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San Francisco Giants: Poised to make some noise in the playoffs

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It is an even numbered year, and you know what that means. The San Francisco Giants have put together a roster that has them thinking not only the playoffs but a World Series title. The Bay Area ball club has won the World Series the last three even-numbered years, claiming the title of kings of baseball in 2010, 2012 and 2014.

This year looks to give us another run at extending that pattern. The team currently sits second in the NL West, but the Dodgers are well within their reach. The two teams still have two series remaining against one another, with each team hosting a three-game series, including one to end the season. It is entirely possible that those last three days of the season determine which of the two wins the NL West.

But even if the Dodgers held on to the division, the Giants are still looking like a solid bet to make the playoffs. They currently hold the first wildcard slot, and some of the teams below them include the likes of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Miami Marlins and the New York Mets. The chances of two of those clubs leapfrogging San Francisco does not seem likely given the Giants remaining schedule plus where each team stands currently from a roster perspective.

The Giants’ remaining schedule includes 18 games against the likes of the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Colorado Rockies, the San Diego Padres, all of whom will not be in the playoffs. There will be four critical games against the Cardinals, which will take place in San Fran. Then there are the six games against the Dodgers, plus a three-game set against the Chicago Cubs. So with two-thirds of their remaining schedule against non-playoff teams, and 10 of the other games against teams whom the Giants are directly competing with, they find themselves in a favorable spot. If they can handle the games they should win, plus win the remaining two series against the Dodgers, and they should capture the West. And as I mentioned earlier, worst case scenario puts them in a Wild Card slot.

But it is once they are in the playoffs where the Giants will make things interesting. First things first, they have the pitching staff to win a championship this season. The rotation features two aces, plus two guys who have skills that can match any other three and four pitchers.

It all starts with the team’s workhorse, and playoff hero from the 2014 World Series run, Madison Bumgarner. The 27-year-old stud has shown he can shine in the playoffs, and is once again having a stellar season. He is throwing to a sub 2.50 ERA, with a WHIP hovering right around 1.00, all while striking out batters at a clip well over one per inning, reaching a new career high in that department.

Their number two, who would be the number one on the majority of MLB rosters, is Johnny Cueto, who also had a taste of pitching in the playoffs and World Series last season. The 30-year-old former Red has a sub 3.00 ERA, and like Bumgarner has a WHIP just over 1.00. Cueto is keeping his walks down, and also keeping the ball in the park. This shows through with career bests in BB/9, K/BB, and HR/9.

The team’s number three and four come in the form of Jeff Samardzija and Matt Moore. Samardzija, while not boasting the impressive numbers of the two aces, but he has been on an absolute roll as of late. The Shark has an ERA under 2.00 in his last four starts, while striking out 19 batters compared to four walks. Three of those four starts came against teams in Wild Card contention. Matt Moore nearly missed out on a no-hitter in his last start against the Los Angeles Dodgers, showcasing the potential he has with his talent. The 27-year-old is in the prime years of his career, with injuries being the main factor that has held him back. If he can keep the walks down and stay healthy, he is better than any other teams four. And if either man falters, both Jake Peavy and Matt Cain could be off the disabled list in time to take over if need be.

The offense has some pieces to do some damage as well, with quite a few of them on a nice roll as of late. Everything starts with the team’s star catcher, Buster Posey. Posey is hitting right around .300, with hits coming virtually every night for over a week now. He is the heart and soul of the offense, and he is doing his part to bring home as many runs as possible.

Shortstop Brandon Crawford finds himself smack dab in the middle of the lineup, and he will stay there if he continues to hit the way he has in August. Crawford is hitting over .300 in the month and is in the top five among shortstops in runs batted in this season. He is joined by 28-year-old first baseman Brandon Belt, who helps provide the lineup with a little thump. Belt has nearly as many extra bases hits this season as he had last season, with still a month to play, in addition to the fact that he is taking walks at a career-best clip.

Second baseman Joe Panik was out for a while with a concussion, but he is proving he is back. Back on August 13th, Panik had a three-hit game that has gotten him into a groove. Since that day he is hitting over .330, and some of those hits are finding their way over the fence. Like Belt, he is also walking at a career-best rate. Center fielder Denard Span also finds himself locked in at the plate right now. In the second half of the season, the lead-off hitter is hitting at a rate over .330 and has been showing more power than he has in the past. All of these hot bats, and that is without Hunter Pence, who is dealing with a hamstring issue. But if he can get healthy for the playoffs, he has proven his worth in the playoffs for the team before, and is one of the more talented bats on the team.

So with some serious talent in the rotation, and some hot bats, the only remaining area to address is the bullpen. Well, closer Santiago Casilla has been nothing special, but getting the job done of late. He has converted six of his last seven attempts and is striking batters out at a career high rate while possessing a career high average fastball velocity.

Former closer Sergio Romo, who has had playoff success in the past with the Giants, is striking guys out batters this season, and keeping runners off base. George Kontos and Hunter Strickland have been doing the jobs that have been asked of them. Trade deadline acquisition Will Smith has lowered his ERA in his last five appearances with the club, not allowing a run over that span.

So overall, the team appears to be heating up at the right time. The sprint to the playoffs is officially underway, and the Giants should find themselves on the right side of the finish line when all is said and done. If the Giants end up in a Wild Card slot, they are certainly talented enough to defeat any other club who they would face in the one game playoff. A victory here would set them up for a showdown with the Cubs. While that would be an extremely difficult match-up, the club has the pitching to counter that of the Cubs. It would turn into a battle of who can produce the clutch runs, which the Giants have experience with in the playoffs.

If they win the division, they are likely set to face the Washington Nationals, who’s starting rotation is a bit of a question at the moment with some of the injuries they have suffered. At the end of the day, the pitching edge would go to San Fran, with the team’s bats being capable enough to outperform those of the Nats.

So the club is set to face some challenges come playoff time, but this team has all the components it needs to make a playoff run. 2016 would just add to the legacy of the Giants if they can win it all, keeping even year magic alive. With the current roster, this team is poised to make some noise, and a run at the World Series title once again in 2016!

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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at robert.cobb@theinscribermag.com