Wild Card Giants Squeak Into the NL Playoffs


You have to give credit to the San Francisco Giants. Despite their one dimensional construction, and a terrible performance over the final three months of the 2016 season, they will be playing post season baseball in October.

giantscove-logo-300x72And this team absolutely earned the second Wild Card spot– with talent (very good starting pitching, excellent defense) and with veteran leadership (Manager Bruce Bochy, catcher Buster Posey, and starter Madison Bumgarner).

The Giants were also fortunate that the Dodgers spent most of the season having to continuously cobble together starting and bullpen pitching because of injuries, while San Francisco had a remarkable lack of significant player injuries.

The tired cliche to describe San Francisco’s 2016 campaign is the “before the All Star break”/”after the All Star break” win-loss comparisons. Don’t get me wrong, it was a frightening semi-historic 57-43 versus 30-42.

But the low information follow-up cliche is even worse: “They weren’t as good as they played in the first half, and they weren’t as bad as they played in the second half”.

Which of course is complete rubbish.

This team’s overall season performance was about 60% second half, 40% first half. This is a seriously flawed team that also has some seriously talented baseball players who also happen to have significant playoff experience.

It is a contrary but intriguing combination with a lot of recent history.

You may recall that over the last 13 seasons, the Giants have finished in first place in the NL West only twice– 2010 and 2012. They were 84-78 in 2015; 88-74 in 2014 (and a Wild Card World Series win); and 76-86 in 2013.

In the San Francisco Giants we are watching one of the last teams in the Majors to be run the old school way, a slicker version of how MLB franchises were built and managed in the 1970s-1980s. And it’s as tired as it is boring.

Actually applying advanced analytics and building a layered talent pool that starts at the farm system and continues to the 40 man roster? Not in San Francisco.

The Arizona Diamondbacks were rigidly “old school”, until the recent firings of GM Dave Stewart and Manager Chip Hale and the marginalizing of Tony La Russa‘s influence on baseball operations.

At a recent press conference D’Backs owner Ken Kendrick and CEO Derrick Hall stated that Arizona has to better integrate advanced analytical information into field ops if they hope to survive in the new world of Major League Baseball.

Other analytic holdout teams like the Philadelphia Phillies and Minnesota Twins are actually starting to not only expand their advanced information staffs, they are beginning to understand that long proven sabermetric principals aren’t abstract theories, they are templates for scoring and preventing runs in the modern game.

Today the San Francisco Giants meet the New York Mets in NL Wild Card game at Citi Field in Queens.

madbumvsnoahOn paper, as they say, these teams match up in many ways and are very different in many ways.

They met seven times this season with the Mets taking 4 games. On May 1, 2016 Madison Bumgarner faced Noah Syndergaard in a game the Giants won 6-1.

The Mets were remarkably consistent throughout the 2016, scoring 355 runs in the first half and 336 runs in the second.

We know the Giants had second half problems, but it is still startling to see that San Francisco scored 424 runs in the first half of the season and only 291 runs in the second half.

One obvious difference is their respective bullpens. The Mets pen was 6th in the Majors with a 3.53 ERA and 16 blown saves. The Giants bullpen was 15th overall with a 3.65 ERA and 30 blown saves.

Of course with starters Madison Bumgarner and Noah Syndergaard taking the mound the need for excessive bullpen help may not be an issue. Bumgarner is 4-0 with a 0.62 ERA in four career starts at Citi Field.

The Giants: look for Bochy to be very aggressive on the base paths with the defense putting on their usual shutdown show on the field. Bumgarner needs to get a good rhythm going immediately in the first inning.

The Mets: Jay Bruce is getting hot at the right time. And Yoenis Cespedes? Yes. If Noah Syndergaard cruises through the Giants’ line-up three times, with Jeurys Familia warming up in the pen, we will see the Mets versus the Cubs this weekend.

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