San Francisco Giants: How They Stack up to NL Playoff Rivals
By Michael Dixon
Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports. Giants win 4-2.
The San Francisco Giants have had something of an interesting week since we last looked at their playoff chances. Since last Friday, they’ve had a three-game losing streak, highlighted by two very frustrating losses. On the other hand, they’re currently riding a three-game winning streak, which is all good.
Perhaps the biggest negative is that the National League West is looking like a sizable uphill battle at this point.
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The National League Wild Card picture, however, is shaping up pretty well for the Giants.
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Beyond the numbers, what can we figure out from these teams?
San Francisco Giants
Upcoming Series: 3 vs. Milwaukee, 3 at Colorado (plus 1 resumed game), 3 at Detroit
- The Giants can handle their business against the bad teams. They have 16 games (plus the one resumed in Colorado) against teams with losing records. They can’t make the playoffs on beating up the bad teams alone, but they are shaped up to make some significant headway.
- Buster Posey is locked in.
- Through one start, Yusmeiro Petit is making the decision to give Tim Lincecum some rest a very wise one. He just set a Major League record for consecutive hitters retired and while that streak is no longer active, he is pitching very well.
- The starting pitching in general has been very solid. If Ryan Vogelsong throws a quality start today, that will be one turn through the rotation with five quality starts.
- The Giants really struggle against good teams. Both the Brewers and Tigers have winning records. The Giants have also not won a game in an American League stadium this year, which is what they’ll be facing in Detroit. They don’t have to sweep the series or even win them all, but they do need to win a few and certainly can’t be swept. Even riding a three-game winning streak, I don’t have a great feeling heading into the next 10 games.
- It seems very likely that we won’t see Hector Sanchez again this season. Brandon Belt remains a possibility, but it doesn’t exactly seem imminent.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Upcoming Series: 3 at San Diego, 3 vs. Washington, 3 vs. Arizona
- Clayton Kershaw might be a decent pitcher one day.
- Other than their two remaining three-game series against the Giants, the three games against the Nationals are the only series the Dodgers have remaining against a team with a winning record. Unless the Giants make significant headway over the next week, they’ll have to all but sweep the Dodgers to realistically have a chance at the NL West title. Since Kershaw is in line to pitch in each series, that’s not that realistic, even if the Giants do win both series. So while it’s still a while from being mathematically over, the NL West isn’t that far from being realistically wrapped up.
- He hasn’t done much since returning, but Hanley Ramirez is back and in the lineup.
- Dee Gordon, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez are all beginning to break out the bats.
- Yasiel Puig is going through a funk. It looks like he’s in the Home Run Derby.
- The looming return of Hyun-jin Ryu should help fix this, but the depth of this starting rotation is leaving a lot to be desired.
- A big advantage that the Dodgers have for playoff advancement is Kershaw and Zack Greinke at the top. Kershaw will be hard to beat, but Greinke hasn’t been pitching great. Now, he is coming off of an injury and has a month to get things right but at the moment, they don’t have a huge advantage in that No. 2 spot against the other playoff teams, especially the Nationals.
St. Louis Cardinals
Upcoming Series: 4 vs. Chicago Cubs, 3 vs. Pittsburgh, 4 at Milwaukee
- Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras — the youngsters — are really showing good form over the last week. A team that doesn’t hit for great power needs guys getting on base up and down the order, especially guys with speed.
- The National League Central is still a very real possibility for St. Louis, especially with that four-game series against the Brewers looming.
- The return of Yadier Molina may be imminent. That will help the offense but Molina’s defense undeniably helps the pitching rotation. That can’t be overstated right now. Especially because…
- The Cardinals have one potentially huge advantage in a one-game playoff scenario — Adam Wainwright. Yet over the last month, he’s got an ERA above 5.00. Actually, the whole pitching staff is really struggling, which doesn’t exactly bode well for a deep October run.
- With the exceptions of Wong, Taveras, and possibly Matt Holliday, the rest of the offense is coming off pretty flat.
Upcoming Series: 3 vs. Miami, 3 vs. Philadelphia, 3 at Miami
- I will grant that the Marlins just missed making the cut today. I have kind of an informal rule that you need to be within 5 games of a playoff spot, and Miami isn’t quite there. So I admit that they are no pushover. Still, something like 7-2 is not an unrealistic prediction for these next nine games, and that’s likely going to put them in great postseason position.
- While the Braves offense is often frustrating and inconsistent, the pitching rotation is beginning to look very strong. A Wild Card berth is never ideal but with Julio Teheran, Ervin Santana, Brandon Wood, and Mike Minor, they have a rotation that’s deep enough to make a long postseason run, even if they have to do it the hard way.
- While a 7-2 record over these next nine games isn’t unrealistic, this team isn’t exactly dominating the sub-.500 teams right now. They may not need something like 7-2, but they also probably can’t go much below 6-3.
- Freddie Freeman really needs to be more consistent. We know that guys like Justin Upton are streaky, but Atlanta needs a stabilizing force and should be Freeman. Right now, it’s not.
- It doesn’t have anything to do with the current year as he’s been out all season, but Johnny Venters is very likely looking at a third Tommy John surgery, which is probably a career ender. Again, they’ve been without him all year so it doesn’t really impact the 2014 team, but it sure is unfortunate.
Upcoming Series: 3 vs Cincinnati, 3 at St. Louis, 3 at Chicago Cubs
- Andrew McCutchen has survived his first post-injury scare and is now red hot.
- Josh Harrison, Starling Marte, Russell Martin, Neil Walker, and Pedro Alvarez have all had very strong weeks. The Pirates are typically similar to the Giants in that they need to pitch well to win but if they’re bats are going, watch out for them over the last month.
- He’s not an every day player, but Ike Davis is hitting for nice power.
- Gerrit Cole is back and has thrown two quality starts.
- The run they had from Vance Worley seems to be over. He’s really struggled over his last three outings.
- Other than the Cardinals, the Pirates have the toughest remaining schedule of any of the teams they may be vying for a playoff spot with.