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The Giants are collapsing in a way that baseball has never seen

You knew this. But it’s still stunning to see the numbers

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco Giants have a .367 winning percentage in the second half. They started the second half with the best record in baseball, but now they’re as close to the Diamondbacks and last place as they are to the Cubs. It’s been a freefall on a grand scale, something I don’t ever remember watching.

That’s because it hasn’t happened before, not like this. The All-Star Game started in 1933, providing us simpletons an easy way to split the seasons into halves. They’re not equal halves, and it’s an imperfect designation. But it’s simple, and so am I. Since the first All-Star Game, there have been 86 teams that could claim to have at least a share of the best record in baseball after the first half.

You’re not going to believe this, but the Giants are currently playing worse in the second half than any of them. They are the one percent. Of doom. This is the worst a team has ever played in the second half after having the best record in the first half, and it’s not even close.

Remember how I told you to just close the tab this year when there’s a big, long table? It still applies. You’ve been warned.

I sorted it by the difference in winning percentages between the halves, and you’re probably aware that’s Bad Math. There aren’t an equal number of games in each half. There aren’t an equal number of games between the first halves in different years. The 1994 Expos didn’t have the best second-half gain in this group so much as they had the smallest sample. And don’t forget this excludes all the teams that were just short of the best record in baseball, some of whom had better records than the ‘16 Giants. Maybe some of them collapsed just as fiercely. This can’t take place of a rigorous analysis.

But it’ll give you a hint as to just how rare this is. Teams with the best record in the first half turn out to be pretty good teams. Of the 86 teams with at least a claim to the best first-half record, just eight of them were under .500 in the second half. That’s including this year’s Giants, of course. They could finish on a 12-game winning streak and still be four games under .500 for the half.

There’s another truism, though. Most of the best records in baseball take a dip by the end of the season. That’s the Plexiglas principle, popularized by Bill James to explain why worst-to-first teams often stumble the next year, but it has so many other applications. When a team or player exceeds expectations in such a way, regression is almost guaranteed. It explains why Barry Bonds didn’t hit 50 homers before or after setting the single-season record. Likewise, just 11 of the best teams in the first half got better in the second, mostly because there was nowhere else to go.

Nothing like this, though. The Giants are the first team in history to win fewer than 40 percent of their games after finishing the first half with the best record. The 2014 A’s were the only comparable team of recent vintage, and they were four games ahead of the pace the Giants have set so far in this second half. If the Giants were only as bad as the previous worst second-half team in postseason history, they’d still be cruising to a wild card spot.

History! We’re watching history. After almost a century of arbitrarily splitting the season into first and second halves, the Giants are the first team in history to go from first to worst.

They’re the first team to come that close. And they might be the first such team to miss the postseason entirely in the wild card era.

Now let’s all feel better and watch this video of Travis Ishikawa’s home run:

whoops must have hit the wrong button oh well see you tonight for the big baseball game