When it comes to information, I love our beat writers. But analysis? Not always.
So lets look at the latest: beating winning teams. Writers have been exhorting the Giants to start beating the winning teams, making that a key thing that needs to turn around. Not really, it's actually beating losing teams where they need to pick things up.
Here is the NL teams record against winning and losing teams at the start of play today:
As you can see, the Giants actually has the third best record in the NL against winning teams, at .500
The real problem is that LA kicks butt against losing teams while the Giants have merely been good (if you view the original table, they are actually 5th in the NL). Whereas the Bridegrooms are 18 games above .500 playing losing teams, the Giants are merely 8 games over .500 against losing teams.
That is where the Giants need to improve at, though it would be nice to beat up on winning teams too. But most NL teams have a hard time beating winning teams (which to me implies that the AL winning teams are kicking butt in the NL) so urging them to beat winning teams is actually self-defeating, winning teams are hard to beat, it is the losing teams that they need to beat up badly.
Particularly since the Giants have 15 games against winning team and 21 games left against losing teams. And even more particularly, the Dodgers only have 9 games against winning teams and 23 games left against losing teams. If the Dodgers keep their pace, they will end up around 90-72 (4-5 against winning, 13-10 against losing). If the Giants keep their pace against winning teams, going 8-7, then they need to go 15-6 against the losing teams.
Or, if we do take the tack that they should improve against winning teams, with 6 games left against the Dodgers, that is where they need to improve their game, and win at least 5 games, which would gain four games of the lead off them, meaning the Dodgers would need to beat the other winning team 3-0 to keep pace (if the Giants win 4 games, the Dodgers only need to play 2-1 against the Nats, and that's in LA). That would obviously ease the pressure to win a lot of games against the other teams.
Another way to look at it is to say the Giants need to beat their NL West brethren. While 8-5 against Arizona, they are only 6-6 against San Diego and 4-7 against Colorado. Only 7-6 with LA. With 21 games left against them, the Giants need to beat up on them. Six games with D-backs, 4-2 (12-7). Seven games with Padres, 5-2 (11-8). Eight games with Rockies, 5-3 (9-10). And Dodgers 4-2 (11-8). That would be 18-9, and then the Giants only need to be 5-4 against Nats, Brewers, and Tigers, which is doable. Still, 18-9 is no easy task, they need to take it to the NL West if they hope to win the division title.
It's not easy any way you cut it. But beating losing teams seem to be the best path to winning the division title. At minimum, it looks much more doable than beating winning teams, particularly since there is not as many of them left for the Giants to play. Of course, it would help a lot if they would just "Beat LA!" But they can be tough and probably positioned to have Kershaw pitch against us (yep, he's scheduled to pitch the rubber match in both series, so going 4-2 against them is a pretty tough task, let alone 5-1; 3-3 looks much more probable).
What would be great is if the Giants can put up a great stretch of pitching, both starting and relief, now, like they did in 2010. The rotation has been slumping relatively over the past 30 games or so, they need to start bringing their A-game. Bumgarner has, actually, and both Vogelsong and Peavy have been pretty good too. It is Hudson, who has struggled for a long stretch now, and Lincecum, who has struggled since he pitched in relief in that long extra-innings game, who have to start shaping up and start delivering good dominating starts.
If these two guys joined the others, that should ignite a nice winning streak, as the offense have averaged 5.6 runs per game in the last 8 games, after initially struggling still after Pagan returned to the lineup, but they are on fire now. One by one, batters have started hitting, and hitting a lot. Heck, Pagan himself hasn't really hit for that much yet, if he and Pence (who has also been struggling) started hitting, imagine how many more runs they would score then!
These are the keys that I can see for the Giants to end up the division winner. Beating the losing teams bloody, like they were earlier this season. The starting pitching needs to return to their goodness in May when all five starters were bringing it almost every game, particularly Hudson, who appears to have fallen into a dead arm period, he's not striking out as much as he was earlier, and Lincecum, who appears to have hurt his mechanics by pitching in relief and he has not figured out the problem yet. And it would help if Pagan and Pence started hitting atop the lineup. But just beating winning teams is not going to do it for them, unless they are beating up specifically on the Bridegrooms and taking at least 5 of 6 games.
But they can win even if they don't beat LA and play them to a standstill, if they can whip the losing teams they still have games with, in particular, the NL West, whom they have not played very well against so far this season. That could make the break the season right there.