One year after having one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the 2018 San Francisco Giants sit at 51-48 and four games out of a playoff spot. Given all of the injuries this team has dealt with, this in itself is quite a feat. However, four games is still significant, and in order to make the playoffs, the Giants must do these three things:
- Get healthy
- Receive more contributions from veterans
- Better situational hitting
The first condition is something that will happen with time but it is something that cannot be overlooked. The Giants have been without Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, Mark Melancon, Will Smith, Brandon Belt, Joe Panik, and Evan Longoria for extended periods of time this season. That is a lot of star power to be hurt regardless of it not being all at the same time. I do not think their entire projected Opening Day roster has been healthy at the same time and that is something that cannot be overlooked. Evan Longoria will be back in the next week or so and will be a huge boost against left handed pitching. Jeff Samardzija can hopefully be a shell of his former self or at least be a nice bullpen arm when he comes back. Joe Panik will help shore up the defense up the middle, which is now stellar with Steven Duggar in center. Once this team is healthy, they should be able to make noise.
When the Giants went out and got Andrew McCutchen and Evan Longoria in the offseason, nobody was sure which versions of themselves the Giants would get. Would it be the All-Star versions of old, or the more current ones that were in certain decline? Of course, the Giants have gotten a bit of both. After incredibly slow starts, McCutchen and Longoria found their stride a bit in April but struggled in May and then Longoria broke his hand. Overall, they have combined for basically league average production. This has helped the team improve, but they must be better. McCutchen has been very unlucky I feel, but Longoria has just been very unimpressive. He strikes out far too often and seems like he can never get a count in his favor. If that changes, look for the Giants offense to be scary.
The final condition is arguably the most important, as it is what separates good teams from playoff teams. The Giants need more of the big hit of course, but they have not necessarily struggled with that; their production with men on base is about league average. It is more like the ball in play to the right side that gets a runner from second to third with less than two outs. It is laying down a sacrifice bunt successfully. Those things must be executed in order to manufacture runs. It was done to perfection last night against the Athletics in a 5-1 win. After singles from Gorkys Hernandez and Steven Duggar to start the inning, Alen Hanson laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt. This set the table for Andrew McCutchen to hit a fly ball deep enough to score Hernandez and Crawford to hit a clutch two-out RBI single to score Duggar. This made a close 3-1 game into a comfortable 5-1 lead, and will be pivotal the rest of the way.
Although these things seem relatively trivial, the Giants have struggled with all three of those in their bouts of losing. Most recently, when the Giants were swept at Coors Field by the Rockies, all three of these things were violated and that is what has put them in the more precarious position they are in today. They scored three runs in as many games and helped the Rockies get hot and now be tied for second after winning six in a row. I believe the Giants can be better than the Rockies and the Diamondbacks and they have shown that in their play against them this year. However, they were able to beat them with the help of these (mostly the first two) conditions. The 2010 Giants were four games out at the break and we know how that ended so… do the math.