My San Francisco Giants have won the National League West, with a record of 107-55, their highest winning percentage since 1913 and their most wins in a season ever. They finished one game ahead of the Los Angeles team, who do not have to go home and paint the garage because of the wild card system, which is bizarre but seems to work OK, I guess. Anyway, the thing that jumped to my mind at the end of this remarkable season is that (a) the Giants are really good this year, and (2) it’s hard to imagine a really persuasive argument that they are a better team than the second-place team.
The two teams each won 97 games against the rest of the league. They each won 20 against the Central Division; the Giants won three fewer against the East, two more against the West and one more against the Junior League (which count in the standings for some reason). The Giants did slightly better against the Cubs and Reds than the other team and not as good against the Pirates or Nationals. But basically: the same opponents, and the same results.
As for hitting, the Giants scored 26 fewer runs over the season—around one-sixth of a run per game. But they had more hits, more doubles, more triples and more home runs—they had a slightly higher batting average, slightly lower on-base average and slightly higher slugging percentage. The OPS+ of the two teams is an identical 107. Pitching? The Giants gave up 33 more runs (in 3 more innings)—around a fifth of a run per game. The Giants walked a lot fewer guys and gave up slightly fewer home runs, but they were basically second in all the other pitching categories. Fielding? I don’t really trust fielding stats, but there isn’t one that shows the Giants to have reached significantly more batted balls or handled those they reached significantly more reliably.
No, as far as I can tell, neither team has been persuasively better than the other over the course of the 162-game season. The Giants eked out one extra win over the course of six months—call it the one where Tauchman justified his negative Wins Over Replacement by making one spectacular catch—and they finish on the top of the division. And that’s how it works! Somebody ends up on top of the division. Somebody finishes second.
And then, because of baseball’s bizarre system, they play again afterward. At least we get bonus baseball—but whoever wins this series, I still don’t think there’s going to be any very persuasive evidence that either team is significantly better than the other.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,