Baseball is a game defined by numbers created by individual and team performance. No other professional sport is as deeply measured, tracked, and deconstructed on a daily basis as Major League Baseball, because the more you know the more the game shines and gives back.
With over a third of the 2014 season in the books (37% to be precise), it’s a legitimate moment to assess the likely arch and logical implications of the remaining 102 games for the San Francisco Giants.
After taking two of three at Cincinnati this week, the Giants’ 39-21 record is the best in baseball– the Oakland A’s and Toronto Blue Jays both have 37 wins. While epic collapses happen, and are duly listed and reviewed regularly by sports media, they are not common.
Which brings us to several endgame scenarios for San Francisco.
There are reasons to believe that the Giants could perform at only a .500 pace over the final 102 games, and if they do they will end up with 90 wins. Before the season started, winning the National League West was judged to be a matter of getting 92-94 wins. But since the last week of March, a lot of stuff has happened.
The favored Los Angeles Dodgers have mostly stumbled around the .500 mark (they are currently 31-30), and have so far shown a remarkable lack of focus and little team energy this season. Don Mattingly was kept on as Manager because he can control a clubhouse full of disparate personalities, but it just might be time to unleash those personalities on the playing field.
The Arizona Diamondbacks were hit by more than the usual injuries to star players, but that’s not why they have a 25-36 record, second worst record in the National League (after the Cubs’ unexpected 22-34 record– how have they won 22 games?).
The D-Backs are a backward organization living in the 1960s– don’t even mention advanced metrics to Kirk Gibson or he will hold his breath until his head explodes. Hopefully the addition of the iconic Tony La Russa to run the baseball side of things will make the Arizona franchise turn toward the light.
The Colorado Rockies made an early charge on the back of their dominant offense, but it turns out you actually need three or four quality starters and a functional bullpen to consistently win. Look for the Rocks to make some serious moves at the trade deadline to regain their lost mo.
It’s really hard to envision the San Francisco Giants only playing .500 ball (or less) the rest of the way, but the way this team’s built it’s possible. If they go at a .550 clip– 56 wins– that puts them at 95 wins for the year. If they somehow manage to keep the pace set so far, .650, the Giants will enter the playoffs with a 105-57 record.
Somewhere between .525 and .550 lies the likely future of los Gigantes in the final four months of the season. And, yes, I get it. There’s a lot of baseball left to play (that tiresome phrase has to be routinely trotted out to cover your rear end if things go south).
But San Francisco has to push to win the NL West to ensure October baseball, which means beating the Dodgers to the finish line. The Wild Card has a river running through it, consisting of St. Louis and Milwaukee in the NL Central and Atlanta, the Nationals, and Miami in the NL East.
By my count that’s already three quality teams looking at the two Wild Card spots.
The real questions are: will the Dodgers wake up, will they wake up in time, and can the Giants make the trade deadline adjustments to up the ante?
On the potential July Christmas list are an upgrade at second base, a quality starter, and some bench players who can hit above .190.
But Lincecum has to be replaced and moved to the bullpen.
On the horizon are two outstanding starters who will likely be on the trading block: Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs and Tampa Bay’s David Price. Either pitcher would not only cement a spot in the 2014 playoffs for San Francisco, the addition of a quality starter to the Giants’ starting rotation means dominance throughout the playoffs and in the NL West over the next several seasons.
Giants’ GM Brian Sabean has a record of making bold moves in mid-season. This July he’ll have another opportunity to add to that record.