When the NLDS begins on Friday, we're going to hear a lot of talk during their upcoming series with the San Francisco Giants explaining how the Giants experience can carry them to victory. They're certainly capable of beating the Nationals. The narratives that we're going to hear about how their victories in 2010 and 2012 hold any weight in the upcoming NLDS are just that, though... narratives. Let's not start this postseason with any misguided notions that the Giants are unbeatable in even years (Seriously? That's a thing now?). Don't convince yourself that they're on fire because they beat the Pirates 8-0 the other day either.
This series will be won on the field... not with a bunch of stories about what the Giants did two (or four) years ago. Before we break down the mathchups, let's see if we can take a look at some of the stories that we're going to hear a little too often over the next week.
Even years are their years
This is one of the mantras that Giants fans have used all season. In 2010, the Giants won their first title since 1954 when they were the New York Giants. Two years later, they battled their way through the NL playoffs before sweeping the Detroit Tigers for their second title in three years. When San Francisco jumped out to a big lead in the NL West earlier this season, we started hearing a lot of talk about how the Giants have placed some type of voodoo curse on the rest of the league in even years. Of course, this is utter nonsense. Their fanbase is welcome to believe what they want to believe, but that doesn't make it true.
Things change. Even old New York was once New Amsterdam. Many of the players on the Giants roster are the same from those two World Series teams, but not all of them. Among their starting pitchers, only Madison Bumgarner pitched for both of those teams (Ryan Vogelsong was there in 2012). Postseason heroes Cody Ross and Marco Scutaro are nowhere to be found on this squad, replaced with Joe Panik and.... Travis Ishikawa? Michael Morse (if he's really healthy enough)? Chris Dominguez?
The fact of the matter is that the 2010 and 2012 Giants were very good teams that happened to beat three other good teams on their way to the World Series title. That's how this game works. Tip the cap. Congratulations on those titles. However, this isn't 2010 or 2012. Those two previous championships don't give the Giants a 2-0 lead to start this series or anything. I would say that those two teams were better than the 2014 San Francisco Giants that we'll see in Nationals Park Friday. Why?
In 2010, the Giants finished 92-70 with a +114 run differential. In 2012, they finished 94-68 with a +69 run differential. In 2014, they finished 88-74 with a +51 run differential. Both of those World Series winning teams had a healthy Matt Cain in their rotation. The 2010 season was before the mysterious fall of Tim Lincecum. Heck, they even still had Barry Zito playing the guitar and occasionally having a huge day as a spot starter on their 2012 team.
- Their pitching in 2010 and 2012 was superior to their 2014 squad. They finished with the best ERA (3.36) in the majors in 2010; they finished with the seventh best ERA (3.50) in the majors in 2012; they finished tenth (3.50) this year in a depressed run environment.
- Their offense was better in 2010 and 2012 than they were this season. Their lineup scored 697 runs in 2010; they scored 718 in 2012; they scored 665 this season.
- They entered the playoffs healthier in both 2010 and 2012. Michael Morse may be ready to go for this series, but it's hard to see him being at 100%. Morse would certainly figure to be even more of a statue in the outfield than he usually is. They will definitely be without leadoff man Angel Pagan and one of their best starting pitchers, Matt Cain.
We sort of walked out healthy and they were beat up. We realized then and there that it takes a lot more than just wanting to win. You were going to have to earn it, and it was going to take a lot to win a Stanley Cup and be a champion. That's what we learned from the Islanders.
- Blanco has played center field and taken over the leadoff spot in Pagan's absence. I've always considered him a bit of an undervalued player because he provides strong defense (at least in the corner OF spots) and he's willing to work a walk. Blanco runs well, though he's not a particularly great base-stealer.
- After years of stopgap options (who have occasionally panned out for them... see Marco Scutaro) at 2b, the Giants seem to have finally developed a youngster with some promise to take over the position. Panik didn't bring much other than his ability to hit for average this season (1 HR, 0 SB), but he did bat .305/.343/.368 after getting the call at midseason. He'll likely bat second for them.
- Brandon Crawford, of course, hit the home run that gave the Giants the lead on Wednesday. He's not a great hitter, but he's got enough power to run into one every now and again. He's shown improved patience in his third full season to go along with his power gains and actually finished with a 102 wRC+ this season... above the league average. Crawford's most useful skill, though, is his glove. His 8 Defensive Runs Saved this season ranked sixth among big league shortstops.