The Giants are feeling good coming out of their three-game series win over the Dodgers in Los Angeles.
They should. Taking two of three from your rivals in a series that had all the trappings and heft of a playoff series is an accomplishment.
That said, the series didn’t do much for the Giants in the standings.
Major League Baseball currently lists the Giants’ chances of making the playoffs at 2.9 percent — don’t ask me how they calculate that number.
And while those odds seem appropriate when you consider that San Francisco started Wednesday in fourth place in the National League West, 5.5 games back of first, and 6.5 games back of the second Wild Card (with five teams to jump in the standings), I would posit that San Francisco is in a stronger position to make the playoffs than one would think.
You see, the National League is bad. And while the Giants are the living definition of mediocrity at the moment — locked in a seemingly never-ending tryst with .500 — it might only take 86 or 87 games to make the postseason in the Senior Circuit this season.
The Giants can do that. They showed that in L.A.
But if it’s going to happen, it needs to happen now.
The Giants can’t wait another minute to make their move.
While the Giants might not want to part with their well-established 50-50 identity, their next 10 games will come against the Reds, Mets, and Rangers — teams who have a combined 158-205 record this season. That’s a fortuitous slate — one that’s tailor-made for a long-sought winning streak that could put the Giants into striking position heading into the final month of the season.
Baseball isn’t a game where the best team always wins, but if we’re going to take the Giants seriously as a playoff team, they need to beat up on teams they’re objectively better than over the next week-or-so.
And if the Giants don’t find themselves four, five, or six games above .500 heading into their series with the Diamondbacks on Aug. 27, that’s the clearest sign yet that this team does not have what it takes to be a serious contender.
The Giants opted to do nothing at the non-waiver trade deadline last month, instead deciding to embark upon a peculiar on-the-fly rebuild. They have the big names that still bring solid crowds to AT&T Park, but they have two rookies in the rotation — Dereck Rodriguez and Andrew Suarez — who are pitching well, and two rookies starting in the outfield — Steven Duggar and Austin Slater — who are showing long-term promise and some in-the-moment results.
At the moment, the Giants are neither building for the future or bolstering for the present — they’re trying to have it both ways, and, unsurprisingly, it’s going both ways. These guys just can’t seem to quit .500.
That said, the youth nudge (it’s not a movement) but it has provided a bit of life — some spark — to an otherwise languid team. And no matter how the rest of 2018 goes, the rookies have given Giants fans a reason to have some optimism heading into 2019.
Can those rookies spark the Giants to a winning streak? That might be asking too much. They’re just kids, after all.
No, the onus falls on those veterans — the old-guard guys.
A guy like Buster Posey, whose last extra-base hit was Aug. 2 and whose last homer was June 19. I know he’s an excellent pitch framer and he gets banged up behind the plate, but the Giants need more than what he’s giving them at the plate.
A guy like Brandon Belt, who after a hot start to the season, posted a .222 batting average and .636 OPS in the 99 at-bats before he missed 17 games with an injury. A guy like Brandon Crawford, who is hitting .193 with one homer since July 1.
And if those guys can’t help the Giants beat three bad teams in the coming days, then it should precipitate the departure of Andrew McCutchen — who might be able to fetch something ahead of the waiver trade deadline at the end of the month — and perhaps an exit of the old guard itself this upcoming offseason.
It’s now or never. So what’s it going to be, Giants?