August 12, 2022

SF Giants not bad enough for new MLB playoff format yet

We know what a good baseball team is and we know the San Francisco Giants aren’t particularly close to being one.

And yes, this season, to date, has been devoid of rhythm, identity and joy.

But it is not yet meaningless.

The Giants seem to be making a concerted effort to prove they aren’t playoff-worthy every night, but thanks to Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, this team has every reason to prolong the suffering of the Giants. fans until game 162. .

Forget expectations after a 107-win Division Championship season. Let’s talk about calibration when it comes to the playoffs.

Yes, the Giants have disappointed this campaign, but a lot of the boredom this team creates probably stems from the fact that this is the first year of a playoff structure and we are not yet calibrated. for baseball’s new lower standards of achievement.

For decades, we’ve been taught that winning the division is the only surefire way to contend for a World Series in October. Major League Baseball even doubled the value of divisions when it expanded the playoffs in 2012: Instead of the Wild Card team playing a best-of-five series against a division winner, it would instead have two teams. Wild Card playing a one-off playoff. All the more incentive to win your group of five.

But this post-season, for the first time, there will be a third Wild Card team.

The value of winning a division is no longer very important. Yes, the top two division winners will receive a first-round playoff bye, but the third Wild Card team – the final playoff qualifier – will be guaranteed as many games as the division winner with the third-best record. .

The Giants can easily have that third Wild Card spot and a three-game Wild Card Series berth at the end of the season. A few games over .500 seems like the norm in the playoffs now, and the Giants are well within the margin of error.

Thursday was the halfway point of the Giants’ season – they’re a firmly third-place team that’s closer to last place than first. They are 11.5 games behind the Dodgers and 5.5 games behind the Padres, who hold the second-place Wild Card.

It’s also impossible to ignore the trendline with this Giants team. After a good start to the season, they gradually got worse each month. Going into Thursday’s game with the division rival Padres, they had lost five straight series.

Then they lost to San Diego in extra innings to open that set. Although that’s the expected outcome given how this season has gone.

Good teams win games by one point. The Giants, meanwhile, are 10-17 in such contests this season. They suffered 17 one-point losses all last season.

But that doesn’t really matter.

Under the previous playoff format, this team losing its final five series and starting July with a 1-6 record would make dropping the season a viable option – something worth discussing with Deadline. exchanges approaching in a few weeks. Previously, Wild Card teams had to win over 90 games, preferably something in the 95-win range. The Giants are clearly an 80+ team.

They’re not bad, but that doesn’t make them good.

So instead of strengthening the team, a team stuck in the middle would have been wise to trade in a few players on short-term contracts and get to work on some odd-year magic in 2023. upside down in a post-pandemic world.)

That’s what decades of watching baseball under old playoff formats tell us.

But the new playoff format has this aggressively mediocre team well within striking distance of a playoff berth, two games after Thursday’s loss. And that playoff berth is worth a full three-game series with what will likely be the winner of National League Central, whether it’s the Brewers or the Cardinals.

Speaking to Giants outfielder Joc Pederson on KNBR last week, the possible All-Star listed reason after reason why his team isn’t much fun to watch right now. All of this, uninvited, mind you. It was kind of a depressing interview.

But he noted that if the Giants get hot at the right time — like Pederson’s Atlanta Braves’ 88 wins did last season — things could work out well for this team come October.

I will go further. This Giants team may not even need to win 88 games to reach the playoffs. They certainly won’t win the division, like the Braves did.

So why would the Giants front office trade prospects in exchange for a winning player (or two, or three) who could help this team start winning way more than they’re losing?

Just try to get warm at the end – maybe even at the very end – and you’ll be fine.

I feel like the Giants took the wrong message out of the Warriors title run.

So, yeah, Giants fans, you can whine and moan and get your stomach aching about this team all you want. I’ll be there with you, because right now this team is the deadly combination of boring and mediocre.

But we’ll just have to get over it.

Because if this season has been defined by the Giants seemingly not being able to do anything right. That’s about enough for Major League Baseball in 2022.

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