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Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Giants Are Limping to the Finish

Well, things are looking bad aren't they?  I mean, as bad as they can be for a team that is almost assuredly going to the playoffs.

Yes, barring a total collapse this final week of the season, the Giants will be playing October baseball.  Granted, that October baseball looks almost certain to be a date with the Pirates for the one game wildcard play-in game.  And the way the Pirates are going (super hot) and the way the Giants are going (not so hot), San Francisco's October baseball appearance could be one and done on October 1st.

Has there been a more enigmatic San Francisco Giants team?

The Giants shot out to MLB's best record in baseball the first 2 months of the season.  They did so mostly by beating up on the NL West in April (inclusive of those Dodgers) and by having a 20 win May against some good teams.  They started June off well and swept the Mets and had a 43-21 record.  Then the wheels fell off.  They seemingly couldn't beat anyone the rest of June and July.  The Giants blew all of their 9.5 game lead in the NL West to the Dodgers until righting the ship a bit in August and September to lead the wildcard and keep the Dodgers in striking distance.

We've seen Matt Cain's elbow go AWOL, Marco Scutaro make a cameo just long enough to concuss Brandon Belt, Pagan's back issues way too much, and Morse's injury history finally rearing its head when arguably we need his power bat the most.  Not to mention we've seen Lincecum turn into Zito and Hudson go incognito when, like Morse, we really can't afford to not have him be on his game. Yusmeiro Petit could legitimately be our #3 postseason starting pitcher.  Yusmeiro. Petit.

The bench was revamped on the fly and has actually gotten better as the season has gone along mostly thanks to rookie Andrew Susac and polishing off Travis Ishikawa as a shiny, new, and effective pinch hitter.  Joe Panik has been a life saver at second while Jake Peavy apparently only needed to be reunited with his old Padres manager to remember he was a Cy Young pitcher once.

It's been a wild ride.  A season truly full of up and downs.  As October looms, the Giants are not in the best position.  They're losing games to teams they really ought to beat and their offense has pulled its Houdini act again.  The starting pitching has been inconsistent outside of Bumgarner and Peavy which is not a recipe for October success.  Pagan and Morse can't stay healthy and Brandon Belt is taking real MLB at-bats but he's essentially in Spring Training mode.

The Giants lead going into the Petco finale (I hate that stadium) is miniscule over Pittsburgh for home field advantage for that one game wildcard playoff.  The Giants record home and away is about equal so playing on the road isn't daunting but the Pirates have one of the best home records in baseball. Regardless, whether they play at AT&T or play at PNC, the Giants have a lot of issues and don't have the look of a team about to run the table and win its third World Series championship in 5 years.

Of course, they still need to MAKE the playoffs.  The way they're playing, they could miss out completely if the Brewers decided to make any sort of move in the wildcard standings the past week. Luckily for the Giants, the Brewers and Braves showed a lot of disinterest in making a final run for the wildcard meaning the Giants may very well back into October while playing uninspiring ball with a spate of injuries and little depth.  You can practically pen in Pirates vs Giants on October 1st with Bumgarner facing either Gerrit Cole or Francisco Liriano (who won the Pirates play-in game last year).  And remember, Giants hitters have all sorts of issues hitting left handed pitching so Liriano would make sense on Clint Hurdle's part, especially if Angel Pagan can't play.

While it's hard to see this current group making much noise (getting past Pittsburgh would be an accomplishment in and of itself), you never know.  That is what makes baseball great.  The only thing that we can say for certain is that we'll be rooting for whomever is playing the Dodgers almost as hard as we're rooting for the Giants to somehow advance.