How the Playoff Picture Would Look for the Giants If the Season Ended Today

Manny Randhawa@@MannyBal9Correspondent IIIJuly 16, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO - OCTOBER 21:  Roy Halladay #34 of the Philadelphia Phillies looks to third base at Andres Torres #56 of the San Francisco Giants during the first inning of Game Five of the NLCS during the 2010 MLB Playoffs at AT&T Park on October 21, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Robert Meggers/Getty Images)
Robert Meggers/Getty Images

If the season ended today, the National League playoff picture would look remarkably similar to the scene last October.

While the NL Central Division champions from last season, the Reds, would not make the postseason were it to begin now, the other three teams earning playoff berths would be the NL East champion Phillies, the NL Wild Card-winner Braves and the defending world champion Giants.

The National League Division Series would feature the Braves vs. Giants (hmm, sound familiar?) and the Phillies vs. Cardinals/Pirates (now that's a surprise).

How would the defending champs stack up this time around?

To the surprise of many, they would stack up pretty well, even without Buster Posey—who was lost for the season after suffering a broken leg May 25—and with an offense ranked near the bottom of the league in almost every category.


Braves vs. Giants

Oh the torture for Giants fans.

The Braves just couldn't hit the Giants last postseason.
The Braves just couldn't hit the Giants last postseason.Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

In last year's NLDS, every game was decided by one run, and had it not been for Atlanta second baseman Brooks Conrad making some costly errors, the series may have ended differently.

The Giants prevailed, three games to one, but the series was much closer than the outcome would suggest.

Atlanta and San Francisco were very evenly matched, each boasting stellar pitching and below-average hitting.

Not much has changed since last October.

If the two clubs were to meet in the postseason again this year, we would very likely be in for another taught, fiercely fought series.

The Braves have elite pitching with Jair Jurrjens, Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson leading the starting rotation, and All-Stars Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel anchoring the bullpen.

Atlanta is second in the NL in team ERA, at 3.09, and second in opponents' batting average, at .233. The Braves have given up the second fewest runs in the league (313), have the second most strikeouts (746), and the third most quality starts (59).

Those are amazing pitching stats.

But nothing the Giants can't compete with.

San Francisco is currently third in the league in team ERA (3.15) and first in opponents' batting average, at .230. The Giants have given up the third fewest runs in the league (325), have the most strikeouts (776) and are tied for most quality starts (61, tied with the Phillies).


 BravesN.L. RankGiantsN.L. Rank
Opponents' BA.2332.2301
Runs Allowed31323253
Quality Starts59361T-1


These clubs are virtual mirror images of one another from a pitching standpoint. But what about offensively?

The Giants have had a very poor season when it comes to hitting. They're 13th in the league with a .243 team batting average, 15th out of 16 teams in runs scored (344) and 13th with a .310 on-base percentage.

Giants-Phillies has become quite a rivalry.
Giants-Phillies has become quite a rivalry.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

But the Braves rank lower than the Giants in many offensive categories. Atlanta is 14th in the league in team batting average, hitting .238 (5 points lower than the Giants). Its on-base percentage is just .306 (14th in the league).


 BravesN.L. RankGiantsN.L. Rank
Batting Average.23814.24313
On-Base Percentage.30614.31013
Runs Scored376934415


A Braves-Giants NLDS would be another one to remember, and would likely be a five-game series. The team with the most clutch hits with men in scoring position would likely come out victorious.


Phillies vs. Giants

With these two clubs scheduled to meet July 26 for the first time since that fateful evening last Oct. 23, when the Giants clinched the NL pennant, it's worth a look at how an NLCS rematch might play out in 2011.

As for pitching, these two teams are lights-out. After suffering defeat at the hands of the Giants primarily due to the fact that they were out-pitched, Philadelphia immediately signed Cliff Lee, making the Phillies the favorite to reach the World Series because of their fantastic arms: Roy Halladay, Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt.

But the Phillies and Giants, just like the Braves and Giants, are pretty evenly matched from a pitching perspective.

The Phillies lead the league in ERA (3.01), runs allowed (297) and quality starts (61). The Giants are close behind the Phillies with a team ERA of 3.15, 325 runs allowed and tied with Philadelphia with 61 quality starts. San Francisco also leads the league in strikeouts (776) and opponents' batting average (.230).


 PhilliesN.L. RankGiantsN.L. Rank
Opponents' BA.2383.2301
Runs Allowed29713253
Quality Starts61T-161T-1


Offensively, the Phillies have the edge, but the edge is surprisingly thin. While the Phillies have scored 47 more runs than the Giants have (391 to 344), they are only hitting .249 as a team, compared with San Francisco's .243. Philadelphia has just five more hits on the season than the Giants (783 to 778).


 PhilliesN.L. RankGiantsN.L. Rank
Batting Average.24910.24313
Runs Scored391734415


What the statistics tell us is that the pitching in this series would be superb on both sides, and that for the Giants to win they would have to muster clutch hits with men in scoring position, something that the Phillies have done a better job of so far this season, leading to the significant disparity between the clubs in runs scored.


More Torture Ahead

For Giants fans, what all of this means is that if San Francisco reaches the postseason again in 2011, the road to a second consecutive World Series title will be a tough one, and the Giants will have to be playing well to once again reach the pinnacle of the baseball world.

But the defending champs are poised to make a serious bid for a repeat, and the stats show that their pitching is capable of carrying them once again.

If there's anything the Giants have shown, it's that they can get the job done when it counts.


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