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.
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.