Both Bay Area MLB teams are in the playoff mix this year!
Well… the A’s are in for sure but the Giants are fighting just to get in as the 8th seed.
The A’s have been consistent winners for quite some time. I believe that this is their year to bring home the Larry O’Brien trophy. Even though they lost their All-Star 3rd baseman, Matt Chapman, for the year due to a hip injury, they play great in all phases of the game. The A’s have excellent hitters, pitchers, and play great defense, all ingredients needed to win it all.
The Giants haven’t seen the playoffs since 2015 and have been mired in difficult decisions to move away from the great players who won trophies in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Additionally, they made some un-wise decisions to pay old and marginal players a ton of money leaving them in salary hell. Farhan Zaidi came in and while it has taken 2 years and some very difficult decisions, it appears that they have turned a corner and are moving in the right direction. Having said that, while their hitting has improved dramatically, their defense is average to bad and their pitching is just plain bad. To illustrate this fact, the Giants are 24-11 when they score 4 or more runs and 1-13 when they score 3 runs or less.
Like many SF Giants fans, I had my doubts about Zaidi’s hiring of Gabe Kapler as manager. At the time of the hire, Mike Matheny was available and I thought he would have been a great fit for the Giants. Zaidi, like many clubs, is intent on running the team based mostly on analytics. Thus, he hired Kapler, an analytic coach, who in the past has had problems dealing with the personal side of players.
During the early part of the season, my doubts turned to anger as the Giants blew 5 games which turned from W’s to L’s. During that stretch, Giants “closer”, Trevor Gott threw 3 walk-off HR’s in a span of a week. In one of those loses, the Giants had a 7-2 lead in the 9th inning and Gott gave up 5 runs including a Grand Slam and gave up the walk-off HR in the 10th. Kapler finally “Gott” it and moved away from him as a closer. Speaking of analytics, the other night, Kapler made a pinch hitting decision that I disagreed with. The bases were loaded with 1 out and Joey Bart was scheduled to hit in a 1 run game, Kapler took Bart out and had Justin Smoak hit for him just because Smoak hits left and the pitcher was right handed. Smoak promptly hit into a double play to end the inning. So much for analytics…. There are times that the manager needs to give the fans what they want and give a future star in Joey Bart a chance to be a hero and put analytics aside.
This year, the Giants have found their hitting stride and are scoring in bunches. Since 2016, I would stop watching Giants games if the other team scored first as I had zero confidence that they would come back from a deficit. This year, I started out that way but my interest peaked when their offense came to life. Now, I keep them tuned in even though they fall behind by 4 or 5 runs early as I feel that they are still in the game. They are averaging 6 runs a game at home and are just plain fun to watch. I give credit to Kapler and his coaching staff for this turn-around. One thing that I heard that made a lot of sense to me is that the hitters are told to continue to swing normally instead of “shortening up” their swings with 2 strikes. It seems that now, they are one of the best hitting clubs with 2 strikes in the league.
While the A’s have a legitimate shot at winning the World Series, the Giants still have a lot of growing up to do. My dream for the Giants this year is that they make the 8th seed and miraculously knock off the Dodgers in the first round. I don’t see them advancing but it certainly would add to this historic rivalry if the Giants can perform this miracle.
Go A’s !!! Go Giants !!!