Does an ugly blown save hurt a bullpen long after that game is lost?
It’s been a tough September in San Francisco. That even-year magic that should have been carrying the Giants to their fourth World Series title in the last seven years seems to have left AT&T Park (our own Rob Mains has all the gory details).
San Francisco's second-half free fall is one of the biggest in baseball history and it's hard to explain.
The San Francisco Giants, you may have heard, have not had a good second half. At the All-Star break, they were 57-33. That was the best record in baseball, three games ahead of the Cubs. Since then, they are 25-41. That’s not the worst record in baseball—the existence of the Minnesota Twins ensures that—but it’s the worst in the National League. They’ve fallen from first place in the NL West at the break--6.5 games ahead of the Dodgers--into a tie with the Mets for the Wild Card and just half a game ahead of the Cardinals, trailing the division-clinching Dodgers by 8.0 games.
In doing so, they remain in line to set a record for the biggest swing in winning percentage from the first half to the second half. Their drop of .255--from .633 to .378--is the greatest since the first-half/second-half dichotomy was established by the 1933 All-Star game, ahead of the 1943 Philadelphia Athletics, who followed a 34-44 first half with a cover-your-eyes 15-61 second half, a .238 decline. The Giants have to win at least four of their remaining six games to avoid breaking those wartime A’s record.
We pretty much all pretty much always have an inaccurate idea of what an average slash line looks like.
Sometime this past March, I was talking about the Mariners with a friend. Robinson Cano came up, and my friend made the comment that Cano wasn’t that great of a hitter in 2015, because he only hit about .280 (the actual figure is .287, but that’s not the point). Setting aside advanced versus non-advanced stats, we talked a little about what sort of line a “good” hitter has, what it takes to lead the league in average, that sort of thing. He was shocked to learn that only six people in the AL hit .300 or better last year, and that .320 led the league; his impression was that the old standard of .300/.400/.500 was about average for a star hitter—in fact, only four qualified batters reached that threshold last year.
Fast-forward to about a month ago. Fellow BP writer Jeff Long and I were talking about article ideas, and he suggested that I write about what the “average” player looks like (statistically) these days, because “the steroid era screwed everyone's perception.” This was pretty much confirmed by Jeff via Twitter (note: I’m not trying to call anyone out, but I am using you all to make a point).
The season is getting on in days. The corn is getting overripe, the kids are getting sick of midday TV, the fields have turned into kindling. Have the catchers become exhausted?
Catching, for lack of a better word, is hard. You strap on 18 interlocking pieces of gear, some of them plated in solid gold, and then squat for hours at a time working with maybe 25 percent visibility, getting hit by bounced splitters and backswings, feeling the cartilage twist and fray inside your knees, worrying about what each batter wants to hit and what pitch the pitcher wants to throw and how well you can fake that awful slider into almost being a strike. And then you head back into the dugout, strip off all the armor, head to the plate and get cheered half-heartedly by the fans who don’t understand why you don’t hit as many home runs as the right fielder. You develop late, fade early, play through constant pain and tear, and maybe get Sundays off.
The Giants flail their way to a win, Carlos Martinez matches a career record, and Yoan Moncada puts on a show at the Futures Game.
The Weekend Takeaway
Once in a while, the baseball gods conspire to do a little mischief-making. A fair number of these anecdotes end up in this column, brief asides that bring some life and color to otherwise fairly routine games.
The Giants won yesterday, 4-3 in extra innings against the Padres, and even before they did, they had the best week of any team in baseball. By BP’s own reckoning, in the form of our Playoff Odds report, their chances of making a postseason appearance this year increased by the largest amount—17.0 percent—of any other team this week, and that’s before the system had a chance to consider Brandon Crawford’s walkoff single by the bay last night. When it does, their odds of tasting October in this, an even year, will go up further, not only because the Padres are a division rival but because, as well, the season is one day closer to its end.