Notes of Note: Giants-Dodgers Make History; Pac-12 Intrigue; New Faces in Playoff? Niners' Hurting
I went to bed last night, after celebrating the Giants' division championship, wondering if any two teams had ever done won the Giants and Dodgers did this year—namely, win 107 and 106 games. I woke up this morning to a note from my old friend Bob Rose (former Giants, A’s, Stanford and Cal PR man extraordinaire) and a link to a story in the Chronicle that answered the question,
Turns out the Giants-Dodgers divisional race is the second best of all time, if you consider total wins.
According to MLB.com, Giants-Dodgers was the 11th postseason race between two teams that won 100-plus games and the first in MLB history when two division foes won 105-plus games.
Since MLB expanded to divisions in 1969, five division races have featured two teams with 100-plus wins. The 2001 Mariners-A’s (Mariners 116, As 102) hold the record for total wins.
Any way you look at it, it was a race for the ages. Every day, the Giants believed they needed to win, and most of the time, they did.
A perfect mix of veterans, youngsters, and castoffs expertly assembled by GM Farhan Zaidi and managed by Gabe Kapler. Any manager who can send up 18 pinch hitters who proceed to hit a home run has special talent, in my book.
Kapler is a lock for Manager of the Year. Brandon Crawford should win MVP, but probably won’t, and pitcher Logan Webb (below) has to earn some kind of an award for performance of the year Sunday.
The Giants went into the season with a very suspect starting rotation, but emerged with a solid foursome of Kevin Gausman (14-6, 2.81 ERA), Anthony DeSclafani 13-7, 3:17), Webb (11-3, 3:03), and Alex Wood (10-4, 3:83). Not exactly the Dodgers’ Max Scherzer, Walter Buehler, Julio Urias and Clayton Kershaw, but pretty darn good.
Backed up by the league’s most complete and efficient relief corps.
Pac-12 Playoff Hopes Fade: These are interesting times in the Pac-12, featuring a lot of good teams, but the conference's playoff hopes are already fading.
Stanford took out No. 3 Oregon Saturday in a game of ups and downs, momentum changes, penalties and more penalties. The Cardinal was hampered throughout the game by seemingly endless false starts, but given life at the end by some costly Oregon personal foul, targeting and defensive holding flags. Quarterback Tanner McKee, off target much of the game, hit some big throws down the stretch.
So for the fourth time in the last 13 years Stanford knocked off a top-10 rated Oregon team. In fact, Stanford has now beaten the Ducks when they were ranked No. 1 (2012), No. 2 (2013), and No. 3 (Saturday).
You might say Stanford coach David Shaw has Oregon's number.
Elsewhere, Arizona State is beginning to look like the best team in the South. The Sun Devils were a pre-season top 20 pick, but a looming NCAA penalty for illegal off-season recruiting raised a big question mark. So far, coach Herm Edwards has managed to push off the distractions, as ASU crushed Colorado and UCLA back to back.
So right now, Arizona State and Oregon State would play in the Pac-12 champ game. Not exactly a star-studded matchup.
BYU Rising: As of today, the Western team with the best shot to reach the College Football Playoff is…not Oregon, not USC, not UCLA, not Stanford, not Arizona State...but, drumroll please, BYU.
The unbeaten Cougars still have Boise State, at Baylor, Washington State, Virginia and a trip to USC remaining on the schedule. Run the table and it will be hard to keep them out of the top four.
Other undefeated teams not normally in the playoff discussion that deserve mention: Iowa (which blasted Maryland Saturday), Cincinnati (after beating Notre Dame), Wake Forest (must finish at Boston College and Clemson), Michigan (crushed Wisconsin last weekend in Madison), Michigan State (setting up huge Michigan-Michigan State game Oct. 30), Oklahoma State (5-0 after beating Baylor), and Kentucky (5-0 after upsetting Florida).
Lots of these folks will disappear from the top 10 over the next several weeks, but it points out the level of excitement and interest there will be throughout the country when the playoff is expanded to 12 teams.
Niners Hurting: I’m not one to use injuries as an excuse, but for the second year in a row, the 49ers are suffering more than their share of key losses.
Consider: running backs Raheem Mostert, JaMycal Hasty, and Jeff Wilson; linebacker Dre Greenlaw; defensive backs Jason Verrett and Tarvarius Moore; and this week, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, kicker Robbie Gould, and offensive tackle Trent Williams.
They’re in a very tough division, and with this many players out, it will be difficult to climb past the Seahawks, Rams and Cardinals, particularly is Trey Lance, clearly still a work in progress, needs to start several games in place of Garoppolo.
Note: The Inside Track will be on vacation next week. We'll return the week of Oct. 18.