The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
Periodically, I will post new entries about current baseball topics.  The posts will typically be a mixture of commentary, history, facts, and stats.  Hopefully, they will provoke some  of your thoughts or emotions. Clicking on the word "Comments" associated with each post below will open a new dialog box to enter or retrieve any feedback.
Are the San Francisco Giants for real?

At the end of April, the San Francisco Giants were in first place in the National League West, and everybody was asking, “Are they for real?” Most of the answers from baseball pundits came back, “Probably not,” since pre-season favorites Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres were within 1 ½ games of first place.

By the end of June, the Giants were still in first place, having maintained the top position for most of May and all of June. Yet there was still skepticism about whether the club was a legitimate contender for the division title. After all, the last time the Giants were in first place at the end of June was in 2016.

At the end of July, the Giants were still in first place, and some baseball analysts were still asking, “Are the Giants for real?” The pre-season assessment of the team was that they had not refreshed their roster with younger players, that their core position players (Buster Posey, Brandon Belt, Brandon Crawford, and Evan Longoria) wouldn’t stand up to the grind of long seasons anymore. Yet the Giants had the best record in both leagues.

Now, with the month of August almost over, the Giants are remarkably still in first place. Just when many people thought they would start to wane, they are playing their best baseball with an 19-6 record for the month of August. The last time they were in first place with one month left in the season was in 2012, when they won the World Series. It’s true the Dodgers are still hovering close to the Giants, only 2 ½ games behind, while the Padres appear to have faded out of contention, 16 games behind.

On paper the Giants’ individual players aren’t nearly as talented as the Dodgers, who have one of the more accomplished rosters in recent history, including four former Cy Young Award winners, three former MVPs, and three former Rookies of the Year.

But the Giants’ grizzled veterans are playing with a lot of teamwork and a balanced effort. The team is in the top five of the following batting categories: runs (5th), home runs (1st), batting average (4th), OBP (4th), SLG (1st), and OPS+(3rd).

Their rank second in all of the following pitching categories are: ERA, fewest runs allowed, fewest home runs allowed, ERA+, and WHIP.

However, the Dodgers compare favorably to the Giants in all these categories, which explains why the continue to nip at the Giants’ heels.

When you dig deeper into the Giants’ overall record, you quickly notice that their combined record against weaker division opponents Arizona and Colorado is a whopping 23-6, while they are 13-12 against the more formidable Dodgers and Padres. Looking ahead to September, 13 of their remaining games will be against division rivals Dodgers (3) and Padres (10), plus they will have to face the other division leaders, Milwaukee and Atlanta, in three-game series. They don’t have an easy route to the division title for the rest of the season.

The Dodgers have somewhat of a psychological advantage over the Giants, as they have won the NL West Division for the past eight straight seasons. Consequently, they play with confidence and are more battle-tested for a tight division race.

Of course, the team that finishes second in the NL West will still have a good chance to make the playoffs. The Dodgers would like nothing better than to repeat as World Series champions, something that hasn’t been done since the New York Yankees won three in a row in 1998, 1999, and 2000.

Giants manager Gabe Kapler was a .500 manager in his previous three managerial seasons (2018 and 2019 with the Phillies) and 2020 with the Giants. He’d like nothing better than to get his first division championship under his belt.

So, are the Giants for real? We’ll find out soon enough.

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