2016 SF Giants – It All Begins Again

2016 SF Giants

The Giants take care of business in the wild card game and it all begins again.

(In 2010, I wrote game stories for old Fanbase for every Giants playoff game. It was simply to put content on the website, but after they won the World Series, I decided to do it again in 2012, but instead wrote it for my buddy’s website, Popblerd. In 2014, because you have to go with the winning hand, I did it again on this very website. So, um, here we are again. It’s not like I’m superstitious or anything. Though, I did put on my gray Giants jersey right before they scored their runs on Wednesday night.)

Giants fans have said it all season long. It’s an even year. Just get in the playoffs. I’m not sure if they really believed it after the dreadful 30-42 second half record that caused them to lose ten and half games in the standings. But that was the mantra.

It took sweeping the Dodgers at home in the last series of the season, along with the Cardinals playing .500 ball when the last wild card spot was there for the taking, for the Giants to make it back to this game, much like they did in 2014. I took a look back at that game earlier today to remember how that game was won. It was won thanks to a Brandon Crawford grand slam and a masterful Madison Bumgarner performance.

Tonight, the Giants followed a similar blueprint, except, they took longer to get there. Replace Crawford with Conor Gillaspie, who was only starting because Eduardo Nunez is slow to heal from his hamstring issue, and rather than a grand slam, his was just a lowly 3-run home run. Replace Madison Bumgarner with, well, Madison Bumgarner.

Let’s compare Bumgarner’s numbers for both games. The game on the left is from the 2014 wild card game and the one on the right is from Wednesday night.

2016 SF Giants2016 SF Giants

They’re damn near replicas of each other. Both shutout wins. Same amount of hits. And both with the season on the line.

Madison Bumgarner has become baseball’s best big game pitcher. He may never win a Cy Young with Clayton Kershaw, Jake Arrieta, and Max Scherzer in the same league. But when it comes to the postseason, there’s simply no one better.

Bumgarner’s been so great that few remember his shaky 2012 postseason when he was shelled in his only NLDS and NLCS starts. Since that NLCS start, he’s 6-1 with three shutouts, a 0.79 ERA, and a save in the postseason. If you want to see the ERA get even smaller, his road postseason ERA is 0.50.

Oh yah, and his last 23 innings of pitching in the postseason have been scoreless.

And since we’re talking about crazy stats…

What is it about elimination games and the Giants?

Postseason experience only happens when you can get there. But it’s not like this team has many 2010 World Series holdovers on it. Only Bumgarner, Matt Cain, Buster Posey, Sergio Romo, and Santiago Casilla are still with the team today. But you know what part of their team is nearly unchanged? It’s their coaching staff. Bruce Bochy, Dave Righetti, Hensley Meulens, Roberto Kelly, and Mark Gardner are still with the team, and Tim Flannery is with them in spirit.

No matter if it’s Travis Ishikawa or Cody Ross, or maybe this year’s version in Conor Gillaspie, the Giants continue to have players in the right spots for the big moment and some of that has to be because of the consistency in their coaching right?

On Twitter today, I saw at least 10 tweets say that they called for Gillaspie to have a big game. I did too. I told both my kids that someone like Gillaspie or Joe Panik would be the hero. But it wasn’t because any of us have crazy foresight. It’s because it’s simply part of the Giants script.

What is also part of the script is being a rather big underdog in at least one major series. In 2010, the Giants knocked off the 97-win Philadelphia Phillies in the NLCS to get to the World Series. In 2012, they had to get by the 97-win Cincinnati Reds in the NLDS (after being down 2-0). And in 2014, they had to beat the 96-win Washington Bryce Harpers in the NLDS.

Now, they face the biggest, baddest team in the playoffs in the next round. The Chicago Cubs won a major league best 103 games (best in the MLB since the 2009 Yankees who also won 103 games) and the 16 game win differential between the two teams has to be close to a record for a NLDS series. But you have to guess that the team the Cubs least wanted to see was the Giants.

The Giants played them close and tough in the regular season, losing 4 out of 7. Get ready for some nail biters. The last five games between the two this year were all decided by just one run.

Even though this is mostly about the Giants, Noah Syndergaard (known for the rest of this as Thor simply so I don’t have to keep spelling his last name) was a monster against the Giants on Wednesday night. The Giants didn’t get a baserunner on him until the fourth and their first hit wasn’t until the sixth. And they surely breathed a sigh of relief when he was done after 108 pitches at the end of the seventh. Even Gillaspie said that he felt overmatched against him and you will rarely hear a big league hitter admit that.

Thor averaged 97 pitches per start, but went as high as 118 during the season. He was probably just about done when he was taken out, but I’m sure Mets fans are wondering if he could’ve gone another one or two, like Bumgarner did.

Is 2016 going to be any different than the previous even years since 2010? It might be. The Cubs are the best team the Giants will have faced in their playoff run since 2010. But I don’t think many will be surprised if they do pull off the upset. It’s just what they do.

Starting now, it all begins again.

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