October baseball is competitive, unpredictable, and compelling. SoSH Baseball spends most of our year looking at the weird, wild, wonderful world of baseball – as well as the intricate and the analytical. With a month of pressure-packed games to cover – the real, and the fictional – we’ll do our best to keep you covered.
The Teams: San Francisco Giants (87-75) vs. New York Mets (87-75)
Despite their similar records, these two teams could not have arrived in the Wild Card round in a more different manner. The Giants looked destined for the postseason early, but limped to the finish line while the Mets struggled with ineffectiveness and injuries all season.
The Giants were truly a tale of two halves; notching baseball’s best record before the All-Star game, going 57-33, and then stumbling home with a 30-42 mark in late July, August, and September. Their bullpen in particular struggled, blowing 32 leads on the season and imploding repeatedly during September. However, they notched four wins in a row to close out the season, earning the second wild card berth in a thrilling finale.
Meanwhile, the Metropolitans struggled most of the summer to keep pace with the division-leading Washington Nationals, and saw injuries to their brilliant young pitching staff mount as the months dragged on. First, Matt Harvey went down, and he was followed by Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz, all of whom joined David Wright and Neil Walker on the disabled list by the time the season ended. Further, the Mets offense has been anemic all year, only waking up sporadically.
The Pitching Matchup: Madison Bumgarner (15-9, 2.74) vs. Noah Syndergaard (14-9, 2.60)
Both teams send their ace to the hill in the Wild Card game. Bumgarner and Syndergaard are also excellent hitters (for pitchers), more than capable of contributing to their own cause. And they each enjoyed a Cy Young consideration-quality season on the mound.
Syndergaard brings the game’s most fiery fastball – averaging more than 98 mph – as well as a sinker, a slider, a changeup, and a curveball.
The Giants scored 715 runs on the year, led by first baseman Brandon Belt’s 132 OPS+. Stalwart performers Buster Posey and Hunter Pence had down years by their usual standards, with Pence having missed almost 60 games due to injury. Shortstop Brandon Crawford managed to tie a major league record with seven hits in one game, and he also contributed mightily to the Giants overall offensive production.
The Mets tallied 671 runs on the season – by far the fewest of any playoff qualifier. Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes led the way offensively, with a 133 OPS+ and 31 homers. His teammates Curtis Granderson and Asdrubal Cabrera also chipped in with 30 and 23 homers, respectively. However, most were of the solo variety, as the Mets had much trouble getting on base all year.
What to Watch
Both clubs have rosters chock-full of playoff experience – the Giants retain many players from their recent World Series winning clubs, including Bumgarner, while the Mets return to the postseason after narrowly missing out in last year’s World Series. On paper, this looks like a pitcher’s duel, with Bumgarner and the Giants getting the slight edge based on his sterling postseason track record and the Mets general ineptness on offense.