Some are saying it’s a three horse race to the finish line in the National League Wildcard race. But make no mistake, this aren’t three stallions stampeding towards the wire, instead it’s like three horses dying on the track trying not to be the first one euthanized. And that’s basically what it has come down to in the NL Wildcard; don’t die first. Sounds simple, right? Apparently it’s not as easy as it sounds.
We’ll start with the San Francisco Giants. A team that posted the best record in the first half of the season and it’s an even year. The Giants have been frankly a bad team in the second half. As I’m sure everyone knows, they have the worst record in baseball since the All Star Break. Offensively they are 29th in runs (234) leading only the Phillies and they are 26th in OPS (.698), which contrary to what my fellow writer Miller believes, is a good indicator of the offensive quality of a player/team (in an early episode of KSAH, Miller said OPS was a stupid stat however if you look at the top 20 players in OPS, it’s basically the top 20 players in the league this year. I will admit, however that when the talking heads talk about someone’s slash line, that is pointless because you are just showing the on base percentage, then the slugging percentage and then the sum of those two. So Miller, slash lines are stupid, but if you are just talking straight up OPS, it’s a pretty good stat #themoreyouknow). But basically the Giants have been one of the worst offensive teams in baseball since the All Star Break, going from division contender with their sights set on home field advantage throughout the playoffs to plummeting to scratching and clawing for a one game playoff.
On top of that, while their starting pitching has been respectable, their bullpen has been absolutely atrocious. Since the break, they have blown twelve of 26 saves. The only teams with worse save percentages in that time frame are the Rockies, White Sox and D-Backs. They don’t have a closer or even a late inning guy and because of this, there’s actually rumblings of moving my buddy Jeff Samardzija to a set-up or closer role in the closing weeks and into the playoffs if they’re able to make it that far. It makes sense as my boy Jeff has a power arm, has experience in the back of the bullpen and because he’s been a starter for the last few years, should have the endurance to pitch multiple games in a row. They may be able to get away with this too since they have Mad Bum and Cueto at the top of their rotation and then can probably plug in Matt Moore or Albert Suarez into that third rotation spot. Jake Peavy also has postseason experience so despite being an incredibly mediocre-to-bad pitcher the last few years, he’s a possibility too.
Alright now onto the Mets. The Mets are literally dying right now. That once projected six headed monster of a rotation with Harvey, deGrom, Thor, Matz, Bartolo and Wheeler has been whittled down to Thor and Bartolo right now. Harvey is out for the season. deGrom is out for the season. Matz has been hurt (though he should return this weekend), and Wheeler hasn’t stepped onto Citi Field in what has been a season of setbacks. Their bullpen is okay, but Familia, Hansel “So Hot Right Now” Robles and Jerry Blevins have been used A LOT this year and they don’t have the luxury of moving Bartolo to the pen.
Offensively it’s just the Mets being the Mets. They just aren’t that great. They’re 24th in the league in runs scored and 22nd in OPS since the mid season break. They tried revamping their offense via trading for Jay Bruce at the deadline and that really hasn’t worked out. They were hoping to catch lightning in a bottle again like they did with Cespedes last year and uhh yeah it’s been pretty fucking bad. Since joining the Mets, Bruce is hitting .176 with a .544 OPS. He’s hit four homers and struck out 39 times in forty games. It got so bad that Terry Collins actually pinch hit for Bruce last night in a key situation with Eric fucking Campbell who hadn’t had a big league at bat since May. And guess what? Campbell came through with a hit (despite the Mets losing) If that’s not rock bottom for Bruce, I don’t know what is.
Defensively they Mets are also suspect to sucking. Guys are playing out of position every game and really not adjusting too well either. They don’t have a center fielder other than Juan Lagares, but their offense is so terrible that they’re forgoing one of the best defensive outfielders in the game for a bat which I guess you can’t fault for a team that struggles to score runs. Still though, defense gets exploited late in the season so they have to figure it out.
Finally, the Cardinals. I guess they’re the horse that’s limping towards the line saying “don’t shoot!” They’re middle of the road offensively in both runs and OPS (18th and 13th respectively) and they are the Cardinals so they’ll surely be in it until the end. Their pitching has been average since the break too. Basically, the Cardinals are just an average team. However, right now they probably have the best pitching out of the three teams.
Carlos Martinez has been very good all season long and has carried quite the load with Wainwright’s down year. You can really never count Wainwright out though has he’s a proven postseason pitcher. The interesting guy here is the young gun Alex Reyes. Since he’s been called up he’s 3-1 with a 1.03 ERA and has struck out 40 batters in 35 innings. He’s looked pretty good since being called up in August and has done a commendable job since joining the starting rotation in September so chances are he will be used in either the pen or as a starter if they make it to October.
They’re finishing up the season with three at Wrigley, then home against the awful Reds and then at Pittsburgh who is all but eliminated. Meanwhile, the Mets are finishing with seven games against the Phillies and three against the Marlins and the Giants are in San Diego for a four game set and then come home for a three game series against the Rockies before finishing the season at AT&T against the Dodgers.
Based on schedules alone, the Mets look to have the easiest schedule, but they just dropped two to the Braves who are the worst baseball team of all time and the Mets have a history of choking. Other than the Cubs, the Cardinals also look to have a pretty easy schedule, but you can bet your ass that the Pirates and the Reds would love to spoil the Cards hopes for October. And finally, San Francisco. Neither San Diego nor Colorado is very strong and assuming the Dodgers already have the division wrapped up, who knows what they’ll bring in the final series.
It’s going to be very interesting to see how it all comes together and see who will come up big and who will flop. All three teams are tied for the wildcard right now so it’s going to come down to who can win the most games in their final ten games. If I had to guess, I’d say this.
- Cardinals in because they’re the Cardinals.
- Mets in because getting Matz back is going to be huge and because if they can’t get in with 7/10 of their final games against the Phillies, they don’t deserve to get in.
- Giants out solely because we haven’t had a nice, big collapse in a few years so I think we’re due.
No matter what though, it’s going to be fun to watch.