Bruce Bochy

Are the Giants really that much better now than a year ago?

Huddy

They’re in a tie with the Milwaukee Brewers for the National League’s best record. They went 7-3 on the road trip that concluded yesterday, and that also happens to be their record against the Los Angeles Dodgers this season.

Here’s a warning to you Croix de Candlestick kids — the San Francisco Giants’ bandwagon is collecting steam and passengers. Ken Rosenthal is holding the door open.

Certainly, no other club has won two of the past four World Series. And really, no one should be surprised if the Giants make it three out of five.

There is something about this group, something that goes beyond their collective Wins Above Replacement, something that the Dodgers have yet to develop, even with their $235 million payroll and appearance in the National League Championship Series last season.

“I can’t say it surprised me,” Bochy said of the team’s 10-games-in-10-days performance in Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. “I think they’re that good out there.”

The nagging doubt stems from last year, when the Giants started out pretty well and finished the season 10 games under .500. Despite a glut of reporters who I’ve heard remark that 40 games into the season is the arbitrary line where one can start making judgments about a team, let’s look at what the 2013 and 2014 squads looked like after 38 games, by the numbers.

2014:

  • 24-14 record (10-5 at home; 14-9 on the road)
  • 9-8 record in one-run games
  • 6-1 record in extra innings
  • 159 runs scored
  • 133 allowed
  • +26 run differential
  • .240 batting average
  • .246 batting average against
  • 45 home runs
  • 35 home runs allowed
  • 311 strikeouts (offense)
  • 283 strikeouts (pitching)
  • 123 walks (offense)
  • 94 walks (pitching)
  • 18 stolen bases (8 CS)
  • 37 stolen bases allowed (14 CS)

2013: 

  • 23-15 record (15-7 at home, 8-8 on the road)
  • 10-5 record in one-run games
  • 3-3 record in extra innings
  • 174 runs scored
  • 155 allowed
  • +19 run differential
  • .266 batting average
  • .244 batting average against
  • 32 home runs
  • 37 home runs allowed
  • 237 strikeouts (offense)
  • 320 strikeouts (pitching)
  • 111 walks (offense)
  • 122 walks (pitching)
  • 20 stolen bases (7 CS)
  • 24 stolen bases allowed (8 CS)

I really have no idea what to make of this. However, I’m going to try anyway, since I spent over an hour adding up stats from the first 11 games in May 2013. And yes, I’m aware that I’m leaving a ton of things out (advanced metrics, fielding stats, bullpen numbers, numbers with runners in scoring position and a lot more).

1. This year’s team is positive in two areas that jump off the page where they were negative in 2013: home run differential and walk differential.

2. Last year’s team might’ve been masking some under-the-radar mediocrity with their luck in one-run games.

3. Last year’s team lost Angel Pagan a little while after the 38-game mark; this year’s team has a better bullpen and Tim Hudson. (Cutting-edge analysis there.)

Are these things worthy of a packed bandwagon? If the Giants had a better bench and we saw a couple months of solid pitching from Tim Lincecum and Ryan Vogelsong, it’d be easier to hop on and let it ride. The injury to Brandon Belt could throw a wrench into the engine as well, although Pablo Sandoval started showing signs of coming alive yesterday.

Here’s what happened last year. After winning 23 of their first 38 games, they lost 23 of their next 38 (yes, they were 38-38 at one point in 2013). Then they went 2-12 in their next 14 games, and their season was over. I don’t remember Rosenthal and Bochy sounding so optimistic last year at this time, but let’s be cautious before we start assuming that the Giants are on an even-year path to glory in 2014. The Giants handled the Dodgers pretty well in 2013 too, and we know how much that meant in the final standings.

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