The Giants finish 87-75 and only FOUR wins behind the Dodgers. I can think of a dozen blown games they “should have won” and if only half of those went the right way it's a 93-win team and a division title. That would have been closer to my expectations. Alas, my expectations are irrelevant. In fact, the entire regular season is now irrelevant. The post-season tournament is upon us and the Giants are the 10th seed. The have the tenth-best record in baseball, so that seems right.
Winning in the post-season has little or nothing to do with what happened in the regular season. Teams with the best records don't always win, home field advantage is not that significant, having the best starting pitchers doesn't always guarantee a title, post-season experience is not correlated to winning, and who's hot and who's not is equally unimportant. A bunch of exciting baseball is crammed into a few weeks and the survivor gets crowned World Series Champion. That's it. Don't try to read too much into it, the post-season is not a measure of character, heart, grit, or clutchness. All the teams and their players have already demonstrated that they possess those qualities in abundance otherwise they wouldn't be there. All the teams are good, the differences between them are small, and great performances by one or two players can have a massive impact on the outcomes. There is no leveling over time or regression to the mean like we have in the regular season. Luck–er, random variation–plays a big part. A bigger part than any fan wants to admit. Look for a narrative and you will find one, what you see will confirm the biases you had going in.
The 2016 Giants scored 715 runs, 4.41 per game, just short of the MLB mean of 4.48 per game. They allowed 631 runs, 3.90 per game, the 4th-best behind the Cubs, Nationals, and Mets. Their Pythagorean record was 90-72 so they were a little unlucky or under-perfoming, you decide. In the second half they went 30-42 despite scoring more runs (291) than they allowed (280). I think maybe the bullpen woes can be blamed for that. But as we know this was a weird year where they'd win 9-3 and then lose 2-1 and 3-0 in a weekend, outscoring the opponent and getting well-pitched games but coming out on the short end. But like I said none of that matters now.
Up next is a massive winner-take-all game with the defending NL champions. The Mets, it could be argued, under-performed much like the Giants. I imagine most of their fans expected something better than eight games behind the Nats. They were a disappointment for most of the summer, playing well in April and September and middling along for the months in between. It all added up to .537 and that was just enough. Noah Syndergaard (aka “Thor”) is the best pitcher in baseball (6.5 fWAR) by one metric, but Madison Bumgarner (4.9 fWAR) is certainly no slouch and the matchup is about a good as it gets. Let's hope the team plays clean, crisp ball and that the fluky bounces and bad calls go our way. Oh, and a couple of massive homers by our guys with men on and some key whiffs of their big hitters late in the game wouldn't hurt, either!
(that's Eastern time)