Tomorrow, the San Francisco Giants kick off a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays, the conclusion of which will see them officially reach the halfway point of the season (81 games). Today, they’re simply 44-34, 2.5 games behind the Diamondbacks in the NL West division race and, at the start of the day, the team with the fourth-best record in the National League (7th in MLB). But since it’s an off day, let’s take a look at the Oracle Park era of Giants’ records through the first 78 games of the season.
Now, again, today’s an off day, and that’s the only reason I’m engaging in this exercise. There will be plenty of time for breaking down the team’s strengths and weaknesses in series previews and recaps (and any other breaking news), but today is a day to luxuriate in an impressive 5-2 homestand that saw our favorite team beat up on some division opponents, including the division leader. 44-34 isn’t impressive, but it’s good. Quite good.
The Giants have had a winning record by this point in each of the last two seasons, going 40-38 last year and 50-28 in 2021. They’re a beautiful set of numbers because they perfectly describe the 2023 team: “better than last year, not quite as good as 2021.” Of course, the 2021 team has faded into apocrypha. Something so fantastic it can’t be believed and will certainly never happen again. But this 2023 record through 78 games actually matches some teams that won’t fade from memory.
This team actually led the NL West by a game after #78, a 5-1 loss at home to the Reds. The Giants would, of course, knock out the Reds in dramatic fashion later in the NLDS and then, uh, you know: Sergio Romo vs. Miguel Cabrera — the Giants win the World Series in Detroit!
Win #44 came in the midst of a 7-game winning streak. Madison Bumgarner struck out 11 and walked just 1 in 7 IP. Jeremy Affeldt pitched 2 innings and struck out 5 to get the save in a win at home against Cleveland. It put them up 1.5 games in the division a month after they lost Buster Posey to a terrible injury. They’d miss the postseason at 86-76.
A 7-1 win against the Dodgers pushed them to 44-34 and 2.5 games up in the division. Brett Tomko pitched 8.1 innings, Bonds, Ray Durham, and Marquis Grissom all homered off Hideo Nomo. Unfortunately, the conclusion of this season is lost to history...
Mark Mulder (8.2 IP) beat Livan Hernandez in a 10-6 loss to the A’s at the Coliseum, and the Giants fell to 5.5 games back in the division. Jeff Kent homered, Bonds did not (1-for-4 with a walk) and Eric Chavez went 2-for-4 with 4 RBI; Mark Ellis also homered. You’ll recall that the 2002 season was canceled by a meteor and there was no World Series that year.
Aside from those exact matches, though, this point of the season — as in, approximately the midway point — has been a really strong indicator, historically, for how the rest of the season will go. The Giants have had better than 44-34 records through this point, too.
[Since 2000] Seasons with .500+ records through 78 games (*-postseason):
2023, 2022, 2021*, 2018, 2016*, 2015, 2014*, 2012*, 2011, 2010*, 2009, 2006, 2004, 2003*, 2002*, 2001, 2000*
2018 was 39-39 at this point and 2006 (40-38) is really the only outlier; but again, this is all totally pointless as to be meaningless. The context is the discrete season, and past season performance has no bearing on future seasons. We’re Giants fans, though, and as much as we enjoy watching our team, it’s also the case that the team has made it to the postseason just 11 times in the past 40 seasons, and so I think a post like this is a public service.
It’s also the case that the Giants have had a winning record through the first half of 17 of 24 seasons at Oracle Park — that’s great! It doesn’t always work out, but at least they’ve managed to dangle a carrot in front of us most of the time.
Nothing might come of this season, but it’s going well.