When Joe Buck gave his closing monologue Wednesday to b-roll of the San Francisco Giants’ triumph over the Kansas City Royals in Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, and called the new world champions a dynasty, there was probably a gaggle of fans that threw baseballs at their television sets.
The Giants, despite winning three World Series titles in five years, seem that odd when you think of them as a dynasty. Instead of flowing, classic images of the New York Yankees in multiple decades or the Oakland Athletics of the 1970’s, we’re left with the stop-and-go dynasty of the team by the Bay.
Aside from the extremely arbitrary discussion about what accomplishments make a dynasty, these Giants contrast those dominant dynasties in the win-loss total and box scores, and got their third championship in a Major League Baseball season that was the opposite of a behemoth seven months.
There will always be great debate over the Giants’ standing in major league history; their win Wednesday assured that. People will question whether the Giants are actually a dynasty, because there are no set requirements over what makes a sports dynasty. Championships? Number of Hall-of-Fame players? Appearances in championship games and series? Except when it comes to teams that win three straight championships or more, everyone doubts supposed dynasties.
But we shouldn’t look at the Giants with such murky assessments. We should shrug when people talk about them because of how weak of a champion they were in these past five years, not because they only won in even years. Even compared to the debated MLB dynasties, the Giants are far more contentious of a dynasty. That’s because they are so much worse than the other MLB dynasties.
Praise manager Bruce Bochy, Madison Bumgarner’s World Series performance for the ages, and the San Francisco for being the first team in MLB history to make it all the way from a Wild Card Game to the World Series and win it all. But a hot October doesn’t change the Giants’ statistical place in the major leagues during their dynasty.
In two of the five years, San Fran didn’t even make the postseason. Most would agree that the Giants’ recent run began in 2010 when they won the World Series in five games over the Texas Rangers, but 2011 and 2013 were not fabulous years for Bochy’s club. Yes, in 2011 the Giants almost made the postseason, and, hey, maybe they would have won the Fall Classic if they got into the playoffs, their premier recipe to success, but the fact remains that they didn’t.
San Francisco that year only won 86 games. That’s a good win total at the end of the season, something for which you can hold your head somewhat high, but 86 wins is almost never good enough to make the postseason. The other MLB dynasties almost always won more games than that during their years on top.
And they all made sure to be more statistically dominant than the Giants were in 2011. San Fran can’t hold its head high when you look at their 2011 season a little closer. They were second in MLB in runs allowed, but they gave up more runs than they scored and plated the second-fewest runs in the game.
Then there’s 2013, the season that must still irk Bochy. The Giants were just bad that year. Matt Cain (Earned Run Average of 4) and Tim Lincecum (4.37 ERA) were lost, and the offense was pedestrian, scoring only 629 runs. Bumgarner, in fact, was their only starting pitcher with an ERA under 4 that year. The grand scope? Last year’s Giants had just 76 wins, their opponents touched home plate more often than them, and San Fran was 21st in runs scored and 19th in runs allowed in MLB.
Those two seasons would be OK if the Giants were a brilliant team in the other three. The Reds didn’t make the postseason in 1971, after all, and were an 83-loss ballclub.
But while the other MLB dynasties made up for any bumps along the way with incredible runs of dominance, the Giants really only looked like a playoff team, and only a playoff team, in 2010, 2012, and 2014. They didn’t dominate the majors like the other dynasties did during their runs.
While San Francisco won the National League West in 2010 and 2012, they only won 92 and 94 games those seasons, respectively. They were the epitome of a pitching machine in 2010, as they tied for the fewest runs allowed in baseball and were fifth in run differential.
But the Giants didn’t blow through the majors that year like a dynasty team would have done. 13 teams scored more runs than San Francisco. Compare it to another dynasty that relied more heavily on pitching, the 1970’s Oakland A’s, and the Giants look pretty meek. Those A’s not only had one of the lowest ERAs in the majors during their run, but also were close to the top in offensive categories as well. Pretty good (Giants) compared to dominance (A’s) says a lot about the former’s dynasty.
If the Giants powered through in 2012, then maybe their place in history would be more solid despite bad 2011 and 2013 seasons and only an ordinary 2010. But their previous championship run was only spectacular in their postseason comebacks. The 2012 Giants won two more regular season games, but did so in worse fashion, placing 14th in runs scored and eighth in runs allowed. Run differential? Ninth in MLB. What that will say more about the Giants in the future, is that the NL West that year was fairly uncompetitive and the Giants didn’t reap the rewards.
At least this year we knew the Giants weren’t an amazing team.
San Francisco looked like one of the best teams in baseball in early June, boasting a 10 game division lead at one point, like a dominant club. But they ended up playing three games under .500 from the start of June until the postseason began. They got into the dance relatively early, but only because most of the NL was so ineffective; only a single team outside of the NL playoff picture had a positive run differential, and those New York Mets finished under .500.
The end result was an 88-win ballclub that made the World Series, tied for eighth in run differential, were ninth in runs allowed, and 12th in runs scored. The overall picture for the Giants’ dynasty? An average of 87 wins over the five-year span; twice they gave up more runs than they allowed; in the top five of MLB in run differential only once; and never in the top 10 in runs scored.
Not convinced that that stacks up poorly to the other MLB dynasties? In comparison, the Cincinnati Reds of the 1970’s averaged 98 wins per season during their seven-year stretch of dominance from 1970 to 1976. They were top of the game in runs scored three times and in the top two five times, while still in the top six in runs allowed three times.
The A’s of the 1970’s were top three in ERA in MLB four times during their 1971-1975 run, they won five AL pennants, were in the top six in runs scored all but one year, and averaged 95 victories a year.
And the Cardinals dynasty from 1942-1946 that won it all thrice scored more runs and had the lowest ERA than any other NL team three times, and were in the top two the other two years. The average number of wins? 102.
The Giants look even stranger compared to the other MLB dynasties when you consider the competition that they faced. The Giants’ latest World Series title came in a season in which there was no dominant club. Just three teams in the majors this year won more than 95 times, and only five had run differentials of at least +100. Teams this year beat down on each other constantly, and everyone had at least one major, glaring flaw.
Instead of taking advantage of that parity, the Giants still put up only above-average numbers against a National League that was mostly well below average. Dynasties are supposed to take advantage of that, get just about every win they can get. The members of the Big Red Machine probably looked at these NL teams with hungry eyes.
Everyone will remember these Giants more for three World Series titles in the 2010 decade. The end result in October is what people remember most about these clubs, and few will care to remember that they struggled for months on end.
But people likely still won’t think of the Giants very high on the list of dynasties. The classic, flowing images are still the black-and-white shots of “Murderers’ Row,” and Catfish Hunter and company in the green and gold in Oakland hurling their way to the World Series.
While they don’t promote great competition, the dynasties’ absolute dominance over Major League Baseball sticks in your mind forever. Start to finish, in almost every year for years on end, they turned the rest of the leagues aside. These Giants instead simply look like awkward guests in the record books. Future baseball fans might just want to turn the page when they look at the first half of this decade.