June 28, 2011
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What with the Giants scoring three days worth of runs in three innings Tuesday afternoon, this seems an odd time to bring it up.So what the hell? Lets do it anyway.When day dawned Tuesday, the Giants were the worst offensive team in baseball in the only category that truly matters runs scored. This would seem to eliminate them from postseason play just because the inability to produce runs ought to render your team Octoberifically useless.In fact, though, there are two models for success the Giants can cling to in this, their year of living Amish-ly. They are the 1985 Kansas City Royals and the 1973 New York Mets.
Going back to 1960, before the first expansion, only 15 teams have reached the World Series while having run support below the league average. Thats in 51 years and 102 league competitions. Most of those were near the league average, so the margin of error would seem to take care of them.But the 85 Royals, who beat St. Louis in seven games, ranked 13th in runs scored (of 14 teams), and the 73 Mets, who ranked 11th of 12, were bad by any measure, and as such become the templates for whatever dreams you might have about a repeat in the Thing on King.The Mets also hold the worst record of any team to make the postseason 82-79 so it can truly be said they achieved what they did by dealing directly with Satan. Indeed, they had no hitting, ranking last or next to last in every sensible metric, from batting average to OPS-plus, but their pitching was surprisingly uninspiring as well.The rotation started well enough, with Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman and Jon Matlack, and fourth starter George Stone went 12-3 with a 2.80 ERA. The bullpen, though, was even more problematic, with closer Tug McGraw being set up by the magnificent group of Ray Sadecki, Harry Parker, Phil Hennigan and Buzz Capra.In short, we can say that the 73 Mets essentially cheated all logic, which would be a harsh analysis when applied to the Giants.So lets consider instead the 85 Royals, who averaged 4.24 runs per game (almost .85 runs more per game than the Giants), were above average only in steals and almost never walked. They did play in a spacious ballpark, but were still average in extra base hits and only slightly below in home runs. So it can be said the Royals were better offensively than the Giants, even after you factor in the designated hitter.But the Giants, who arent even the best pitching team in the NL this year (Philadelphia and Atlanta have better numbers), had a similar starting staff and less inspiring bullpen.Bret Saberhagen went 20-6 in his second year in the big leagues, which is dominantreminiscent of Tim Lincecum, and the rest of the rotation was equally comparable. Charlie Leibrandt would be the Matt Cain, Danny Jackson the Madison Bumgarner and Buddy Black the Jonathan Sanchez, which all due respect to Black. After all that, Mark Gubicza outranks either Barry Zito or Ryan Vogelsong reputation-wise, making the starters roughly even.Dan Quisenberry is surely Brian Wilsons equivalent, if not his superior, but the setup men Joe Beckwith, Mike Jones, Steve Farr and the redoubtable Mike LaCoss dont compare with San Franciscos. Some of that is due to the fact that bullpens are constructed more completely than they used to be, but only Farr, who pitched in just 16 games, had presentable numbers. That may explain the 27 complete games (slightly above league average for 1985), two less than the Giants have had since 2006.Comparing statistics in this way is a fairly dodgy way to go, because the baseball of 26 years ago is, well, the baseball of 26 years ago. But as there is no recent parallel for the Giants excelling this way, one has to go well back to find teams that might.So until we get furtherbetter evidence, lets say the Giants have the rotation of the 85 Royals, the hitters of the 73 Mets, and the bullpen of neither. If that helps. Which it probably doesnt.