The odds of the Giants staying in the Wild Card hunt diminish with every inning, but thanks to the best July record since 1913, they’re still hanging in there, provided they can tread water or hold serve in the month of August. Yes, that’s right, ol’ gruff troll monster me really wants the Giants to try to hang in there another month, if for no other reason than to scare the baseball off the other, more “legitimate” teams vying for the Wild Card.
That July record of 19-6 is a .760 winning percentage. The 1913 team went 25-6 (.806). That 1913 team followed up their historic mark with a 17-10 August, and that brings me to the point of this post: what are the five best Augusts of Giants history?
Quick note about August: in Baseball, as in life, it’s a month known as the “dog days” because it’s usually hot and humid enough to drive a dog mad. On the diamond, players get fatigued more easily, the ball travels farther, and teams that straddle the line between good and bad usually get exposed. And even some of the pretty good teams.
The Giants haven’t had a winning August since 2014. History has no predictive value, but the last time they started August 1-3 — their record after today’s loss — but went on to post a winning record for the month was 2007. That year, they ended the month on a 13-3 run, with winning separate winning streaks of five and six games.
Again, history has no predictive value, but just 20 times in the history of the franchise have the Giants rebounded from a 1-3 start in August to avoid a losing record. If you remove the Augusts with .500 records after a 1-3 start, then it’s happened just 17 times. And the Giants will need to do better than play .500 ball if they’re really going to scare these other teams.
They won 19 of 25 just last month. They have 27 games scheduled this month. A .760 winning percentage would be 20.5 wins. Given their 1-3 start, let’s take the under (20 wins) and see just how historic a 20-7 mark would be. Here are the current five best Augusts of Giants history (by winning percentage):
5) .731 - 1893 (19-7), 1894 (19-7), 1897 (19-7)
These 1890s squads were all led by pitcher Amos Rusie who, from 1893-1897 (he missed 1896), started 186 games, won 120 of them, and threw 1,641.2 innings. He pitched 13 shutouts over that stretch, too.
4) .733 - 1904 (22-8)
Joe McGinty went 35-8 with a 1.61 ERA in 1904, including nine shutouts.
3) .762 - 1927 (16-5)
Ah, finally. A year where I can use Baseball Reference to fill in some details.
Rogers Hornsby posted a 10.1 bWAR this season and really filled out the stat sheet in this particular August, slashing .373/.453/.667 (1.120 OPS) in 88 plate appearances (21 games). He hit five home runs, three doubles, and two triples over this same stretch, too.
Giants pitching didn’t throw a single shutout for the month, but they did pitch 10 complete games and posted a 3.23 ERA.
2) .857 - 1885 (18-3)
They split their August in a really nice way. They won their first three games to extend a winning streak that started in July all the way to five games, then after losing two in a row, went a on a five-game winning streak. Then after losing a game to Philadelphia, they went on a 9-game winning streak to close out the month.
I must point out that their most valuable player this season was Mickey Welch, a 5-8 pitcher who went 44-11 with a 1.66 ERA in 492 innings. That was not his peak! He threw 574 innings in his rookie season of 1880, and this 44-win season was sandwiched between a 557.1 inning, 39-21 1884 and 500.0 inning, 33-22 1886.
1) .889 - 1936 (24-3)
This August featured a 7-game winning streak and a 15-game winning streak. Carl Hubbell, the team’s best player that year, went 6-0 in the month with six complete games in six starts. He also picked up two saves. Mel Ott hit seven home runs and slashed .356/.463/.624 in 124 plate appearances.
But I understand. You might want something more modern... records that reflect indoor plumbing, electricity, night games, integration, and maybe even TV.
Without commentary, here are the post-World War II records:
5) .645 - 1970 (20-11)
4) .655 - 2000 (19-10)
3) .667 - 1950 (20-10)
2) .677 - 1968 (21-10)
1) .690 - 1951 (20-9)
The commonality among this group is at least a solid core of above league average players with some future Hall of Famers in or at the tail end of their primes.
It was always going to be tough to follow up an historic July run like the one this 2019 team just had. They were able to do something that none of the World Series teams had done, too. Does that mean they have the potential to do something that in recent history only some of the greatest teams in Giants history have been able to do?
I’m not interested in guessing their chances of doing that, but it’s clear that in order for them to continue the run they’re on and fulfill that “special” something they felt they had before the trade deadline, they’ll have to make history one more time.