A Dynasty Befitting San Francisco

I mean that lovingly. But we all know that San Francisco’s different — and a place where difference is celebrated. In that vein, and while Giants fans are still too giddy to feel how affronted, let’s see just how offbeat is this dynasty of 2010-12-14.

 

As usual, all stats used here come from the better-than-sliced-bread Baseball-Reference.com, plus a bit of Excel elbow grease.

There are now 47 World Series winners who won it for at least the second time in five years. I compiled the won-lost records for each 5-year span culminating in that second WS win (or third, etc.). The worst 5-year records:

  • 1991 Twins — .525 for 1987-91 … 85-77 equivalent in a modern season
  • 2012 Giants — .533 for 2008-12 … 86-76
  • 2014 Giants — .538 for 2010-14 … 87-75
  • 1967 Cardinals — .557 for 1963-67 … 90-72

The average for all 47 teams is .606 (98-64), or 11 more wins per year than these Giants … who won three titles in their span.

Out of the 18 WS winners taking it for at least the third time in five years, San Francisco has the worst 5-year record, by far, and is one of two under .600 for the span. The bottom three:

  • 2014 Giants — .538 for 2010-14 … 87-75 equivalent
  • 1974 Athletics — .582 for 1970-74 … 94-68
  • 1962 Yankees — .602 for 1958-62 … 97-65

The average of these 18 teams is .621 (101-61), or 14 more wins per year than these Giants. Out of 59 discrete team-seasons in these spans, the Giants own the worst and the 4th-worst, including the only losing season — they went 76-86 last year. But why dwell on the past? (There are only 59 relevant team-seasons because of overlapping spans, mostly the Yankees, who comprise 12 of the 18 “third-timers.”)

For 2010-14 combined, San Francisco ranks 7th in winning percentage, a total of 20 games behind the #1 Yankees. Of the other 17 “three-out-of-five” champs, only three did not have the best overall record in their spans: The A’s were 3rd for 1970-74 (a total of 12 games behind Baltimore); and the Yanks were 2nd to Atlanta for both 1995-99 and 1996-2000 (17 GB and 13.5 GB, respectively). Besides SF, the others averaged about 12 games ahead of the field over their 5-year span.

Of course, divisional play and wild cards make it easier to win the Series without a great record. And none of this is meant to chip at their epic achievement. (Said the Tigers fan, still tasting sawdust and sour grapes.) Still, the three other teams in the divisional era to win a third WS in five years averaged 10 more wins per year than the Giants, for their respective spans, and the two that did it in the wild-card era averaged 11 more wins (1999-2000 Yankees).

The six teams above SF in 2010-14 win percentage went a combined 83-92 in the postseason (equivalent to a 77-85 season), and even the three that did reach the Series — STL, TEX and DET combined for five pennants — went 66-63 in the postseason (like an 83-79 year). The Giants’ postseasons add up to 34-14 (akin to 115-47).

By Pythagorean W%, the Giants rank 13th for 2010-14. Five higher teams have failed to get past even one playoff foe, in a total of 12 chances: Oakland, Atlanta, Cincinnati (all 0-3), Washington (0-2) and the Angels (0-1). (The Tigers fan feels better.)

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Surging Down the Stretch

The Giants won their division in two of these three championship seasons, but never led at the All-Star Break. For the three years combined, they played like an 88-win team in the first half, but a 96-win team in the second half, and a 100-win team from Sept. 1 through end of regular season. Adding the postseason, their second-half W% looks like a 100-win season, and their Sept. 1 through WS mark looks like a 106-win season.

The 2014 Giants didn’t play so well down the stretch: 35-31 second half, 13-12 in September, and 4-6 in their last 10 games. But the mediocre chase pack never really put on any pressure. The second half began with San Fran one game clear of the nearest playoff have-not; that lead grew to 3 games by the end of August, and 5 games with ten left to play, as Milwaukee, Atlanta and Cincinnati all collapsed.

That’s not to say they had no incentive to play well in September. Indeed, they might have caught the Dodgers for the division crown, closing within a game on Sept. 12 when Bumgarner blanked them in a series opener, but dropping four of the last five in that head-to-head. But whatever the division title might have meant emotionally, the measurable benefits — such as, potential home-field edge for a series, or at least the Wild Card Game — are more hazy:

  • In 2010 and ’12, the Giants went 12-4 in postseason road games, clinching five of their six series out of town.
  • From 1995-2013, home teams before the World Series were a modest 278-245 (.532), including 1-3 in the Wild-Card Game.
  • From 1995-2013, wild cards had a better postseason record than division winners: WCs 162-159, DWs 459-462. (Not including the Wild-Card Game, which by definition produces a .500 record for WCs.)
  • Wild cards had split eight World Series against division winners.

How did these factors play in 2014? San Francisco went 6-3 on the road, winning the first game of all four rounds. Their Series foe was another wild card, which swept through its playoffs. Meanwhile, division winners went 6-9 at home, 0-4 against the wild cards.

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The Real “Pace of Play” Problem

The second wild card was introduced in 2012, to raise the stakes of division races. But those division winners are 69-77 in postseason play. That doesn’t mean the format’s faulty; every team wants home-field edge, and to avoid the play-in game. It just shows how different the postseason is from the 162-game grind.

Proposals have been floated to increase the penalty on wild-card teams, such as, no home games in the LDS. But the simplest and most logical way to reward regular-season excellence is to tighten the postseason schedule.

Thanks to copious off days (and his own heroic turn on two days’ rest), Madison Bumgarner logged 33% of San Francisco’s innings — or 35%, if you just count regulation frames. He started six of their 17 games, racking up nearly as many innings just in starts as their other three SPs combined (47.2-48.1). And except for the finale, each of his outings came with four days’ rest. Bumgarner punched the Giants’ ticket to the Series one day after Kansas City finished off their LCS, yet baseball went dark for four days, and he was fully rested for Game 1.

(A random aside: Bumgarner’s 5-inning save in Game 7 was just one out shorter than the average start in this postseason by all those not named Bumgarner.)

The schedule worked as well for the Royals, from a different angle. Kelvin Herrera relieved 11 times in 15 games — his 15 relief innings was topped by just two pitchers in the last 30 postseasons — but only twice pitched on consecutive days, thanks to the schedule. Herrera, Wade Davis and Greg Holland combined for 29% of Kansas City’s innings, more than twice their season share. They notched 34 appearances with just eight back-to-backs, which was lower than their season share (56 of 204). The extra work share without changing their work schedule helped that trio compile a 1.12 ERA, compared to 4.47 for all other KC pitchers.

It’s too much to expect MLB to float the postseason schedule, e.g., to move up the World Series when both LCS end early, as happened this year. But a big step towards making the postseason more like what teams go through to get there would be eliminating all scheduled off days between series, and cutting in-series travel days from two to one.

The second travel day is most impactful (and unnecessary) in the LDS, now played 2-2-1. With a scheduled day off before the next round, an LDS settled by game 4 (as almost three-fourths have been) means at least three days off before the LCS. That tends to benefit the wild cards and weaker division winners: They can reset their rotation, and start the next round on virtually equal footing with the teams that earned their way to a well-set rotation by winning their divisions more easily (and avoiding the wild-card game).

Even if all their series had gone the limit, the Royals would have played just 20 games in 30 days. During the season, they played 162 games in 182 days, or 26.7 games per 30 days. So in a month of postseason play, an extra week off was built into their schedule. That’s one sure way to water down the wild-card penalty.

The scheduled days off between series have logistical value to the people that stage the events. But couldn’t most of those things proceed on a contingency basis? Teams sell and print playoff tickets before they clinch a berth, and merchandisers crank out hats and shirts for titles that may never come. What’s the extra cost of preparing media credentials, etc., for a series your team might not get to? More precisely, what’s the cost of one day’s less lead time for those things? — since many times, if not most, the off day between series follows one or more days off from clinching early. The cost of such contingent outlays seems minuscule next to the record profits MLB has seen these last few years. Wouldn’t it be worth the cost, if it helps produce more champions who were among the truly best teams over the long season?

But here’s the rub: No one within the industry has both a vested interest in more “realistic” outcomes, and the clout to change the status quo.

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Best of Seven, Since 1985

Thinking of cutting travel days in series got me pondering the 2-3-2 format. Here’s the home team’s record for 2-3-2 series since 1985 (when the LCS went to best-of-seven), by game number:

  • Game 1 — 48-39
  • Game 2 — 50-37
  • Game 3 — 50-37
  • Game 4 — 42-45
  • Game 5 — 42-30
  • Game 6 — 31-21
  • Game 7 — 18-6

By home-game grouping:

  • Games 1-2 — .563 (98-76)
  • Games 3-5 — .545 (134-112)
  • Games 6-7 — .645 (49-27)

And summing up the teams’ home sets:

  • Games 1,2,6,7 — .588 (147-103)
  • Games 3,4,5 — .545 (134-112)

You might think the big edge for “1,2,6,7” merely reflects better teams having earned home-field advantage, by a better season record. But that’s a very minor factor. Remember, World Series home edge has not been tied to season record in this period. And a few LCS have given home field to a division winner with a worse record than a wild card. On average for these 87 series, the team with home advantage had a season edge of just .011 in W%, or less than two wins per season.

Contrasting LCS and WS for this period, the LCS home-field advantage is far more likely to reflect a better season record. Yet the home results have been far better in the World Series:

  • LCS — .548 (183-151)
  • WS.605 (98-64)
  • Total — .567 (281-215)

For the teams that get to play all three of 3-4-5 at home, we tend to assume a 2-1 record, don’t we? But those teams are much closer to .500 than to .667, coming in at .546 (118-98). A breakdown of those 72 three-game sets shows that 2-1 is barely more frequent than 1-2, and 3-0 just twice as likely as 0-3:

  • 3-0 — 11 teams out of 72
  • 2-1 — 29 teams
  • 1-2 — 27 teams
  • 0-3 — 5 teams

And while the home team W% is .567 for all games in these 87 series, the team with home-field edge is 52-35 in series, or .598.

This stuff will fry your brain if you’re not careful. For instance: Home teams went 17-13 this year after the wild-card games. But the teams with home-field edge went 1-6 in series. How’s that work? Well, the teams without home-field edge went 11-3 in their home games, while those with the edge went 6-10. Go figure.

Rambling on….

Games pitting teams with different season records were basically a coin flip: The better record went just 239-238. For all game winners, the average season edge was .001 — another way of saying “toss-up.” This randomness was concentrated in the World Series, where the better record went 73-83, and the average game winner’s season “edge” was -.002.

All home winners and losers for each game number had an average season W% margin between +/- .010 and .013, with two exceptions:

  • Game 5 home losers were at -0.017 (about -3 wins for a year); and
  • Game 7 home losers were at +.028 (about 4.5 wins).
    (There were just six Game 7 home losers in this study, and this margin mainly comes from two upsets:
    — 1985 ALCS, the 99-62 Blue Jays fell to the 91-71 Royals; and
    — 2006 NLCS, the 97-65 Mets fell to the 83-78 Cardinals.)

Ah, yes … a reminder of my other favorite team’s failure. That seems a fitting place and mood to end my first post of the dreaded off-season. Don’t forget to turn your clocks back! (I’m setting mine to April.)

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36 Comments on "A Dynasty Befitting San Francisco"

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Jeff Hill
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I’ll take 3 in 5 years all day long and twice on Sunday! The bigger, better, most asked question remains…Are they a Dynasty? Do we penalize the Giants for not making the playoffs in 2011 and 2013? Do es that even matter when you win 3 of 5 years? Do we consider the Atlanta Braves 1991-2006 run a dynasty because they won 14 straight divisions or are they not a dynasty because they only won one World Series? I’d love to hear some good logic and reasoning for everyone who follows up on this, after all, it’s only opinions. As… Read more »
David P
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Here’s why I wouldn’t consider the Giants a dynasty. I see very little player continuity between the 2010 and 2014 teams. For position players, I only see Posey and Sandoval. And while Sandoval contributed during the 2010 regular season, he was benched during the playoffs and barely played. Oh and Ishikawa. Except he played for Milwaukee in 2012. And had a grand total of 0.4 WAR for the Giants in 2010 and 2014. Starters…Cain, Bumgarner and Lincecum. Except Cain pitched poorly this year, got hurt and wasn’t around for the playoffs. And Lincecum had negative WAR this season and only… Read more »
Artie Z.
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But I don’t think that is very different for any team if you look at them a few years apart. If we were to look at the Yankees of 1996 and 2000, with some notes about 1998: Position players: Tino, Jeter, Bernie, O’Neill; Jorge Posada played 8 games in 1996; Leyritz 24 games in 2000, and spent 1998 with Boston and San Diego SPs: Pettitte and Cone; Cone had negative WAR in 2000 (worst on the Yankees staff); Gooden started 5 games in 2000, but was on Cleveland in 1998 and pitched for Houston and Tampa earlier in 2000 RPs:… Read more »
David P
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But then what’s your threshold Artie Z? If a team had 100% turnover would you still consider that a dynasty? What if there was only one player in common? Or two?

Richard Chester
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For comparison purposes consider the 1949-1953 Yankees. Five consecutive WS wins with 12 players playing all 5 years and 2 others with 4 years. They had the most wins in the ML for three of those years and the most for the 5 years combined. They also had the greatest differential between RS vs. RA. That constitutes a dynasty.

oneblankspace
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With Atlanta, we certainly ignore that they were six games behind Montréal in the NL East when the season ended without division titles being awarded. So their 14 straight division titles is reduced to a string of 11 first-place finishes one year removed from a string of 3 first-place finishes (which is still impressive, but not quite as impressive as they make it seem). They would have become the first NL Wild Card.

bstar
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Considering the Braves overcame a 9.5-game deficit in early August to catch the Giants for the NL West crown a year earlier, yes, I think it’s fair to ignore who was leading the NL East at approximately the same time in ’94.

Yippeeyappee
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Hey, that phantom division title in 1994 is all we Expo fans have.

Yippeeyappee
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And I’m still trying to figure out how to add an avatar to my profile, like Hartvig and birtelcom have.

birtelcom
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Avatars? That’s really us.

David P
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Sign up to http://www.gravatar.com using the same email address that you use here. Upload your avatar onto that site and you’ll be good to go.

Hartvig
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One thing that has always mystified me about the current Giants team is how incredibly successful they are almost in spite of themselves. On the 2010 team the 3 highest paid players- Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria (who together accounted for almost 43% of the teams entire payroll)- managed to produce a total of 2.5 WAR between them. In 2012 their 1st, 2nd and 4th highest paid players- Zito plus Tim Lincecum and Aubrey Huff (who accounted for over 42% of the teams payroll)- managed a slightly-less-than-stellar 0.2 WAR total between the 3 of them. In 2014 it… Read more »
birtelcom
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Take Posey’s WAR out of the Giants’ regular season win total and they miss the post-season in 2010 and are highly questionable for making the post-season in 2012 and 2014. Posey’s career WAR total through age 27 is just ahead of Berra and Piazza, and just below Munson and Cochrane, through their respective age 27 seasons. Of the 295 pitchers who have appeared in the post-season 2010-2015, the top 8 overall Win Probability Added numbers over those five post-seasons: Bumgarner 2.3 Verlander 1.9 Affeldt, Fister and Brian Wilson 1.6 Lincecum 1.4 Wade Davis 1.3 Cain 1.1 A powerful formula: Get… Read more »
oneblankspace
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Through 1923, all crosstown series were played alternating home field every game 1-1-1-1-1-1-1. Starting in 1936, they went 2-3-2.

The last three crosstown series were 2000 (NYM-NYY), 1989 (OAK-SF), and 1956 (NYY-BKN).

brp
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“But here’s the rub: No one within the industry has both a vested interest in more “realistic” outcomes, and the clout to change the status quo.” I’m not sure this is true. Removing off days increases the momentum of your playoffs and doesn’t give our distracted public time to pay attention to college/pro football quite so easily. I think there’d be a minor, but mathematically significant, increase in viewership if the off-days were removed. This could be an incorrect theory, but how would MLB know if they don’t try? Perhaps there’s no vested interest in the “best team” winning, but… Read more »
mosc
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I think far and away the main impact is on the starting pitching. You are going to see more post season innings spread between starters and a greater injury fallout from a frontline starter going down because their replacement will be further down the depth chart.

birtelcom
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brp@17: I’m skeptical about your theory that ratings-related dollars would increase with fewer off-days. I get the sense that the post-season schedules are carefully crafted to have the games played on days and at times that the networks believe will maximize the most advertising dollars, skipping those days and times where there is less revenue available because either viewing is lower or the competition for viewers is fiercer. I doubt the careful strategy worked out by the advertising revenue experts could be offset by a very speculative bump in viewing resulting from a more compressed playing schedule.

Lawrence Azrin
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Dynasty? No way. A team needs to be dominant in the regular season, as well as have success in the post-season. Two 1sts, two seconds, a 3rd place and an average of 89 wins from 2010 to 2014 are just not that impressive.

I’d see these 2010-2014 Giants are closer to the Twins of 1987-1991 than the Yankees of 1936-39 (a true dynasty); they’re a good team with surprising success in the postseason, not a great team.

Albanate
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There’s something to be said for extra days-off that allow for the best players to play more. Even though at heart I’m the kind of person who is inclined to do away with all the playoff rounds and just have the best two regular season record teams in the World Series, I kind of like not having to see those number five starters in there.

mosc
Guest
The core that wasn’t: New York Yankees sure get a lot of venom thrown their way. One of the most common spoken on here is that their farm system doesn’t produce any talent they have to BUY it. Take a look at the following yankee farm hands on this list, noting their current age going into 2015: Robinson Cano (32) – 51.5 WAR Brett Gardner (31) – 23.2 WAR Melky Cabrera (30) – 17.2 WAR David Robertson (30) – 10.8 WAR Phil Hughes (29) – 10.6 WAR average age 30 – 113.3 WAR total There’s also 32 year old Alfredo… Read more »
David P
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I don’t think that’s the criticism of the Yankees, Mosc. Just look at the last WS winner. I count 30+ WAR coming from high priced free agents (Matsui, CC, Burnett, Tex, Arod, Damon, and Pettitte). Lots of teams wouldn’t have been able to sign more than one or two of those players. The Yankees has all 7. Without them, they’re a 73 win team. Now obviously they would have had someone in those roster spots, so maybe they’re an 80-90 win team without those 7. That’s a LOT of bought talent. Sure they got value from their minor league system… Read more »
PaulE
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While I’m certainly not offended by the recent Giant regular season «mediocrity», I am somewhat a fan of the town, team, and most of all, the huge venue they call home. I’ve seen enough cheap home runs in Philly to make me appreciate gap triples and outfielders that have to be fleet afoot. That being said, the rules now and the schedule now, made it all possible for these Giants. Those things are unlikely to change. As a kid I recall Lonborg losing a Game 7 on 1 days rest to Gibson pitching on 2 days rest. Gibson failed in… Read more »
Brent
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Gibson was pitching with 3 days rest in 1968. Lolich actually was the one pitching on short rest in that Game 7.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

@34;

We’ll never have _less_ playoff teams in any of the four major team sports, and we’ll never ever EVER go back to 8 playoff teams in MLB, let alone four. Just accept that.

I still think the 5-of-15 teams making the playoffs in each league in MLB is a reasonable system, especially now with the ‘sudden-death’ one game playoff between the wild-card winners. MLB has quite a ways to go till they diminish the accomplishment of qualifying for the playoffs as much as the NBA (see the 1981 NBA finals).

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