Now that's the first thing I'll tackle. Some people view the wildcard as not being part of the playoffs. They seem to place it into the same void as when teams play an extra series to determine who wins a division. That I can understand, it is deciding something within the regular season, the divisional winner.
I can also understand calling it part of the playoffs too. The season's over, and now you are playing games to decide who gets to move onto the next phase of the playoffs.
But in this case, I don't see why people can't see it as part of the playoffs: it is part of the playoff rules now, and therefore part of the playoffs. Only two teams in each league are playing, again part of the playoffs. Football has done this for years, consider it a bye for the division winners, it's part of the playoffs.
Three Playoffs in Five Years, Three Eras
I just realized this huge oddity about this Giants era of playoffs: we have had three different aces of the staff in the three playoffs. Lincecum in 2010, Cain in 2012, and Bumgarner in 2014.
It speaks partly to the TINSTAAP aspect of pitchers, but just think of how blessed we are to have had three DIFFERENT ace level pitchers on our staff over this short time period. I know Lincecum is not part of the rotation now, but he was for most of the season. And of course, Cain was out for most of the season.
Teams can point to aces in a generational sense of the word, like Drysdale, Koufax, Fernando, Hershiser, Kershaw for the Dodgers, they have been very blessed. But they rarely overlap these eras, and extremely rarely, have three of them on the staff, with each of the three taking turns as the ace of the staff in each playoff run. Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner.
Oh, there was the Braves with Maddux, Glavine, and Smoltz. But the Giants developed all of their pitchers, and Maddux was a signed free agent, lucky for them that he wanted to pitch there (and not for us when he signed back up with Chicago). The A's had Hudson, Mulder, Zito, as well. Though, aside from maybe one or three good seasons up front, Zito was never much of an ace, Mulder neither, while Lincecum, Cain, and Bumgarner had extended and/or better periods of ace performances. I'm sure there were others (Baltimore's four 20-game winners come to mind now), but the point is how rare it is, and even rarer that each of the aces rise to the fore, in rapid succession, replacing each other. Who will be the next, Crick, Blackburn, Beede, another draft pick?
They are not announcing the roster until the morning of the game, plus they can make different choices in each phase of the playoffs. However, the Giants roster has been so decimated by injuries or lack of performance that the hitters and starting pitchers are pretty much locks, with the bullpen being mostly locks.
- Blanco CF
- Panik 2B
- Posey C
- Sandoval 3B
- Pence RF
- Belt 1B
- Crawford SS
- Ishikawa LF
- Susac C
- Arias 3B/SS/2B/1B/LF?
- Perez LF/CF/RF
- Duffy 2B/SS/3B/LF?
- Hudson (maybe Vogelsong)
Despite being on the roster all season, Gutierrez is probably not going to be on any playoff roster. Definitely not on the roster for the Wild Card. Both Kontos and Strickland have been too good. And Lincecum is too much of a wild card not to include, I think.
But there is one spot left in the above roster configuration. They could go for Duvall or Dominguez for power. Brown hasn't been used much, so I doubt he'll make the roster, even with his two hits today. He's probably only here to absorb the environment and give his career a kick in the butt to get him going faster, incent him. They could add Gutierrez to reward him for the season, as well, since there is a spot. There is also Cordier, and while good so far, extremely wild, with walks and HBP galore, so probably too wild a card to play.
Thus, for the last spot, for the Wild Card, I doubt they go for another pitcher, not with so many choices, right now I have to think the extra spot will go to a position player, and since Dominguez has been used lately but not Duvall, have to give nod to him. Especially since he only has 1 K in 12 AB, that's great in limited opportunities, but he needs to be able to hit as well as control his bat if he wants to stay up here.
However, for the rest of the playoffs, I can see the Giants giving the spot to the starting pitcher who is not starting, whether Hudson or Vogelsong, to reward all the starting pitchers. And again, it is not like Gutierrez has been that great, both starters have better ERA and FIP than JC, else the story would be way different. Plus, clearly, Bochy likes to go to the bullpen early and often in the playoffs, he's the new Captain Hook, just look at what he's done in the past, going to starters, with an "All In" attitude to win it now and worry about later, later.
When you are missing two big cogs of the offense in Pagan and Morse, of course the team is hampered. It would have been nice to carry an extra OF, but few good players sign to be a bench guy all season, so that has to be taken care of mid-season and Sabean was not able to do that. A Schierholtz type, who plays great defense and can hit some, would have been ideal. Probably should have made a deal back then, but at that point, who would have thought both Pagan and Morse would be lost to us.
Still, if Belt can get back his swing - and he appears to be doing it in recent days - having Panik, Posey, Belt, Pence, Sandoval 2 to 6 would be a good enough offense, I think, for our pitching.
But it won't be like 2010 or 2012, we will have to battle to get to the promise land. But I don't think it's out of the question either, we have a strong enough rotation, we just need some hitters to carry us.