Here we are again.
The Giants have scraped up just enough will to win to wind up in the playoffs, or at least in the NL wild-card play-in, this year.
The last time we checked in on the Giants, they had pissed away their massive lead in the NL West and were in danger of missing the playoffs entirely. Since then, they’ve continued to stumble, but managed to claim the second play-in spot on the last day of the regular season. It took a final series sweep of the Dodgers, who had nothing to play for, to lock it up, but when you’re in, you’re in.
The Giants are the team that should get the scorn heaped onto the Cardinals as the most annoying recently successful team in the league. The Giants’ fanbase is an even split between grizzled Candlestick vets and tech-industry bandwagoners. The Giants are the same consistently unspectacular winners you’ve watched win three World Series in six years.
You may not believe that a team that went from the best team in the first half to a 30-42 team in the second half with a relief pitching staff that blew 32 saves throughout the season could hold their own through the long, arduous MLB playoffs. But if you think regular season results are actually predictive of how the Giants will fare in the playoffs, you probably haven’t been paying attention.
Some people believe there is a higher power compelling the Giants to win the World Series every even year. Some people believe that is a dumb crock of shit. I’m not going to tell you how to feel, but even the strongest non-believers amongst us must admit that it is a little weird. If the Giants do win the World Series this year, no one can ever again deny the Giants are destined to win every two years going forward. Forever.
As you watch the Giants hopefully cruise through the wild-card game into the playoffs again, here’s what to expect:
The team can’t hit for power, but they can get on base and avoid striking out. They strand everyone on base, and score on infield singles. The back-end of the rotation is a constant mess, and the usually reliable bullpen shit the bed this year. They will frustrate you and they will confuse you, but they will find a way.
You probably know the Giants mainstays: Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Madison Bumgarner. You know the Brandons (Crawford and Belt), Angel Pagan, and Joe Panik. They added Johnny Cueto and Jeff Samardzija to the pitching staff—Deadspin editor Tim Marchman, a White Sox loyalist, has promised to dive off a bridge if Samardzjia starts a World Series game—and picked up free agent outfielder Denard Span in the offseason. You probably wonder who is Gorkys Hernandez or where the nerd with the glasses, Kelby Tomlinson, came from. Let’s get into it:
Madison Bumgarner will start the play-in in Queens, facing off against Noah Syndergaard, the last young survivor of the Mets’ pitching apocalypse.
Bumgarner, as you recall, pitched a four-hit complete game shutout in Pittsburgh during the 2014 NL wild-card game. The man looked possessed out there on the mound, and continued to hold that intensity and carry the team to the World Series. The dude gave up six earned runs and 28 in 52.2 innings. He started two games and made a definitive relief appearance in a seven-game World Series and posted a 0.43 ERA for the series. I had to put the zero there so you would know it wasn’t a typo. Holy fuck! I still can’t believe that shit.
Anyway, don’t expect Bumgarner to replicate his 2014 postseason pitching. He had a pretty great 2016 season, though, anchoring the Giants’ rotation with Instagram legend Johnny Cueto.
If the Giants make it past the Mets, Cueto will start the NLDS against the Cubs. Cueto’s had a great season for the Giants, finishing with a 2.79 ERA and throwing a career-high five complete games. Johnny’s the guy you want against the Cubs, but find a barf bag for the rest of the Giants’ pitching staff.
Jeff Samardzija has been pretty butt to begin his five-year/$90 million contract with the Giants. Matt Cain and Jake Peavy are ghosts of another time, and the Giants will likely start rookie LHP Ty Blach after his eight shutout innings in his October 1 start against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.
The Giants’ bullpen gave the fanbase collective trust issues this season. Don’t let them see Santiago Casilla in a ninth inning and/or save situation this postseason. Rookie RHP Derek Law and old staples George Kontos and Sergio Romo have been the only truly reliable relievers. If one thing is certain to kill the Giants this offseason, it’s the relief pitching.
Despite what Giants fans will tell you, Brandon Belt had a quietly dominant season in 2016. Belt’s batting average was fine (.275—no Giant with 300+ plate appearances finished over .300), but he led the team by a wide margin in walks (104; Buster Posey had the second-most for the team with 64), and was the team’s dinger-leader with 17 HR on the season. Belt finished the 2016 season with a line of .275/.394/.474.
Buster Posey had a down season personally, but was again the team’s most consistent offensive presence and caught 1069.2 innings in 2016. Posey’s power dipped again this year, dropping to a .434 slugging average, the lowest he’s hit since his injury-shortened season in 2011.
Brandon Crawford, who you will be reminded during postseason broadcasts grew up a Giants fan and was photographed at Candlestick Park as a child with a sign begging the team not to move to Tampa, has become a real favorite for the Giants. Crawford led the National League in defensive wins above replacement (2.7) and went .275/.342/.430/.772 with 12 home runs in 2016. He somehow managed to keep his hair looking like it was wet the entire time.
The whole team was pretty unspectacular at hitting, so let’s focus on the important things:
- Hunter Pence swings at everything and Vin Scully recently said he was “full of beans.” Vin Scully loves Hunter Pence. And it takes a lot to seem to make anything about a hitter’s mechanics seem truly noteworthy to a guy who has been watching baseball since 1936.
- Denard Span had an okay debut season for the Giants, but was an offensive roller coaster in the race to the playoffs. Span finished with a .336 BA for the month of August, and then went .190 in September and Bochy began sitting him for Gorkys Hernandez. The most upsetting thing about Span continues to be his weird batting stance, in which he twists his leading foot back toward his body.
- Angel Pagan’s only good defensive play of the season came last week, when he bodyslammed an Idiot on the Field.
- Kelby Tomlinson wears glasses.
Yes, but they don’t have to.
Root for the Giants because you believe in fate or because you believe the postseason is not about crowning the best team, but the team with the most will to survive. Root for the Giants if you appreciate them knocking the Cardinals out of the postseason in 2012 and 2014, and blocking their entry to the postseason this year. Root for the Giants because Hunter Pence looks like he’s been electrocuted, and Johnny Cueto’s celebratory Instagrams will be legendary.
But mostly, root for the Giants because after a 67-year hiatus, Vin Scully can finally go back to being a Giants fan.