Here’s a statement you didn’t think you’d be hearing two months ago: The San Francisco Giants are likely to make the 2020 MLB playoffs.
Okay, you also didn’t think you’d be hearing that one month ago.
According to 538, the Orange & Black have a 69 percent chance to join the 16-team dance at the end of September, after the Giants won their fifth game in a row on Wednesday night. Fangraphs calculates that it’s even more likely, pegging their odds to make the postseason at 72.8 percent.
What a difference 44 games makes. The Giants entered the 2020 season with minimal postseason expectations, even in a 60-game sprint, and even with an expanded postseason field that for the first time includes more than half the league.
And a strange postseason it will be. This year, every team who places first or second in their division is granted an automatic berth. As the NL West currently stands, that would see the first-place Dodgers (32-12, best in MLB) and second place Padres (28-17, second best record in NL) punching their ticket to the tournament.
The Giants are 4.5 games behind the Padres for that second place spot, adding extra intrigue to the four game set between the two teams that begins on Thursday night. With just 16 games remaining, winning this series would go along way into catching the red hot Padres, but the Giants most likely path by far is via the wild-card, where they find themselves in first place heading into Thursday.
As in previous years, two wild-card teams will be selected, bringing the total playoff teams in each division to eight. The Giants (23-21) lead the Marlins by a game (19-19) and division rivals the Rockies (20-23) by 2.5. The Giants have one more four game set vs. the Rockies in September, which precedes the final series of the season, a three game set with the Padres.
A look around the league is a promising exercise. Dueto a COVID outbreak earlier in the year, the Marlins are about to begin a seven-game series over five days with a Phillies team that has won seven of their last 10. Even if they can match the Phillies on the field, it’s hard not to see how the whirlwind schedule won’t negatively affect Miami during the stretch run.
All this is to say that with just over two weeks left in the season, the Giants control their own playoff destiny. If they can stay over .500, a wild card berth is extremely likely. If they stay red hot, a second place finish in the NL West isn’t out of the question.
Were the playoffs to start today, the Giants (A No. 7 seed) would face the No. 2 seeded Braves in a best-of-three format, all in Atlanta. To earn a home series in the first round, the Giants would have to pass the Padres, and finish the season with the best record of all NL non-division winners.
But to even discuss such things is putting the cart before the horse. Fangraphs currently pegs the Giants chances at passing the Padres at 5.7 percent, a number that is probably lower when you take into account San Diego’s recent acquisition of flamethrowing right-hander Mike Clevinger.
Let’s see how the Giants do this weekend before exploring that possibility in detail. After all, nobody expected the Giants to be in this position in the first place, and the fact that we’re even having this discussion on Sept. 10 is something to be celebrated.
Here’s a full look at the current NL playoff picture: