Take a quick snapshot of the 2011 San Francisco Giants season, and most people would describe them as a team with great pitching, almost no hitting and a record that’s better than it should be based on run differential (+10 after Sunday night’s win against the Mets that moved their record to 52-40). Their record says they’re right up there with the Phillies and Braves as one of the best teams in the National League; their run differential says they’re no better than the Mets or Pirates.
The 162-game format is a sample size so large that it lends perfectly to statistical analysis. Regression to the mean is almost always inevitable. So why does it seem like this Giants team is less of a fluke than the product of a team molded by what they went through last year? Is there any merit to the idea that they know how to win when they absolutely have to, or have I simply drunk way too much orange Kool Aid over the past year?
The Giants’ record in one-run games of 25-12 is phenomenal, and has been pointed to all season whenever people wonder why the team is outperforming their expected (or “Pythagorean”) record. But another record tells just as much, if not more: their record in series. After taking two of three from the Mets over the weekend, the Giants’ record in series is 18-7-5. Because their bullpen fails so rarely and they’ve had five effective starters since the season started, the Giants don’t fall into pits they can’t escape. They’ve only lost three games in a row three times. Their longest losing streak is five games, and that’s only happened once (the Giants have won at least three games in a row seven times, while completing three win streaks of give games or more). While they almost always have an incredibly hard time scoring runs, it hasn’t led to despair among the pitchers or even the Giants’ hitters, who often have looked terrible during the first seven or eight innings before coming through just when they needed to.
Notes from tonight…
— Part of the reason why Carlos Beltran said things that make him sound amenable to a trade to San Francisco — including handing the Giants this backhanded compliment: “That shows you right there, you don’t have to have a good lineup to win the World Series.” — is that the Giants just seem like they’re having fun due to the swagger they either possess or are doing a great job of faking. But regardless of money, Beltran doesn’t seem like a logical candidate to become a Giant in the next month, even though the Giants could use his power. With Nate Schierholtz on fire as of late and Beltran no longer a centerfielder, it seems like the better bet would be for the Giants to shore up their middle infield.
— Brandon Crawford’s BABIP was .230 heading into Sunday’s game. With his patience, if he gets consistent playing time in the second half his average is almost surely going to rise quite a bit.
— Tonight was the 13th time this season that Sergio Romo was sent in to face one hitter, his sixth such outing since June 12.
— No Schierholtz-centric post tonight, but he had a day/evening to remember. Pregame interview in the dugout with Buster Olney (where Schierholtz made an interesting comment describing long toss sessions that double as fielding practice with Aaron Rowand, including a game where they throw balls to each other that mimic sinking liners and tough one-hoppers), then he went 4-for-4 against Mike Pelfrey, a pitcher he was 0-for-9 against going into the game.
— ESPN did their best to answer the complaints commonly heard around these parts of being biased against West Coast teams with their third Giants game in the past five weeks (a fact they trumpeted extremely often during the broadcast), but Orel Hershiser and (especially) Bobby Valentine are absolutely horrendous. I’m not huge on bashing announcers because it’s hardly an easy job, which is why I wasn’t joining in on all the bitching about Joe Buck and Tim McCarver during the World Series (partly because slamming those two has become a cliché, and partly because I felt they actually gave the Giants their due respect against the Rangers … unlike how disappointed they seemed when the Giants beat the Cardinals in the 2002 NLCS). But I’ve never liked Hershiser’s smarmy aura, and Valentine is impossible to like. Someone must like him, since he keeps getting jobs either in dugouts or broadcast booths, but I have no idea why or how.
— When Valentine said Aaron Rowand was too busy thinking about his next at-bat because he was positioned too close to the left field line when Pelfrey was up, I almost turned off the sound and listened to the game on KNBR, delay be damned. However, I’ve been “lazy” all day after drinking pints of A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale and playing shuffleboard last night at the Tee Off Bar, so I suffered quietly on the couch instead.