San Francisco Giants Must Win the NL West


The San Francisco Giants have 17 regular season games left. It’s no longer a marathon. Now, it’s a sprint — a short sprint that will decide the fate of the entire season.

Sure, they could have already decided the season if they avoided — or even limited — the two-month stretch that sent them into a dark and ominous tailspin that seemed to never end. But, that didn’t happen, and it’s useless to ponder how things could be if things went down differently.

Instead, all efforts are channeled into the present. Not the past or the future. They aren’t thinking about the six games yet to be played against the Los Angeles Dodgers despite how obviously important they are. They’re focused on the task at hand, which is finishing the series against the Arizona Diamondbacks on a high note.

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Then, they’ll redirect their focus to Friday night’s matchup against the Dodgers. And so on.

All this effort and focus is for one sole reason: winning the National League Western Division.

In 2012, Bud Selig added another Wild Card spot to each league, meaning five teams would make the playoffs from each league (three division winners and two Wild Card winners). The two wild card teams would face off for a one-game playoff to determine which would play against the division winner with the most wins.

Selig stated the “change increases the rewards of a division championship.” That has proven true. Since the change was instated, no wild card winner has ever reached the World Series, and only one has advanced past the Division Series of the MLB Playoffs.

In 2012, the Baltimore Orioles beat the Texas Rangers in the first-ever Wild Card matchup. The Orioles then lost to the New York Yankees. The St. Louis Cardinals beat the Atlanta Braves (with the help of a questionable infield fly rule call) in the Wild Card game and beat the Washington Nationals in the Division Series. They then lost to the eventual-champion Giants in the Championship Series.

The 2013 postseason showed just how important a division title is in baseball. Both wild card winners (the Cleveland Indians, who beat the Tampa Bay Rays, and the Pittsburgh Pirates, who beat the Cincinnati Reds) lost in the ensuing series.

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The odds for a wild card team to advance far into the playoffs are not good and may be especially low for the 2014 Giants.

If San Francisco fails to surpass the Dodgers in the division, they would be forced to use Madison Bumgarner in the Wild Card game, effectively worsening the Giants’ rotation for the next series (assuming Bumgarner propels them to victory). Bumgarner would next pitch in the fourth game of the Division Series but could go in the third game if the Giants were on the verge of being swept.

Today’s Giants aren’t suited for the wild card because of their style. This year, San Francisco relies more on their offense than in years past. The 2010 Giants had the league’s best pitching staff and were in the bottom half of the league in runs scored. That team would be suited to win it all after making the playoffs with a wild card.

They would have used Tim Lincecum (remember how good he was?) to get themselves into the Division Series. Then, Matt Cain (without any elbow discomfort) and Bumgarner would be lined up to pitch the first two games. Assuming all goes well, Lincecum would be perfectly rested to close out the series if needed.

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  • This year, the Giants would be doomed if they had to face off against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu or the Washington Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman, and Doug Fister without an ace of their own.

    Sure, Jake Peavy has pitched phenomenally since being traded by the Boston Red Sox, but can the Giants rely on the others behind him? Tim Hudson has been erratic since his fantastic first half, Ryan Vogelsong isn’t as good as he was in 2012, and Yusmeiro Petit (despite a fantastic start on Tuesday against Arizona) has only started nine games this season.

    If San Francisco wants to parade down Market Street for the third time in five years, they must play like they did in April and May and win the NL West.

    They need to take advantage of the eleven remaining games they have against the Padres and Diamondbacks (who have a combined record of 126-162) and, of course, play well against Los Angeles when the time comes.