comments, for example — and I think that’s only increased the irrational anger. We can assume they’re not happy with the outcome of this season, but it’s less clear that they’re particularly bothered with the state of their processes.
They do seem to get really embarrassed when they can’t corporate talk their way around a situation. Zaidi storming out of the booth at the end of last season as the defense flopped all over the place sticks out and yesterday, Gabe Kapler did the SABRist version of “It’s over” with “the math is not in our favor” — that’s a scandal. A team admitting defeat even with a mathematical chance!
The Dodgers are positioned to turn a mathematical probability into a certainty with a sweep. The last time these two teams met was back in June when the Giants were at their zenith. Remember when the Giants swept the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium? One of those games was 15-0!
The Giants were the 5th-best lineup in baseball after that sweep, matching the Dodgers with 12.8 fWAR. Now, of course, WAR isn’t everything, and just by runs scored (354) the Giants were 8th in MLB (4th in NL behind ATL, LAD, and AZ). They were also 39-32 and winners of seven straight on their way to a 10-game winning streak which prompted this stupid article. It all went to hell after that.
Through the sweep of the Dodgers (MLB ranks in parenthesis):
39-32 (12th), 3.85 ERA (8th), 4.99 runs/game (8th), 12.8 fWAR (5th), 108 wRC+ (7th)
Since the sweep of the Dodgers (MLB ranks in parenthesis):
37-44 (25th), 4.26 ERA (16th), 3.72 runs/game (29th), 3.9 fWAR (28th), 84 wRC+ (28th)
For the sake of simple comparison, the Dodgers are 54-25 since that series. Their pitching, which is supposed to be in a state of flux, has a 3.62 ERA in those 79 games. They’ve had a lot of issues with their rotation — I wouldn’t call it adversity because it’s largely the combination of rookies & poor character.
They’re just really great at hitting and have even been a bit better since the Giants swept them. On the season, they have a team walk rate of 10.4% next to a 21.6% strikeout rate. In their last 79 games, though, it’s a 10.1% walk rate with a 20.5% strikeout rate. That’s impressive. Only Atlanta and Philadelphia have outslugged them (.239 & .201 ISOs, respectively), too. They’ve hit 237 home runs (2nd in MLB) and 285 doubles (1st in NL). They’ve also stolen 99 bases, which is in the middle-third of MLB, but hey, we’ll get to watch them get their 100th steal against Patrick Bailey.
Mookie Betts will probably win the NL MVP Award over Ronald Acuna Jr. and right behind both of them will probably be Freddie Freeman, meaning the Dodgers have two of the three best players in the National League — but also, if you consider that Shohei Ohtani’s missed time has paused his value accumulation, they’re two of the three best players in the sport.
So, the headline of this post is “Live...” and I put that there to remind us all that we’re watching this team to be entertained. We already know they’re a dead team walking, so our entertainment must necessarily come from their behavior with all of us knowing that. As Sami pointed out this morning, the Giants could spoil one thing for LA, even now.
Will they stand up and show the Dodgers that they’re not just an also-ran? Not so long ago, this matchup was actually competitive. The Giants have been mostly non-competitive over the last three months, especially on the road — well, here’s the chance to show they have some life left in them, even if this is just a “rage against the dying of the light” scenario.
Who: San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Dodgers
Where: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
When: Thursday (7:10pm PT), Friday (7:10pm PT), Saturday (6:10pm PT), Sunday (4:10pm)
National broadcasts: Thursday — MLB Network simulcast; Friday — Apple TV+; Sunday — ESPN
Thursday: Kyle Harrison vs. Emmet Sheena
Friday: Sean Manaea vs. TBA
Saturday: TBA vs. Clayton Kershaw
Sunday: TBA vs. Lance Lynn
Where they stand
Record: 93-58 (1st in NL West)
Run differential: +189 (2nd in NL)
Postseason standing: won division, currently the #2 overall seed in NL
Momentum: 1-game losing streak; 7-3 in last 10 games
Record: 76-76, 3rd in NL West
Run differential: -24 (8th in NL)
Postseason standing: eliminated from division title, 3 games out of 3rd Wild Card
Momentum: 2-game losing streak; 4-6 in last 10 games
Dodgers to watch
Emmet Sheehan: Recall that his first major league start was a no-hitter through 6 innings against the Giants on June 16th in a game the Giants won 7-5. Since then, it looks like the league has figured him out (6.18 ERA in his next 43.2 IP) and his last appearance was a three-inning relief outing against Seattle. Maybe the Dodgers are trolling with this move, but that’s fine. The Giants deserve it.
Clayton Kershaw: This seems like a good season for Kershaw to go out on. After siding with bigots and missing all of July with left shoulder soreness, I don’t think he’s going to be able to add much else to his slam dunk Hall of Fame resume... beyond another World Series win. Since returning from that shoulder injury on August 10th, he’s posted a 2.42 ERA in 26 IP (6 starts). The 50,000 foot view of that looks pretty good, but on the ground there’s something else going on. He has a 6.07 FIP made up of a 22-12 K-BB and batters are slugging .433 off him. He’s given up 6 home runs in these last six starts, which equals a third of his season total. The Dodgers are 16-6 in his starts, though, and this very well could be his last or next to last start ever against a team he has mostly dominated. Goodbye!
James Outman: The Giants hope to be in a position like the Dodgers found themselves in with Outman. Part of the calculation for non-tendering Cody Bellinger was that they had Outman as a potential replacement — certainly one who could provide surplus value of his contract versus what Bellinger would’ve made through arbitration. This minimum salary guy has hit .249/.350/.429 in 528 PA this season and .254/.394/.442 in the second half. The Giants would like to have some Outmans to obviate the need for future Confortos and Hanigers.
Giants to watch
Kyle Harrison: The Giants almost certainly rushed him this season as part of their pitching panic and as much as the kid’s struggled, facing the Dodgers is a great way to bring back confidence — but also threaten to crush it! The Dodgers are the third-best team in MLB (124 wRC+) against left-handed pitching. Left-handed hitters are 12-for-24 against Harrison. He’s given up 7 home runs (4 vs. RHH, 3 vs. LHH), too. If this is really is a Keeping up with the Joneses situation that the Giants are clearly losing, then it’s possible they’ll make quick work of this top prospect. On the other hand, maybe Harrison shoves — are we still saying that?
Tyler Fitzgerald: The data doesn’t support him being anything more than a 26th man on a good team, but that just makes him a pivotal figure on the 2023 Giants. Who knows how much we’ll see of him this weekend, but hey — shiny new player! Let’s see some speed! I have no idea how we’ll get on base, but maybe he’ll flash some defense to make up for it.
Marco Luciano: We saw Mauricio Dubon frustrate Clayton Kershaw and we’ve certainly had fun with some random players doing good things in the rivalry, but I want to get back to obvious player doing great things in the rivalry. Who knows how much we’ll see of him this weekend, but hey, here’s some power potential the Giants didn’t have yesterday.
Will the Dodgers turn the Giants into...
This poll is closed
A smoking crater?
A team tied for Wild Card #3?
An 80-loss team?
Who cares? It’s 49ers/Warriors time