Another loss — a 4-2 setback to the Washington Nationals on Tuesday — has put the San Francisco Giants on an historic path.
A historic path of the worst kind.
The loss dropped the Giants to a .441 winning percentage on the season. That prorates to a record of 71-91 on the season. It would match the Giants’ worst season since going 71-91 in 2007, Barry Bonds’ final season with the Giants.
If the Giants lose 92 games this season, it would be their worst season since going 68-94 in 1996.
But when put into context of defending World Series champions, it gets really bad.
When it comes to follow-up seasons for World Series champions, the 1998 Florida Marlins set the gold standard with their 54-108 season. The Giants only need to win three more games to surpass that season.
After winning the 1997 championship, the Marlins traded away players like Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Moises Alou, Devon White, Jeff Conine, Robb Nen, Ed Vosberg and Dennis Cook in the offseason. They would trade away Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, Jim Eisenreich and Felix Heredia during the 1998 season.
In the Nen trade with the Giants, the Marlins received in return Mike Villano, Joe Fontenot, Mick Pageler. So it’s no wonder they lost 100-plus games in 1998.
By contrast, the Giants kept the bulk of their 2012 championship trophy together for 2013. So they won’t challenge the 1998 Marlins. But they are right on course for the second-worst record by a defending World Series champion.
Presently, that honor goes to the 1991 Cincinnati Reds, who went 74-88 (.457). To finish ahead of the Reds, the Giants only would have to go 23-21 the rest of the way. If the Giants finish 75-87, they would also surpass the third-worst mark by a defending champ, the .460 mark of the 1918 Chicago White Sox (57-67).
On more win would put them ahead of the 1932 St. Louis Cardinals. Another win and they slide past the 1986 Kansas City Royals and 1967 Baltimore Orioles.
In all, 15 defending World Series champions have failed to post a winning record in their encore season. For the Giants to avoid becoming the 16th team, they would have to finish the season 30-14.
The most likely scenario is somewhere in between. So here is the list of the worst records of defending World Series champions, along with (in parenthesis) the record the Giants would require in their final 44 games to surpass that mark.
- 1998 Florida Marlins 54-108 .333 (3-41)
- 1991 Cincinnati Reds 74-88 .457 (23-21)
- 1918 Chicago White Sox 57-67 .460 (23-21)
- 1932 St. Louis Cardinals 72-82 .468 (24-20)
- 1986 Kansas City Royals 76-86 .469 (25-19)
- 1967 Baltimore Orioles 76-85 .472 (25-19)
- 2003 Anaheim Angels 77-85 .475 (26-18)
- 1994 Toronto Blue Jays 55-60 .478 (26-18)
- 1989 Los Angeles Dodgers 77-83 .481 (27-17)
- 2007 St. Louis Cardinals 78-84 .481 (27-17)
- 1919 Boston Red Sox 66-71 .482 (27-17)
- 1961 Pittsburgh Pirates 75-79 .487 (27-17)
- 1983 St. Louis Cardinals 79-83 .488 (28-16)
- 1964 Los Angeles Dodgers 80-82 .494 (29-15)
- 1965 St. Louis Cardinals 80-81 .497 (29-15)
The San Francisco Giants will raise the banner on Friday at their home opener against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Now the question is “Who will raise the banner?”
In 2011 — when the Giants also played their home opener against the Cardinals — reliever Brian Wilson took the honor of hoisting the World Series flag at AT&T Park.
While Wilson played a vital role in the 2010 championship, it should be pointed out that when the Giants opened the 2011 season, the 2010 World Series MVP (Edgar Renteria) was playing for the Reds. And the 2010 NLCS MVP (Cody Ross) was on the disabled list.
So on Friday, when the Giants hoist their 2012 World Series banner, the candidates for the honor are numerous. The Giants have been tight-lipped on who will get the honor and exactly how the act will be performed.
One thing we can say for certain: It won’t be Brian Wilson. Wilson was last seen shopping at a Southern California mall in a ketchup-stained T-shirt.
So who is it going to be? Well, here’s MoreSplashHits’ list of the top-ten candidates. Continue reading
This is for all the people who predicted the Arizona Diamondbacks to win the NL West last spring.
This is for all the people who said the Giants were finished with Brian Wilson was lost for the season.
This is for all the people who said the Dodgers were the team to beat in the NL West after building a 7.5-game in late May.
This is for all the people who said Pablo Sandoval didn’t deserve to be an All-Star (yeah, were talking to you Sandy Alderson. By the way, thanks for Angel Pagan).
This is for all the people who said the Giants couldn’t win with Tim Lincecum posting a 5+ ERA.
This is for all the people who said trading for Marco Scutaro was a sorry excuse for answer to the Dodgers’ acquisition of Hanley Ramirez.
This is for all the people who said the Giants were REALLY done after Melky Cabrera was suspended.
This is for all the people who said the Dodgers were AGAIN the team to beat after trading Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, et al. (How far behind the Giants did they finish?)
This is for all the people who said the Giants were done after falling behind 0-2 to the Reds in the NL Division Series.
This is for the people who said the Giants were done after falling behind 1-3 to the Cardinals in the NL Championship Series.
This is for all the people who said the Tigers were the CLEAR favorite over the Giants in the World Series.
This is for all the people who said the Giants should give up on Pablo Sandoval, Barry Zito, Brandon, Belt, Tim Lincecum and Hunter Pence.
This is for all the people who called the Giants 2010 World Series title a fluke.
The Giants are up 3 games to none in the World Series, which is better than 2-1 and certainly better than being down 1-2 or 0-3.
But nothing is certain. And the Giants don’t need to give the Tigers a spark.
So here are 10 good reason why the Giants need to finish this TODAY.
NO. 10 — The 49ers play on Monday night.
San Francisco fans don’t need dueling sporting events. If the Giants don’t win Sunday, they would play at 5:07 p.m. Monday with the 49ers kicking off vs. the Cardinals at 5:30 p.m. in another key NFC West matchup. So, c’mon Giants, let’s clear the schedule for the 49ers.
NO. 9 — No double-dip mojo
MoreSplashHits follows three sports teams in the fall: the San Francisco Giants, the San Francisco 49ers and the Oregon State Beavers. We haven’t been able to get two wins on the same day this October. On Saturday, Oct. 6, the Beavers beat Washington State, but the Giants lost to the Reds. The next day, the 49ers buried the Jets, but the Giants lost again to the Reds. On Oct. 13, the Beavers beat BYU, but the Giants were off. The next day, the 49ers lost to the N.Y. Giants, and the Giants lost to the Cardinals (a bad day). The following Thursday, the 49ers beat the Seahawks, but the Giants lost to the Cardinals. The next Saturday, the Beavers beat Arizona, but the Giants were off. And yesterday, the Giants beat the Tigers, but the OSU lost to Washington. The Giants and 49ers would both play Monday if the Giants don’t seal the deal Sunday. So, Giants, seal the deal.
NO. 8 — Cain Day is Clincher Day
The Giants are up 3-0 and they haven’t even thrown their ace. It can’t work out much better for the Giants. Plus, Matt Cain was on the mound when the Giants clinched the NLDS vs. the Reds. He was on the mound when they clinched the NLCS vs. the Cardinals. He’s out there again.
NO. 7 — Max Scherzer is on the mound
While the Giants throw out their ace, the Tigers counter with their No. 4 pitcher. Yes, Scherzer has a postseason ERA under 1.00, but he’s also been battling a shoulder issue. This should be the Giants’ big opportunity to score some runs.
NO. 6 — I’ve got stuff to do Monday
My schedule is clear Sunday to watch the Giants … and celebrate. On Monday, there are things to do, places to be. I don’t want to watch the Giants on the DVR Monday. Win this today
NO. 5 — History says they should win today.
Of the 23 teams to go up 3-0 in a best-of-seven World Series, 20 have gone on to clinch in Game 4. The three others won in Game 5.
NO. 4 — The weather
Sunday’s forecast is good in Detroit. But rain creeps in the picture on Monday with 40 percent chance of PM showers. If those showers are heavy and persistent enough to postpone the game, rain is in the forecast all day Tuesday, and it remains in the forecast in some form Wednesday and Thursday.
NO. 3 — Verlander
The Giants tagged Justin Verlander in Game 1. The odds of a repeat are long. Yes, they beat Cliff Lee twice in 2010, but the second game was much tougher than the first.
NO. 2 — Barry Zito
Zito has been very, very good his last two starts. The Giants have won his last 14 starts. Do we really want to temp that mojo? Something has to give eventually, and I’d rather that happen next April.
NO. 1 — Champagne is way better the Alka-Seltzer
Giants fans have endured enough stress and angst, not only this postseason, but the entire season. We don’t need more stress. Not sure we can take it. A party is ready to happen. LET’S DO THIS NOW!!!!!!!
There was a frightening play in Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday.
In the second inning, the Giants’ Gregor Blanco hit a liner back up the middle that hit off the top of pitcher Doug Fister’s head and fell in front of center fielder Austin Jackson for a single.
The Tigers’ training staff rushed out to check on the Detroit pitcher, who appeared to be fine. Still, they asked him the usual questions.
Where are you at?
“San Francisco. Game 2.”
What inning is it?
What the hell was Gene Lamont thinking by sending Prince Fielder home on that double to left?
“I have no idea.”
Yep, he’s fine.
In game in which there were several key plays, the play in the top of the second loomed as the largest.
To set the scene: Fielder was on first base with no one out. Dmitri Young laces a double inside the third base bag. Blanco played the ball off the wall near the Giants bullpen as Lamont waved Fielder home.
From there, everything went perfectly for the Giants. Blanco hit cut-off man Marco Scutaro, Scutaro threw a strike to catcher Buster Posey, Posey applied a quick sweep tag to the sliding Fielder and umpire Dan Iassogna made a great — and correct — out call.
And while it took a perfect play to get Fielder, the decision to send him home was still questionable.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland called the decision “over-aggressive.” Even Lamont had second thoughts.
“If I had to do it over,” Lamont would say later, “I would have held him.”
That would have been the right call. It would have put runners on second and third and no outs — against a pitcher who had struggled in his previous two outings. And as the Giants would later show, you don’t need a hit to score a run.
But Lamont wasn’t totally at fault. On the slide at home, Fielder’s lead leg went right over the plate, and the first contact he had with the plate was his bent sliding leg, giving Posey a split-second more to apply the tag.
And then there was on-deck hitter Jhonny Peralta, who must have been too busy pondering why his first name is spelled the way it is to get into proper position to alert Fielder that the throw was coming to the inside of the plate and his slide should have been wide.
In a tight game, it’s the little things that can prove to be big.
And some good luck helps, too. Someone upstairs must like the black-and-orange.
The Tigers thought they got some good luck when Omar Infante’s bouncer into the hole at short handcufffed Brandon Crawford for an infield. Then, the luck changed.
Miguel Cabrera hit a rope to third base that was snagged by Pablo Sandoval. Then Fielder hit a shot to left that in many ballparks might have been a home run. In AT&T, it was a warning-track fly out.
Then in the seventh, the Giants started a rally with a single by Hunter Pence, who has been in a major funk at the plate this postseason. After Fister was lifted for lefty Doug Smyly, Brandon Belt worked a walk.
Blanco came up to bunt the runners over. After working the count to 3-1, Blanco dropped a bunt that traveled 40 feet along the dirt between the grass and the third-base line for an infield hit.
“I was joking with Roberto Kelly when I got to first base, ‘We practiced that today,'” Blanco said. “That was a perfect bunt. I wasn’t really trying to do that. I think it was just meant to be and I’m thankful that I did it.”
Was it his best bunt ever?
“It has to be,” Blanco said, “and I think the best at-bat of my career, too.”
With the bases loaded and no one out, Leyland decided to play the infield back. He got the double-play ball he was looking for from Brandon Crawford. But it allowed Pence to score the game’s first run.
In the eighth, the Giants loaded the bases on walks to Angel Pagan, Pablo Sandoval and Buster Posey, giving Giants fans visions of the walk-aided seven-run eighth inning in Game 2 of the 2010 World Series vs. the Rangers.
But this time, Pence fell behind 0-2, as he has so often done this postseason. But this time instead of striking out, Pence fouled off a couple of pitches before lifting a fly ball to right center for a sacrifice fly and a 2-0 lead.
So the Giants lead the Tigers 2-0 in the series after scoring two runs on outs and getting seven shutout innings from Madison Bumgarner, who had an 11.25 ERA in the 2012 postseason entering the game.
They’ve got a double off the third base bag, a single that traveled 40 feet and a perfectly executed outfield relay play home.
The Giants have to be feeling pretty fortunate.
“Baseball’s so hard, this game’s about having luck,” Blanco said. “You can hit the ball 10 times with a line drive to center field and go 0 for 10.”
Pitcher Ryan Vogelsong said: “You hate to say it, but sometimes you need some luck. I used to be one of those guys who said you create your own luck, but sometimes in this game that’s not the case and the ball has to bounce your way.”
So are the baseball gods shining on the Giants?
“I don’t know about baseball gods, but I’ll tell you one thing: I hope the ball keeps bouncing our way,” reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. “It’s been huge for us.”
Stop me if this sounds familiar to you.
The Giants open the World Series by smacking around the American League’s best pitcher who entered the series with three standout postseason performances and a playoff ERA under 1.00.
They follow that up by shutting out an American League lineup that includes the potential league MVP in Game 2.
And Madison Bumgarner throws up nothing but zeros in his first start of the series.
No, Giants fans, this is NOT the 2010 World Series, but it sure feels like it.
Even the Giants acknowledged as much.
“It feels the same, but we know it’s not going to be the same until we win a World Series,” left-hander Jeremy Affeldt said. “They’re not going to roll over.”
And don’t tell Bumgarner this is not the 2010 postseason, because after two sub-par playoff starts, MadBum recaptured his magic on the mound.
Bumgarner silenced the Tigers’ bats with seven shutout innings, allowing just two hits and two walks while striking out eight.
MadBum’s performance coupled with another night of solid defense and just a little bit of luck was enough to propel the Giants to a 2-0 victory in Game 2 of the World Series, and a 2-0 series lead.
About the only thing Bumgarner didn’t do was extend the team’s streak of having a pitcher drive in a run in a fifth consecutive postseason game.
So it leads to the question: What was the difference between this game and Bumgarner’s two previous starts in which he posted an ERA of 11.25?
“I went into the seventh inning instead of getting took out in the third,” Bumgarner said.
Nah, c’mon Madison, get serious.
“The only difference was being able to make pitches,” Bumgarner said. “I hadn’t been able to do that this postseason. And tonight …. Buster caught a great game, defense did great.”
It’s got to be more than that.
“I thought the first inning would be a critical inning for him, for his confidence, also just to see where he was at,” manager Bruce Bochy said. “Really, I mean, what a job he did. He’s worked on some things, and Rags — Dave Righetti, our pitching coach — did a great job getting him back on track. He had great poise out there with a great delivery, and he stayed right on for seven innings.”
So Righetti is some kind of miracle worker then?
Bumgarner made three bullpen sessions on Righetti’s supervision between Game 1 of the NLCS — a 6-4 loss to the Cardinals when MadBum gave up all six runs in less the four innings of work — and Thursday’s Game 2 of the World Series.
They also studied video, finding that MadBum had bad mechanics that was leading to unnecessary stress and fatigue on his arm. After the third session, the Giants decided Bumgarner was ready to return to the rotation. And was he ever.
Game 3 starter Ryan Vogelsong said: “It’s a testament to him. It’s not easy to fix yourself like that and go out there and perform so well. He wasn’t just OK. He was really good.”
Yes, he was.
When this series started, most Giants fans were hoping the Giants could split the first games with the Tigers, given that Barry Zito and Bumgarner were set to start. Then the plan was to get the series back to San Francisco for Games 6 and 7, and hope the Giants’ run of postseason magic could continue.
Now they head to Detroit with a 2-0 series lead and their two best pitchers this postseason — Ryan Vogelsong and Matt Cain — taking the mound there.
And thoughts now turn to returning to San Francisco simply to have another parade.
But if anyone knows not to get ahead of themselves, it’s these Giants.
“You can’t count Detroit out,” Sergio Romo said. “Look at what we were able to do to get here.”
Game 1 of the 2012 World Series featured three Cy Young Award winners, and one of them got rocked.
It wasn’t Barry Zito.
It wasn’t Tim Lincecum.
It was Justin Verlander.
On an amazing night at AT&T Park, Zito had another amazing outing. Zito gave up one run on six hits and one walk in 5 2/3 innings, striking out three.
Zito didn’t want to come out with two outs in the sixth, after throwing 81 pitches.
Eighty-one pitches to get through almost six innings?!?!? From Zito!?!? He needed 76 to get through 2 2/3 in Cincinnati two weeks ago.
But in the past two postseason starts, Zito has been efficient with his pitches. He’s stayed in the strike zone, pitched to contact and trusted his defense.
On Wednesday, they helped him out. Gregor Blanco made two very nice sliding catches on sinking liners off the bat of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. He got Dmitri Young to hit into a double play with a chop off the plate that was fielded nicely by Buster Posey.
When Zito averages fewer than four pitches per batter faced, good things happen.
In Game 5 of the NLCS, he averaged 3.97 pitches per batter. In Game 1 of the World Series, it was 3.52. In Game 4 of the NLDS vs. the Reds, it was 4.75.
In his final five starts of the regular season (all Zito wins, four of which were quality starts, the other one out from a quality start), Zito averaged 4.15, 3.81, 3.54, 3.78 and 3.88.
And then there was Tim Lincecum, who retired all seven batters he faced in 2 1/3 innings of relief, striking out five of them.
In Lincecum’s one postseason start, he gave up four runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. In his four postseason relief appearances, he’s given up one run on three hits with one walk and 14 strikeouts in 10 2/3 innings pitched.
“For me, it’s just getting mentally locked in,” Lincecum said. “When I’m starting, I fall off. I start thinking about the wrong things. When I’m in the bullpen, I’m just out there, just thinking about getting outs.”
Clearly, the bullpen is the place for the Freak this October. And Bochy was brilliant to leave him there.
If there was one complaint about Bochy’s usage of Lincecum, it’s that I would have rather seen Lincecum not used in Game 1 to nurse a 6-1 lead when there were only 10 outs to get.
I felt like the Giants could have managed the relief innings Wednesday with the likes of George Kontos, Jeremy Affeldt, Jose Mijares and Santiago Casilla.
I would have felt much better with the Freak in the pen in Game 2, behind the out-of-whack Madison Bumgarner.
After Lincecum had only needed 19 pitches to get four outs, I thought Bochy should have gone to another reliever after the Giants added some insurance runs. But Lincecum came back for the eighth. Apparently Bochy made a commitment not to use Lincecum on back-to-back days, however many pitches he used.
But Bochy’s thought process probably was that it was better to use a committee of 4-5 relievers in the event of another meltdown by MadBum in Game 2, given the day off on Friday, than to use the pen heavy in Game 1.
We’ll see if he’s right.
Or ever better, we won’t have to see … provided that Bumgarner can give the Giants 5 or 6 quality innings. But that’s something we haven’t seen a lot of in the past two months.