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My Giants

So, Your Humble Blogger is a Giants fanatic, as Gentle Readers know. And yes, the Giants won the World Series last year, so that’s all right. But of course this year’s team is not last year’s team, which is what happens every year to every team, and this year is (so far) very frustrating. Not that last year wasn’t frustrating in August, come to think of it…

Anyway, the thing about this year has been that I go back and forth about whether the team is any good. This last couple of weeks has been an excellent example: We took two out of three from the Brewers in Ess Eff, then went to Philadelphia and took two out of three from the Phillies. At that point, I said to another Giants fan that really, while I understand that the offense stinks, I still like our chances against any team in the league. That is, there isn’t any team the league that I look at and think we would be hard-pressed to win a five or seven game series against. Not that the Giants were better than the Phillies—not by any definition of better that makes much sense to me—but that we would manage to get the wins somehow. We were 61-44, and the thing is, when you are two-thirds of the way through the season, that’s the team you are, not some sort of small sample size fluke.

Then we got swept in Cincinnati, lost two out of three to Arizona in Ess Eff, and lost three out of four to the Phillies in Ess Eff, and as I was listening to those games or reading about them the next day, I was thinking how does this lousy team ever beat anybody? Yes, our pitching is good, well, great, but in those ten games we scored 22 runs, and that counts our sweet 8-run explosion that put us back in first. In the other nine, yes, it was 14 runs. Now, of course if you throw out the best games you will look lousy, but perhaps think about it in quintiles: Lowest Q averaged 0 runs, then 1 run, then 2 runs, then 2.5, then the top Q at 5.5 runs. Compare any team’s to that. The Mets during those 10 games, when they went 4-6? Lowest Q was 0.5, then 2.5, then 4, then 8, then 10.5. Or what about the Pirates, who lost all ten games? Lowest Q is still 1, then 3, then 3.5, then 5, then 6. The point is that the Giants have more low-scoring games, and their high-scoring games aren’t as high-scoring—it’s not just that they have bad nights, or that they can’t handle particular kinds of pitchers. It’s that they can’t score runs.

Is that just the last ten games? Well, let’s see. We’ve played 115 games, so the Qs would be 23. The lowest is 0.61, then 2.0, 2.91, 4.39 and finally the top Q of a whopping 7.43 (y’all should assume I’ve made some egregious arithmetical error in this, by the way). Not quite so bad as the last ten games, but still awful. Let’s compare that to a meh offense such as the Cubs: 0.96, 2.48, 3.74, 4.96, 8.48 and better in every quintile, and it’s not even close.

I put these into quintiles, by the way, because somehow it’s easier for me to think about quintiles then average-plus-variation, and I think it gives more of a sense of what is actually going on without resorting to the raw data. I like Qs for economic data specifically because it makes it easier to keep an eye on the top and bottom, which are of interest for separate reasons. For baseball, it’s more the opposite, that quintiles make it easier to ignore the outliers. It’s one thing to say that the Giants score an average of just under three and a half runs a game, and another to say that the middle quintile is under three runs a game.

And of course, it’s not bad luck. The Giants don’t score runs because they don’t do the things that make runs score. They don’t draw walks (third worst in the league), they don’t hit home runs (also third worst), they don’t hit for average (again third worst), they don’t hit for power (second worst slugging), and they aren’t fast (fifth worst in both stolen bases and caught stealing, third worst triples). They strike out a fair amount (fifth worst or eleventh out of sixteen), for what that’s worth. There isn’t anything they do well at the plate or on the bases. They just stink.

On the other side, of course, they have fantastic pitching, and they don’t get scored on because they don’t do the things that let runs score. They have given up the fewest hits and the fewest home runs, and struck out the most. They do give up walks, though. Still, they don’t give up a lot of runs. While they don’t throw that many shutouts, they throw an absurd number of 1- and 2-run games, and the Q3 against them is just about exactly 3.

So. The question, then, is which of my attitudes is right: is this the team that can go straight-up with any team in the league, or is this the team that shouldn’t be able to beat anybody, ever? I don’t know. I don’t know if I ever will know. Even if they will the World Series again.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Well as a Phillies fan, the Giants are the NL team that makes me the most nervous for October because I could very easily see losing several 2-1 or 3-2 games to them. Even worse if they stumbling into the playoffs with a worse record than the Central team, it would likely be the 5 game series, not the 7, which makes the chances of the decisive run of close games even stronger.

Or in other words, they could be like the 2006 Cardinals, a team with real strengths and real weaknesses, who could very easily get lucky and make a run deep into October.

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