The Giants’ season isn’t over. Not technically, anyway. They still have 30 games to play.
But the team’s playoff hopes? Well, those flatlined Tuesday night after a second consecutive loss to the Diamondbacks Tuesday at Oracle Park.
The Giants believe they can still make a run at the postseason, but they’re professional athletes and they have not been technically eliminated yet, what else are they going to believe?
“I’m just waiting for us to get hot. We’re right there in all these games. We’re playing some really close games,” Giants starter Jeff Samardzija said Tuesday.
But the reason the Giants won’t be making the postseason isn’t belief or fight or even talent.
No, at this point, it’s simple math.
The Giants are only in the playoff conversation because they had an incredible, out-of-left-field July, going to 19-6 and at one point winning 16 of 19 games. Winning 75 percent of their games was, of course, an unsustainable pace, but it put San Francisco in the hunt and ensured that another late summer in SoMa wouldn’t be wasted.
All that winning only put the Giants at two games over .500 entering August, though.
After the two-game sweep at the hands of Arizona, the Giants now sit two games under .500. They can, at best, be one game over when September starts.
But don’t worry about how many games the Giants are back or how many teams they have to jump in the standings to earn a playoff berth – just pay attention to the magic number.
Since Major League Baseball moved to the Game 163 model, where two teams in each league win a Wild Card, in 2012, the average wins for the second National League Wild Card team has been 89.
Right now, the team that’s holding the second Wild Card, the Cubs, are on pace to win 87 games.
Of course, the team that usually wins the second Wild Card is the team that gets hot late, but let’s make this easy and split the difference between those two numbers and say that it’s going to take 88 wins to claim a Wild Card spot this season.
The Giants are currently 65-67. You can do the math – they’ll need 23 wins to get to that conservative checkpoint of 88.
Which means that they can only lose seven more games this season. And that would require them to go on a run that’s better than their July hot streak for the final 30 games of the campaign.
I bet you can get pretty long odds on that happening.
Yes, we have seen the Giants win three-quarters of their games for weeks-long stretches this season, but that was a different team than the one heading into a three-game series with the Padres Thursday and then September.
The Giants offense has been more-or-less the same since the beginning of July — it’s output down a smidge in August, but it’s been middle-of-the-pack in both months. The defense has been steady, too.
No, it’s been the pitching that has torpedoed this team’s playoff chances, and there’s simply no reason to think it’ll bounce back to July levels.
The Giants have the second-worst team ERA and pitching WAR in baseball in August and the fifth-worst FIP, too (so you can’t say it’s an aberration).
The starters have been at the forefront of this nosedive. Samardzija has been fantastic since the calendar flipped to July, and Madison Bumgarner is still this team’s ace, but Tyler Beede has been far too inconsistent (posting an 8.23 ERA in his six starts prior to Monday’s 5.2-inning, one-earned-run performance), and the back-end has been even more unreliable.
The best-case scenario for the Giants is that Samardzija and Bumgarner retain their form, Beede can locate his fastball, get ahead in counts, and then let his strong breaking pitches mow batters down, Logan Webb can keep threading the needle with his questionable control, and then Johnny Cueto (remember him?) comes in and gives the Giants a big boost.
But even if all of those things happen, the Giants starters can drop, what? Three or four games at best?
Because you have to allot this Giants bullpen at least three or four losses down the stretch, too.
In July, the Giants’ bullpen ERA was a paltry 3.48 — one of the best marks in baseball over that month. The bullpen was credited with 11 wins and one loss in 25 games.
Since the July 31, when the Giants traded away Sam Dyson and Mark Melancon, the San Francisco bullpen’s collective ERA has jumped more than a run and a half and they’ve lost five games.
You can like the arms in the bullpen — they’re different and exciting — but this is not the bullpen that before the deadline was arguably the best in the National League. And even if it was, that ‘pen’s pace was likely unsustainable.
But even if those best-case scenarios happen for the Giants pitchers down the stretch, this team will still have no margin for error with the offense or the defense.
This squad — of whom little was expected at the beginning of the season — has already played their best baseball, and yet it’s still going to take a baseball miracle for them to make the postseason this year: a final run on par with the A’s August in 2002 or the Indians’ September in 2017.
And while we all know departing manager Bruce Bochy deserves a finale like that and the Giants players are going to try to make it happen, there’s simply no reason to think that kind of run is in the cards for this San Francisco team.