The Rise and Fall of the San Francisco Giants
All things considered, the San Francisco Giants have to feel pretty good about their playoff chances. They just took two of three from the Atlanta Braves to improve to 71-59, opening up a 2.5-game lead in the National League Wild Card standings. But it wasn’t too long ago that the Giants were first in the NL West by a healthy margin. Now it’s the arch-rival Los Angeles Dodgers leading the way.
Sharp bettors saw this coming. Even with their series victory over Atlanta, the Giants remain 2.72 betting units in the red after 130 games. Things could get worse from here; San Francisco has a 10-game road trip coming up, starting September 1 with four days at Wrigley Field against the best team in baseball, the Chicago Cubs. Then the Giants will visit Chavez Ravine later in the month, before hosting the Dodgers to close out the regular season.
The Long Arm of Law
It seems like ancient history now, but San Francisco (57-33) was ahead of the Cubs (53-35) in the MLB standings at the All-Star break. And the Dodgers (51-40) were 6.5 games behind the Giants in the NL West. However, one look at their run differentials might have been enough to convince you to sell on San Fran:
- Chicago: plus-139
- San Francisco: plus-73
- Los Angeles: plus-53
Sure enough, the Giants began the second half with six straight losses, and they’ve continued to stumble since then at 14-20. The Cubs, meanwhile, have emerged from their midseason fog, and the Dodgers have been en fuego after a slow start to the season. Here are the updated run differentials for all three teams heading into Tuesday’s action:
- Chicago: plus-218
- Los Angeles: plus-62
- San Francisco: plus-62
So what happened to San Francisco? Injuries are part of the story; the Dodgers were hit hard early in the season (and still lead the majors in man-games lost), but the Giants are getting the worst of it now, losing six players in August. The latest casualty is rookie reliever Derek Law (2.34 FIP), who went on the DL Sunday with a strained right elbow. Fortunately for the Giants, Law’s MRI came up clean, and he should be able to return in a couple of weeks.
Otherwise, maybe San Francisco’s slump is more of a “market correction” than anything else. The Giants went into the 2016 campaign with an over/under of 89.5 wins on the MLB odds board. Their plus-62 run differential translates to a Pythagorean record of 72-58, just one game ahead of their actual record; if you prorated that over the full season, the Giants would finish at 90-72. Right on pace, in other words.