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The Giants’ lead in the NL West is rare

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Here's some historical perspective on just how infrequently the Giants have led the NL West by eight games or more.

aw man we're in trouble guys
aw man we're in trouble guys
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

The purpose of this article is twofold. The first goal is to impress upon you just how rare an eight-game lead is for the Giants since they’ve moved to San Francisco. Not just in June, or not just before the All-Star break. Ever.

The second goal is to make you look around, nervously, like a camper hearing a twig snap in the middle of the night, desperate for closure, knowing that you’re probably fine but also knowing all the different what-ifs that can ruin you. This worrying is your duty as a sports fan.

The Giants have an eight-game lead over the Dodgers. That translates into a 75-percent chance of winning the division according to both Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs. That’s based in part on preseason projections for all the players, though, so if you use just 2016 stats, the Giants’ odds improve even more.

And yet you know better than to celebrate. You’re terrified. The higher the cliff, the farther there is to fall when your ACME-brand products fail. You’ve seen these tumbles of hubris before, and they’re not pretty.

Great, now I’m all twitchy.

Anyway, here’s the data. It’s a table of the biggest lead the Giants have had in every season since moving to San Francisco, the latest date they held that lead, and their eventual finish:

Season Biggest lead Date of biggest lead Eventual finish
2003 16 Sep 28 1st
2000 12 Sep 22 1st
2012 11 Sep 22 1st
1971 11 May 31 1st
2014 10 Jun 08 2nd
1993 10 Jul 22 2nd
1987 9 Sep 19 1st
1989 7 Sep 07 1st
1997 6 Jul 06 1st
2011 5 Jul 20 2nd
1973 5 Apr 28 3rd
1966 5 Jun 23 2nd
1965 5 Sep 16 2nd
1962 5 May 20 1st
1999 4 Jul 10 2nd
1959 4 Aug 25 3rd
2010 3 Sep 30 1st
2004 3 Jun 27 2nd
2002 3 Apr 10 2nd
1978 3 Jul 20 3rd
1963 3 May 25 3rd
1961 3 May 17 3rd
1958 3 May 25 3rd
2013 2 May 12 3rd
1994 2 May 09 2nd
1992 2 May 24 5th
1986 2 Jul 17 3rd
1964 2 May 12 4th
1960 2 May 13 5th
2006 2 Apr 17 3rd
2001 2 Apr 13 2nd
1995 2 May 30 4th
1979 2 Apr 14 4th
1969 2 Sep 07 2nd
1968 2 May 30 2nd
1998 1 Jul 09 2nd
1974 1 Apr 08 5th
2015 1 May 29 2nd
2009 1 Apr 07 3rd
1972 1 Apr 16 5th
1970 1 Apr 11 3rd
2007 Tied Apr 26 5th
2005 Tied Apr 10 3rd
1988 Tied Apr 09 4th
1985 Tied Apr 12 6th
1976 Tied Apr 24 4th
1996 -1 Apr 16 4th
1975 -1 Apr 21 3rd
2008 -1 Apr 02 4th
1991 -1 Apr 09 4th
1990 -1 Apr 12 3rd
1984 -1 Apr 03 6th
1983 -1 Apr 08 5th
1982 -1 Sep 30 3rd
1981 -1 Apr 09 4th
1980 -1 Apr 10 5th
1977 -1 Apr 10 4th
1967 -1 Apr 13 2nd

You’ve already picked out the two seasons of large-lead doom. The 1993 Giants lost a 10-game lead, but it’s worse than that. They had an 8½-game lead — that is, bigger than the current lead — on August 13th. The 2014 Giants lost their 10-game lead in less than a month, a miserable stretch from June 8 to July 3.

And then they won the World Series. Just imagine how proud Dodgers fans must be when they look at that DIVISION CHAMPS banner, though.

Anyway! This isn’t supposed to be a table that reminds you only of the happy finishes and the sad finishes. It’s also a table to point out that it’s extremely rare for the Giants to have an eight-game lead. At any point during any season. A list of seasons in which the Giants had a lead this large at any point:

  • 2003
  • 2000
  • 2012
  • 1971
  • 2014
  • 1993
  • 1987

That’s it. Seven teams. Five of them won the division, one of them still made the postseason after collapsing, and the other one comically happened the season before the wild card was introduced. How many teams in San Francisco history had a lead this big before the 77th game of the season?

  • 1971
  • 2014
  • 1993

And that’s just perfect. Two teams that finished in second, and one that won the division by a single freaking game.

Long story short: The Giants haven’t been here very often, but don’t get too comfortable. History suggests that when the Giants get a lead this big, this early, they make you pull your hair out before the season is over.

That written, though, it sure beats being eight games down. If the Dodgers could just lose and lose and lose for the next two months, I think that would make all of us feel a whole lot better.