The Giants won 87 games last year. I don’t know how either, mostly because the first half happened three decades ago in internet time. But they won 87 games, which was enough to have an exciting, fun, supremely memorable postseason experience. Was the Conor Gillaspie home run and Madison Bumgarner masterpiece worth the blown save in Game 4? I would argue vehemently that it was.
It was a dumb season, but it was a fantastically worthwhile season.
It’s early, of course, but it doesn’t look like there is going to be a freaky situation where both wild card teams are going to threaten 100 wins, like we had in 2015. It’s on the low side for a wild card to have 87 wins, but it happened last year, and I’m looking for crumbs under the table, so we’ll set that as the baseline.
What do the Giants need to do to win 87 games this year? Well, I’ll just pull up a calculator app, take off my shoes and socks, and start counting. The Giants are currently [squints], wait, that can’t be right. 12-24, really? Man, that is just dreadful. So they’ve played 36 games, which means there are, oh, no, 126 games left.
To get to as many wins as the 2016 Giants, then, this year’s team will need to finish the year 75-51. If you thought the Giants would have to play like a 90-win team to make the postseason, guess what? They’ll have to play like a 96-win team just to get back to last year’s total. That is less than encouraging. But it’s worth asking how many Giants teams in history have finished 75-51 or better.
The answer is here. There have been 34 Giants teams in the 135-year history of the franchise to finish 75-51 or better in their final 126 games. If you limit the search just to the San Francisco teams, there were seven teams. In order:
There are a few classic teams up there. The ‘62 Giants were a Bobby Richardson catch away from winning the World Series. The ‘93 Giants won 103 games in the last pre-Wild Card season because of course they did. The ‘00 Giants stormed back after a poor start and ended up with the best record in baseball. The ‘03 Giants led the division wire to wire, and they were the franchise’s last 100-win team. The ‘12 Giants lost Melky Cabrera and got even better, which still amuses me.
It’s the 2004 Giants that fascinate me again. They, too, were expected to contend. And by their 36th game, they were 15-21 and eight games out of first. Better shape than the Giants right now, but still getting blown out regularly and looking like a mess. They rallied but lost the division on the last weekend of the season.
The 2017 Giants would need the same kind of rally just to get to 87 wins, which, again, is low for a wild card team.
And this is how we get to a spot where 87 wins seems like an incredible accomplishment. The Giants will need to play like the team with Willie Mays and Willie McCovey, unless they can play like the team with Will Clark, Matt Williams, and Barry Bonds, unless they can play like the team with Barry Bonds 2.0, unless they can play like the team with a young Buster Posey and excellent Matt Cain.
Oh, and they’ll have to do most of this without Madison Bumgarner, who fell off a damned dirt bike.
So in the coming weeks, with each loss, I’ll progress deeper and deeper into my season-is-over cave. This is not because I’m not a good fan. This is not because it’s impossible for the Giants to win 80 out of their next 126 games and finish with 92 wins.
It’s because it’s just not bloody likely, friends. You had an idea, but looking at the raw stats — they would have to go 80-46 to finish with 92 wins, which still might not be enough — makes you feel a lot more comfortable rosterbating and planning for July. The Giants had a chance to stop screwing up a couple weeks ago. It might already be too late, even if I’m still convinced this team really shouldn’t be this bad.