My esteemed colleague here at Around the Foghorn, Audrey, wrote a tantalizing piece last week on why the San Francisco Giants would win the National League West title and she gave five reasons why we could expect this to happen. Because I completely agree with her, I intend to leap frog onto her theme, lower my ultimate expectations a tad to simply having the Giants make the playoffs, and present five of my own reasons as to why this will occur.
I amend the goal from division winners to simply making the playoffs, with their one-game format and all, simply because it makes no difference how San Francisco gets in because, as Audrey pointed out, the Giants have experience. So with Los Angeles already leading the division, for the Giants to win the division, LA must falter. Whereas the Dodgers are sputtering at this juncture of the season, those two-and-a-half games separating the North from the South, are not stuttering, and they must be overcome.
However, to attain the playoffs, the Giants are in control of their own success, because they are currently one game ahead of St. Louis, which means they are also in front of all the rest. Without further palaver, here are five reasons why you can count on San Francisco to attain one of the playoff berths.
The Giants are historically a late season team; they surge in September. Since experience is key to this discussion, let’s look at the last four seasons, starting in 2010, in which at least ten Giants players from this current team also played together on that team.
In 2010, the year of the first World Series victory in San Francisco, the Giants went 18-8 in September, and 1-2 in the regular part of the season that ended in October, making their late-season record 19-10, that is from September 1st onwards. The Giants took the season series with the Dodgers, 10-8 that season.2011, the year the Giants lost Buster Posey on May 25th, they still posted a 14-11 record in September, amassing an eight-game winning streak between the 11th and the 18th. They split the season series with LA, each winning nine games.
In 2012, the year of their second world championship in San Francisco, they went 20-9 in the last month-plus of the season, including a six-game winning streak and a streak of four straight wins. They took the season series from LA, 11-8.
Last season, after injuries had left them in the cellar for much of the middle part of the year, they busted out in September, posting a 16-11 record, including taking five of seven from the playoff-bound Dodgers down this stretch. The Giants took the season series again from LA, 11-8.
I think you know where I’m going with this:
By contrast, during this same four-year period, Los Angeles has compiled a 53-53 mark, posting losing Septembers in 2010 (10-16), 2012 (13-15) and 2013, (12-15). The one year they had a winning September was 2011, when they went 17-10.
My second reason why San Francisco will make the playoffs is that the Giants have already met adversity this season and have kicked its backside. Teams that lead wire-to-wire have a greater likelihood of encountering technical difficulties in the playoffs if they encounter a sizzling team, because they have had it so handily all season. By getting off to a hot start, including that 31-11 stretch, and then struggling for more than two months, the Giants are getting it together at the perfect time for their accustomed late-season surge.
Brian Sabean is my third reason the Giants will advance because he was smart enough to make the trade that saved the Giants’ season, and then held off doing anything rash at the deadline, like trade away for a second baseman, when he was already on the team in the person of Joe Panik.
Sabean’s acquisition of Jake Peavy was brilliant because of Peavy’s fierce competitive nature. Jake is so fiery and demonstrative, you know his teammates must love playing behind him. Sabes was smart enough to be able to ignore the numbers, knowing that Peavy was better than his 1-9 record, his 4.72 ERA, and his 1.43 WHIP indicated, during the first two-thirds of 2014 while a member of the Boston Red Sox. As a Giant, through Saturday’s game, Peavy is 3-4, with a 2.66 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Not too shabby on both sides of the equation.
My fourth rationale is the resurgent starting pitching staff, which has tossed six consecutive quality starts, in providing the impetus for the current winning streak. The way each of our starting five is pitching at this point in the season, it would be hard to select three to form a starting rotation in the playoffs, and this is even without Tim Linecum in the mix. Do not count Timmy out of the Show.
Finally, there is the heart and soul of the Giants, Buster Posey. He is the cable that splices the whole unit together, with his capacity for storing knowledge of the opposing hitters in his brain, and dispensing it out during the game in the form of his pitch-calling. It’s what got San Francisco through both the Texas Rangers in 2010 and the vaunted Detroit Tiger offense in 2012.
Buster is heating up now in leading the Giants in their August surge, and is helping the Giants gain ground steadily on the Dodgers. He got hot in 2012 also, when he was named MVP of the National League, primarily on the basis of a blisteringly hot second half of the season.
The Giants are playing fundamentally sound baseball now and benefiting from the experience they have acquired along the way. Oh yeah, and they have gotten their mojo back.
September is upon us, the pennant race is heating up and the Giants are right where they need to be. And I’m like Yogi Berra, getting that same old deja vu feeling, all over again.