The San Francisco Giants will finish this critical month of August playing twelve games: six against quality teams (3 each with the Washington Nationals and Milwaukee Brewers) and six against sub-.500 teams (2 against the Cubs and 4 with the Colorado Rockies).
With the Dodgers three games ahead in the NL West Division and Atlanta and Pittsburgh within two and a half games of the Giants’ slippery hold on the second Wild Card spot, the next eleven days will be a tipping point.
For a quality team with the offense, starting pitching and bullpen to get it done, it would be time to stop playing .450 baseball and start putting a couple of win streaks together. The Giants are 9-11 in their last 20 games, 15-15 over the last 30.
The problem is, of course, this is not a quality team.
This is a team going into the final six weeks of the season with two solid starting pitchers (Madison Bumgarner and Tim Hudson), four solid hitters (Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval, Angel Pagan, and Hunter Pence), and a better than average bullpen.
It’s the other side of that slim equation that has dragged this team down the past 30 games, and throughout the season.
Second baseman Joe Panik and catcher Andrew Susac will eventually both be everyday starters at the Major League level, but taking two rookies into a September Division/Wild Card race is usually not a recipe for jump-on-the-table-and-scream-like-Will-Clark success.
Shortstop Brandon Crawford has completely collapsed offensively (.693 OPS, .228 AVG). His 17 errors are second most for MLB shortstops and his .05 DWAR (defensive wins above replacement) is killing the Giants’ up-the-middle defense.
General Manager Brian Sabean could not find any way to improve this team at the July non-waiver trade deadline other than to get retread starter, and guy you see talking to himself in the subway station, Jake Peavy.
Also starring in the retread category is first baseman Travis Ishikawa, who the Giants signed because the front office is aware that, for some inexplicable reason, Giants fans like him. In his last year with San Francisco, in 2010, Ishikawa batted .266 with a .712 OPS and 3 home runs.
This season, with Pittsburgh and the Giants, Ishikawa is batting a combined .245 with a .677 OPS.
Also getting dozens of at-bats between now and the end of the season are retreads Gregor Blanco (.629 OPS) and Joaquin Arias (.479 OPS), and rookies Adam Duvall (.538 OPS) and Tyler Colvin (.650 OPS).
But let’s reach back, double our medication, and come up with a positive scenario for the Giants between now and September 1st: pound the Cubs and Rockies by going 5-1, and hope to keep the Brewers and Nats at bay with a 3-3 record. (And any further rain-outs in Chicago will definitely not help.)
Going into the final month of the 2014 season with eight wins over the last twelve could provide the momentum San Francisco needs to grab and hold on to an October playoff spot.
It’s just a guess, but I’m thinking Atlanta, Pittsburgh, and St. Louis might have other ideas.