The Giants are the worst baseball team in Major League Baseball history. The Giants would make the postseason if it started today. Both can be true! Both are probably true. But perhaps a little perspective is in order.
For example, the Giants have played at a .750 clip over their last four games, which means they would be on pace for between 121 and 122 wins over a full season. That’s how good they’ve been over their last four games, and they were the four most recent games, so you know they must be more important than anything else that’s happened over the past month or two.
However, if you want perspective that isn’t forced cherry-picking, I have that, too. The Giants have made the postseason 11 times since moving to San Francisco, and some of those teams were in a much more precarious spot after 130 games. At the time, we were just as annoyed with these teams, albeit for different reasons. That’s probably relevant to the discussion of this season.
The 2016 Giants have played 130 games. Here’s where the previous postseason Giants teams were after the same total:
2014 - 4 games back in NL West, 1.5 ahead of second wild card
One of the greatest lead-frittering stories in baseball, the 2014 Giants won the World Series. Meanwhile, the 1993 Giants are synonymous with hard-luck failure. This is not fair.
Quick reminder that baseball is boring when it’s fair.
It still bugs me that the Giants didn’t win the division that year, if only because that 10-game lead really did seem insurmountable. What with it being a 10-game lead, and all. I don’t remember being focused on the wild card at this point, but it probably seemed more realistic than overtaking the Dodgers. Let’s check in with the headline for the recap after the 130th game of that season:
Giants lose series, get embarrassed, slink home
They almost got away with it. They almost looked like a normal team for the majority of a three-game series, the kind of team you could watch for extended periods of time without getting annoyed. They looked like a team that was capable of going on the road and beating a good team on a roll. They looked like the kind of team that stand up to the elite teams in baseball, which would mean they would have a legitimate chance in the playoffs.
Saaaaaaaay, I know a team like that! It’s almost like the 2014 Giants weren’t always a team of radioactive destiny and pure fulfillment. Almost.
2012 - 3.5 games up in NL West
The 2012 Giants were a remarkably calm team during the regular season. After this walk-off win ...
... they were never in second place again. They made it up to us for the lack of stress with the NLDS and NLCS.
2010 - 6 games back in NL West, .5 back of wild card
If I remember correctly, we were mostly concerned with the wild card at this point. The Padres were about to lose 10 straight (!), which was certainly convenient, but we didn’t know that yet.
The Giants went 21-11 in their final 32 games, which was a remarkable stretch. In that 130th game, though, Barry Zito gave up seven earned runs (on five walks), and Jose Guillen was the #5 hitter. It’s hard to suggest that there was a lot of optimism in the air.
This year’s team feels different from that year’s because of how the peaks and valleys were distributed, but we were still annoyed with the 2010 Giants at this point in the season.
2003 - 11 games in NL West
One of the greatest wire-to-wire teams in baseball history. And we would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for that Random Marlins Bullshit, the only power in the known universe that could theoretically diffuse Even Year Bullshit.
2002 - 11.5 back in NL West, 3.5 back of wild card
This one might be a surprise to you, considering that they eventually won the pennant, but things were looking bleak in late August. The Diamondbacks were completely out of reach, but the wild card was slipping away before the final month of the season could start.
Except the Giants finished the season with a 24-8 record, somehow coming within two games of the Diamondbacks and blowing the Dodgers away for the final postseason spot. They eventually won the pennant before the World Series was canceled.
2000 - 2.5 up in NL West
What’s impressive about this bunch was that they were the reverse-2016 team. They played a sloppy first couple of months, fighting just to reach .500 by the end of June, and they somehow ended up with the best record in baseball. By the 130th game, it was exciting that they were in first place at all, slim lead be damned.
They started a nine-game winning streak after that game and eventually built a huge 11.5-game lead in the NL West.
Hypothetical question: If the Giants won nine straight games, would that make you feel better? Mm-hmm. Mm-hmmmm. Right. Right. Okay, well, that settles it, they should probably do that, then.
1997 - 1 back in NL West, 5 back of wild card
That season felt a million-billion times worse than this season because a) the Giants were never going to win anything and b) the Dodgers were supposed to be the better team, and they finally caught the Giants from behind after nearly 100 games in second place. Everyone was waiting for the Dodgers to catch the Giants. When they did, it was like the universe became an orderly universe.
The universe doesn’t care if you think it’s orderly or not.
We’ll go to the lightning round for the four postseasons before that because I wasn’t following two of them very closely, and because I wasn’t alive for the other two:
- 1989 - 4 up in NL West
- 1987 - 3.5 up in NL West
- 1971 - 7.5 up in NL West
- 1962 - 2.5 back in NL
If you want to live and die with a team from over 50 years ago, may I recommend scrolling through the 1962 Giants schedule? They were four games back with seven to play, yet they still forced a three-game playoff with the Dodgers. In the third game of the series, a winner-take-all, the Giants were down by two in the bottom of the ninth.
They scored the tying run on a bases loaded walk after an intentional walk loaded the bases.
That’s almost the greatest moment in Giants/Dodgers history. If I had a time machine with 10 uses, I might spend one of them to go back to that game and skip through Dodger Stadium, just to learn some new words.
Long post short: The Giants have been more hosed than this. They’ve blown a bigger lead (2014) and they’ve faced greater odds to win a postseason spot (2002, 2010).
The unspoken corollary to this information is that there are 47 other seasons where the Giants didn’t make the postseason, and they probably looked like bozos in all of them, too. The look-like-bozos strategy didn't work in those seasons, and this doesn’t have to get fixed just because it worked in the past.
But don’t get too down on the Giants. They’re in a better spot than you might think, at least compared to some of the postseason teams from the past.
We’ll take that nine-game winning streak, if you don’t mind. That would go a long way toward fixing everything. Staaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrting .... now.