clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The 2015 Giants are one of the unluckiest teams in San Francisco history

New, 264 comments

They have their problems in other areas, mind you. This didn't help, though.

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Here is your daily reminder that no one cares about your deep, profound baseball sadness right now. People want to hit you for it. "How can you be sad about baseball when you've watched the Giants over the last five seasons?", they'll ask. They'll have a good point. The title of this post will make those people want to hit me. More so, even. Because when you think of "unlucky" baseball teams, the Giants of recent vintage don't immediately come to mind.

Fair enough. Still, it's impossible not to get attached to every long season. You've seen ups and downs, with fully developed character arcs. Some of your favorite players are going away this offseason, possibly for good. The Giants/Dodgers clash in September was supposed to be glorious, but it's much more likely to be a victory lap for the dumb Dodgers and their dumb manager and their dumb fans with their dumb faces.

And there's something about this season that really sticks in your teeth, something deeply annoying. I can help with that. The 2015 Giants are one of the unluckiest teams in San Francisco history.

I will present my case in three parts. You're free to make inappropriate gestures the entire time, but I apologize for nothing.

1.  The Giants' expected record is much better than their actual record

By "expected record," I mean Pythagorean record. If you're unfamiliar with that, there's a good primer here. The important thing to know is that it works. The idea of runs scored and allowed correlating to wins and losses is a good one, and it's been supported by empirical evidence for decades. It works across different eras and different sports. It just works.

There are going to be oddities, sure. You'll hear a lot about the Rangers getting outscored on the season, but they've also added Cole Hamels and Derek Holland. To just point at them and say, "LUCKY" is shallow, at best. The same goes with the 2015 Giants, who are a cool five games below where there runs scored/allowed suggest they should be.

How bad is that compared to the norm? Here are the five unluckiest teams in San Francisco history when it comes to Pythagorean record:

Season Actual wins Expected wins Difference
1972 69 79 -10
1986 83 90 -7
2007 71 77 -6
2015 75 80 -5
1985 62 67 -5


It's not like the '72 Giants would have had a nice season with those extra wins, but they probably wouldn't have been that bad. The 1986 Giants were the darlings of baseball, and they should have done even better than they did. The 2007 and 1985 teams were simply lousy, so no one even cared if they were unlucky or not.

This year's Giants still have a chance to fall off this table, of course. But for now, they're among the most unlucky since the team moved to San Francisco.

2. The Giants can't win a freaking one-run game

Especially lately. Which makes me want to run the computer through the dishwasher and hide on the roof. It's a little easier to find possible explanations for this one than it is for the expected record up there. Bullpens can make a huge difference here, with stronger bullpens making it more likely that a team will succeed in close games. Managers and managerial decisions can make a difference, even if they're hard to quantify.

Considering that Don Mattingly has never had a losing record in one-run games, though, I'm going to assume there's a little more luck than skill, here. No team has ever shown a consistent ability to over- or underperform in one-run games over multiple seasons. Every team should be around .500 in their one-run games, more or less. There's so much luck involved in one-run games, from umpiring to batted balls, that specific failings or successes are likely to be mirages.

Orioles fans were so mad when people brought up their one-run luck a couple years ago, saying that Buck Showalter had magic fingers or something. They're lousy at them this year, and it's been a killer. One-run games giveth and taketh away.

And the Giants have been dreadful. How bad compared to the norm? Let's check in with another table, this time for the worst winning percentages in one-run games since 1958:

Season Winning % in one-run games
1996 .370
1985 .379
1972 .391
2015 .410
1979 .412


Yipes. And, again, this can change over the final 19 games. For now, though, the Giants aren't just winning fewer games than their runs scored and allowed would suggest. They're borking the one-run games, too.

3. Everyone is hurt, even the young guys, because of stupid reasons like wild pitchers, pulled obliques, and scurvy, and I get that the Giants were fortunate last year and in years before that, and that the Cardinals and other teams have their own injury problems, but dammit, I don't care about them, I care about this team, and this has been a really, really, really annoying season

True. All true. Mostly, I wanted to show you the expected record and one-run games compared to other Giants teams in history, but don't forget all the ill-timed injuries. Which you hadn't. Because they haunt your waking dreams.

Add them all up, and this has been an irritating season on so many levels. If you combine all of those headers up there into one all-purpose reason why this team is so frustrating, it would go something like this: This team is probably better than their record would indicate. As a collection of talent, the 2015 Giants should have been more competitive in the NL West than they've ended up being.

And that's frustrating.

"How can you be sad about baseball when you've watched the Giants over the last five seasons?"

Oh, I don't know. Just laugh at us and be on your way. We'll be right here, with our Blu Rays and a single tear rolling down our cheeks.