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The Giants have the worst run differential in baseball, which is bad

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If they had the best run differential in baseball, things would be different. This is not the case.

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Dodgers
The 2017 Giants stink.
Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

If you want to see what a bad baseball team looks like, Baseball-Reference has a graphical representation.

Those are the last 12 games for the Giants. The red bars are the losses. The green bars are the wins. The length of each bar corresponds with the margin of victory or defeat. Another way to put it is that the Giants have won scraped by in their four wins, while getting pummeled in their losses. Since their first game in Coors Field, only April 21, the Giants have been outscored 35 to 73. For every run this team scores, the other team scores two.

And it feels like it when you’re watching, too. It’s inescapable.

When things go bad, I crawl into my table cave and make tables. The Giants have played 28 games so far this year, and they’ve been outscored by 40 runs. This is the worst run differential in baseball, which is important because run differential correlates closely to the overall quality of a team. Is this the worst run differential through 28 games in team history?

Giants run differential through 28 games, 1958-2017

Season Runs scored Runs allowed Difference
Season Runs scored Runs allowed Difference
2017 96 136 -40
2016 142 129 13
2015 88 109 -21
2014 120 102 18
2013 124 117 7
2012 108 105 3
2011 99 105 -6
2010 130 87 43
2009 102 108 -6
2008 90 129 -39
2007 118 113 5
2006 128 149 -21
2005 141 145 -4
2004 121 165 -44
2003 134 119 15
2002 131 92 39
2001 136 156 -20
2000 166 150 16
1999 153 155 -2
1998 116 115 1
1997 101 89 12
1996 152 152 0
1995 136 139 -3
1994 113 113 0
1993 139 111 28
1992 117 96 21
1991 117 131 -14
1990 121 143 -22
1989 113 106 7
1988 96 103 -7
1987 131 115 16
1986 130 108 22
1985 79 92 -13
1984 99 121 -22
1983 118 128 -10
1982 116 130 -14
1981 98 107 -9
1980 94 129 -35
1979 129 140 -11
1978 92 92 0
1977 97 112 -15
1976 95 139 -44
1975 112 109 3
1974 124 107 17
1973 131 101 30
1972 111 129 -18
1971 121 79 42
1970 160 164 -4
1969 123 97 26
1968 107 107 0
1967 115 105 10
1966 139 86 53
1965 118 108 10
1964 130 99 31
1963 135 91 44
1962 185 114 71
1961 140 100 40
1960 131 92 39
1959 135 112 23
1958 171 123 48

Not quite. There’s a two-way tie at the top, but the good news is that one of them is very applicable to this season.

The 2004 Giants were a fine baseball team. Or, rather, they were a baseball team that employed Barry Bonds, who hit 45 home runs and had a .362 batting average, .609 on-base percentage, and .812 slugging percentage. Will anyone do that for the 2017 Giants? Time ... will tell.

Early in the season, they were bad. They were 12-16 through their first 28 games, and they were only excellent at getting blown out. Roger Clemens and the Astros beat them 10-1 in the third game of the season. Jake Peavy and the Padres beat them 11-0 two weeks later. Their 28th game came in the middle of getting swept at Shea Stadium, where they were outscored, 16-5.

And then what happened? The team rallied. They went 79-55 for the rest of the season, outscoring the rest of the league by 124 runs. The 2004 Giants weren’t the laughingstock of baseball all season. They were a team with a talented roster, and they got better.

You might be inspired by this. That’s partly my goal, to show you an example from history where the first 28 games didn’t define a season. The endpoint is arbitrary, but any of them would be, and we’re here right now. And this arbitrary endpoint tells me that bad 28-game teams don’t have to be bad 162-game teams.

You might be inspired by this. But I’m broken, and I regret to inform you that my sickness is forcing me to do this:

Giants v Dodgers Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

That. That is what the slow start did for the Giants. They scraped and clawed and became one of the best teams in baseball for 134 games, only to have their hearts served as nigiri because they screwed around for the first 28 games.

If the 2004 Giants aren’t your preferred comp, maybe I can interest you in 1976, when they were simply awful and on their way to Toronto. It’s not like we’re making friends either way, here.

All of these scenarios could be true. The Giants could be bad and continue being bad. They might be a fine team and turn everything around, even if making the postseason is exponentially harder now than it was on Opening Day. They could be a combination of both, or they could be much better or worse than we can possibly conceive.

There’s a postscript to that 2004 story, though, and it goes like this: If baseball were using the current postseason format, the Giants would have played the Astros in the Wild Card Game that season. It didn’t have to be Steve Finley grossing you out. That’s just the way the rules helped it happen.

So, no, I haven’t given up on the season yet. But if you’re wondering if the 2017 Giants aren’t having a very successful baseball season, I’m here to tell you that it’s one of their worst starts ever. I wish I had better news for you, friend, but, well, I don’t know, look at that picture of Steve Finley winning the division for the Dodgers with a grand slam, and see if that cheers you up.