Giants Win, Make Incredible Postseason History

So far, the San Francisco Giants and the Cincinnati Reds have played three games in their Division Series, with the Reds winning two of them. In one game, the Giants’ offense finished with seven hits and six walks in nine innings. In another game, the Giants’ offense finished with two hits and three walks in nine innings. In the last game, the Giants’ offense finished with three hits, a walk, and a hit batter in ten innings. From that information, spot the Giants’ lone victory.

It was the last one, by the way. In Tuesday’s must-win Game 3, the Giants racked up all of three singles in an extra-innings contest, but good pitching and a timely or untimely error by Scott Rolen allowed the Giants’ postseason dreams to stay alive. They might not survive through Wednesday, but given Tuesday’s offense, it’s a minor miracle they’ve gotten this far.

The Giants scored two times — once in the third, and once in the tenth. In the third, Gregor Blanco got hit, Brandon Crawford got walked, Ryan Vogelsong put down a bunt, and Angel Pagan hit a fly ball. In the tenth, Buster Posey singled, Hunter Pence singled, Ryan Hanigan allowed a passed ball, and Rolen couldn’t come up clean with a Joaquin Arias grounder. Outside of those half-innings, the Giants had one baserunner — a Marco Scutaro single in the top of the sixth, which was also the Giants’ first hit of the game. For a time, Homer Bailey was working on another no-hitter, and for a time, it didn’t even look all that unlikely.

The combination of the Giants’ win and their team-wide offensive futility got me wondering. What’s the worst winning offensive performance in MLB postseason history? Baseball-Reference’s Play Index could give me the raw data, but I needed to settle on a measure, so I settled on team wOBA. Thanks to the Guts! page, it’s possible to calculate wOBA for any season, going back to 1871. wOBA includes singles, doubles, triples, homers, walks, hit batters, steals, and caught steals. It does not include errors, although some people might wish that it would.

Once I settled on team wOBA and ran a query, it was time for an hour or two of manual data entry which in retrospect I probably could’ve made a whole hell of a lot easier. Because this was all manual data entry, I can’t promise that the numbers to follow are 100 percent accurate and don’t leave anything out, but I’m pretty certain. Forget pretty. I’m very certain. I think I captured all the candidate games and calculated the corresponding wOBA for the victor.

So, the results. Turns out they’re kind of laughable. Here are the ten lowest team wOBAs for winning teams in playoff history.

Date Team wOBA
10/9/2012 Giants 0.112
10/6/1963 Dodgers 0.145
10/6/1948 Braves 0.150
10/14/1986 Mets 0.155
10/19/2010 Giants 0.155
10/15/1997 Indians 0.162
10/4/1944 Browns 0.168
10/20/2011 Rangers 0.168
10/13/2001 Yankees 0.169
10/10/1981 Brewers 0.171

The Giants didn’t only make history Tuesday afternoon. They made history by a negative landslide. They posted the lowest winning-team wOBA by 33 points, which is the same as the gap between second and 11th place. The Giants beat the Reds with a .112 team wOBA over 36 plate appearances. Barry Zito, as a hitter, owns a career .120 wOBA over nearly 400 plate appearances. The Giants beat the Reds in a must-win game by hitting not unlike a team full of Barry Zitos. It was made possible by the Giants not pitching like a team full of Barry Zitos. Also the Scott Rolen thing.

But wait! It gets even worse. The Giants batted for ten innings and therefore made 30 outs, and 16 of those outs were strikeouts — ten by Bailey, one by Sean Marshall, two by Aroldis Chapman, and three by Jonathan Broxton. The wOBA equation doesn’t care about strikeouts, but not only did the Giants post an embarrassing wOBA; they also just couldn’t hit the baseball. I feel supremely confident declaring that this was the worst winning offensive performance the MLB playoffs have ever seen.

The Giants don’t care, nor should they. What they needed to worry about was winning — what they didn’t need to worry about were the means. They got their win and now with a win on Wednesday and then another win on Thursday, poof, the Giants advance and the Reds do not. That’s the only thing that counts, at this point. But no matter what happens with the Giants from this point forward, Tuesday’s performance can never be erased. And Tuesday’s performance might never be topped. Actually, no, scratch that, it will be topped almost all of the time. Tuesday’s performance might never be…bottomed? No, that sounds stupid. Oh whatever you know what I mean. Tuesday’s winning performance was historic, and there’s been a whole lot of history.

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Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

25 Responses to “Giants Win, Make Incredible Postseason History”

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  1. joe bananas says:

    It felt like the torture of 2010 all over again. It’s true that the wins are what count, but I’d feel a whole lot better if they weren’t so ugly.

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  2. Menthol says:

    Just a mater of time before they explode for three runs.

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  3. chuckb says:

    Great article, Jeff. It never occurred to me — or most anyone, I imagine — that yesterday’s win could’ve been historic in any meaningful sense. Teams win games like this during the regular season all the time (or, at least, on occasion).

    The Giants had better start swinging the bats, though, because they’re not going to be able to rely on errors by Scott Rolen and passed balls by Ryan Hanigan if they’re going to win the series. This isn’t Little League, where you can win many games by getting just 3-4 hits in a game.

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  4. Candlestick says:

    Of the 4 teams immediately below them on this list, 3 won the World Series including the 2010 Giants.

    I think they’ll take the win, hope to get lucky with the good version of Zito tonight, and then hope for a Matt Cain vs some Red pitcher working on short rest matchup Thursday. Giants remain the longest of long shots, but not quite dead yet.

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  5. PL says:

    28-6 vs HOU/COLO/CUBS
    66-62 vs everyone else

    They’re barely a good team. The unbalanced schedule is still the worst thing about the game.

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    • Justin says:

      Do you know what selection bias is?

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    • Jack says:

      The Reds got to play those three teams more than the Giants, and went 27-10. Everyone beats up on the bad teams.
      Yeah, the unbalanced schedule isn’t the greatest, but any single game is a crapshoot. Detroit went 1-5 against Seattle. Washington went 3-4 against Colorado. This isn’t the NBA where the bad teams only win 10% of their games.

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    • Ian R. says:

      Let’s turn that argument around. HOU/COL/CHC combined to go 6-28 against the Giants (.214) and 184-280 (.397) against everybody else, including each other. Clearly the Giants were doing something right.

      Good teams build up their records, generally speaking, by beating up on bad teams and playing around .500 against other good teams. There’s nothing unique about the Giants in that respect.

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      • Ian R. says:

        Whoops, numbers are slightly off. Those three teams actually went 174-278 (.385) against non-Giants competition. Point still stands.

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    • I think we all can play this game easily. Here’s another:

      Reds were 57-29 against under .500 teams
      Giants were 50-26, meaning the Reds had 10 more games against losing teams than the Giants.

      They were basically even against better than .500 teams, Reds 40-36 and Giants 44-42.

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    • Another angle:

      Giants strength of schedule was -0.2, 12th in the league (per, but Reds was -0.3, 16th in the league, meaning that they had the easiest schedule.

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  6. Ron says:

    The 1997 Indians on that list really surprised me. I thought that team was pretty stacked with some very good hitters. Of course they were facing Mussina in his prime. They also struck out 14 times in 11 innings that day as well.

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  7. Jim says:

    Very happy to see that Yankees game on the list — that was the infamous “flip play” game. That clip of Jeremy Giambi not sliding gets played over and over again, but people forget why it was such a huge play — the Yankees won that game 1-0 on a solo homer in the fifth by Posada, and the only other baserunners they had were Bernie Williams on a walk and Shane Spencer on a single.

    That game had me on the edge of my seat the entire time, and I screamed like a little girl when the flip happened. Good times.

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  8. somechick says:

    Another interesting fact, following up what Candlestick posted: with the exception of the ’81 Brewers, all of those teams have at least made it to the World Series. Crummy offense in playoffs = likely World Series appearance!

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  9. Marcus says:

    That Scott Rolen needs to learn defense!

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  10. This is incredible, but not too surprising either, as a Giants fan.

    My research shows that an important factor in winning in the post-season is getting quality starts from your starters. Of course, that’s obviously true on the surface, but I researched the past four playoff seasons using Shandler’s PQS methodology and when a team gets a dominant quality start (DOM start in his nomenclature), teams had a .686 winning percentage, and taking out games where both pitchers had a dominant game, the team had a .824 winning percentage.

    And just avoiding disaster starts is important. When a team had a better pitched game, as categorized by the PQS methodology (DOM, DIS, other), that team had a .817 winning percentage.

    The Giants, as a team, has been compiling great seasons the past few seasons, and that gives them an advantage in the playoffs. The best pitchers have DOM% of 50%+ and the Giants rotation TOGETHER is above 50% because Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner, and Vogelsong were all over 50%, in fact, Cain, Bumgarner, and Vogelsong were above 60%.

    Getting so many quality starts, combined with an offense that has sputtered a lot (though not as much lately), it is not surprising that the team is on this list twice, in fact, I’m surprised there weren’t more, are they in the top 20? I recall a lot of iffy offensive games versus the Braves in 2010.

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  11. Phrozen says:

    More impressive than the low wOBA, I think, is that they won while still striking out against Jonathan Broxton three times.

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  12. jct says:

    NLDS Game 3 was the Jack Morris of baseball games.

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  13. Ray says:

    I continuously love remembering this post after the Giants won the World Series. If I remember correctly, this was also the game of “the speech” by Hunter Pence. He inspired them to win but apparently not to hit.

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