The San Francisco Giants have 50 games left to play in the 2010 season, and mid-August is when the win-loss numbers start to rise up like the dead in a George Romero film to hunt you down. Now is the time to talk about the endgame of this season's games.
As Yogi Berra, the Zen master of circular thought, might have put it, “You can see a long way off what’s right in front of your face.”
The Giants are 63-49, playing at a .563 clip, two games out of first. If the Giants play out their fifty game string at the same rate, 28-22, they end up at 91-71. Keep in mind, only nine other teams in baseball are playing at .563 or above, putting the Giants in the top third of all MLB winning teams. But I don’t think anyone believes that 91 wins is a lock to take the NL West or the NL Wild Card.
On the other hand, a great number of thoughtful Americans will sign off on 95 wins to take the West or the Wild Card. To make 95 wins, the Giants would have to play the final 50 games at a .640 rate, 32-18, ending up with a 95-67 record. This would be the mountain the team is looking to climb the next month and a half, and it's a significant challenge. Can this 2010 Giants team pull it off? Absolutely, but it will not be easy to watch.
Take it one step further. Just to get win number 96, the Giants have to play 4% better, a .680 win rate (I am going with the whole number, rather than squeaking in at .671 and getting 33.55 wins).
Going down a dark road, if the Giants play .500 ball the rest of the way, they will end up at 88-74-- the same final record they put up in 2009. In that life-numbing scenario, the team also likely finishes in third place and General Manager Brian Sabean gets replaced. (And, no, it wouldn't be worth it.)
What about the San Diego Padres? Their record is currently 64-46, a .582 clip, with 52 games left to play. If the Padres finish off the season playing at their current win-loss rate (30-22), they will end up 94-68. If the Pads collapse and play .500 ball the rest of the way (26-26), they end up 90-72.
To take advantage of a complete Padres collapse, and just tie them at 90 wins, the Giants would have to play .545 baseball (27-23) to finish at 90-72.
The task for the Colorado Rockies now becomes even tougher. Winners of seven of their last ten games, the Rockies stand at 58-53. To make 90 wins, they would have go 32-19 (.594) in their remaining 51 games. And the Rockies would also need San Francisco and San Diego to stumble badly at the same time; possible, but just about as unlikely as serving Coors at an actual banquet.
When the dog-days of August give way to the crunch days of September, each game and each series for the Giants becomes a test of survival and their sheer will to win. The ideal result will be a playoff berth and a shot at the World Series; but the numbers won’t dictate that, the players will.