I’ve been working on the following graphs on and off for the past week. For the longest time, I’ve wanted to do a franchise scatter plot based on OPS+ and ERA+ for the Giants and today, finally, I’ve got the chance to put them online.
The idea is that we can split past Giants teams into four quadrants based on hitting and pitching. The vertical axis represents team pitching by adjusted ERA, or ERA+. The horizontal axis represents team offense by adjusted OPS, or OPS+. OPS+ and ERA+ are fairly simple concepts in baseball statistics these days — each is adjusted for league, park, and era (making them good tools to compare the 1905 Giants to the 1985 Giants). The league average is scaled to 100, meaning that if you score 110, you are 10% better than league average.
The quadrants are labeled, but they break down as follows: Upper left (good pitching, bad hitting), lower left (bad pitching, bad pitching), upper right (good pitching, good hitting), and lower right (bad pitching, good hitting). The upper right quadrant is the best place to be, it’s populated with teams that hit and pitched at better than league average. On the opposite end of things, the lower left is filled with teams that neither pitched or hit well.
I’ve labeled World Series winners by the red markers. The league averages are represented by the red lines.
It’s a lot of information to take in, but I’ll just comment on a few things I found interesting.
* The old adage that, “Pitching wins championships” rings true for the Giants franchise. All 6 championships were brought home with teams that pitched better than league average. Most noted is the 1954 Giants with a team ERA+ of 132. That’s a staggering number, but it’s not hard to believe when you examine the ’54 roster. The Giants got superb pitching from Johnny Antonelli (285.2 IP, 178 ERA+), Ruben Gomez (221.2 IP, 142 ERA+), and Sal Maglie (218.2 IP, 125 ERA+). The bullpen had knuckle ball master and future Hall of Fame pitcher, Hoyt Wilhelm (111.1 IP, 194 ERA+). The Giants also got good ‘pen work out of Marv Grissom (122.1 IP, 174 ERA+) and Windy McCall (61 IP, 126 ERA+).
* The 1905 team is probably the most well-rounded Giants team, ever. They had batters like: Roger Bresnahan (132 OPS+), Dan McGann (143), and Mike “Turkey Mike” Donlin (167). The rotation was headlined by Christy Mathewson and his jaw-dropping 338.2 innings pitched. Statistically, 1905 was Mathewson’s best or 2nd best season, depending on how you look at it. He had a career high in ERA+ (230), and he led the league in strikeouts (208) and ERA (1.28). He won 31 games, making it the 4th time he would win 30+ in a single season.
* Did you know that in the early 2000s, you were watching some of the best offensive teams in Giants history? The 2000 team had a 115 OPS+, that means the 2000 Giants hit 15% better than league average as an entire team! That’s simply amazing. The Giants had only 2 starters on offense with OPS+ scores of 100 or less — Bill Mueller (87 OPS+) and Marvin Benard (92). The rest of the lineup was filled with Bonds (188), Burks (163), Kent (162), Estalella (113), Snow (113), and Aurillia (103). And for good measure, the 2000 team had bench players like Armando Rios (118), Ramon Martinez (117), and Felipe Crespo (105). The Bonds-Burks-Kent trio might be the most destructive group of hitters in Giants history.
* Between 2007-2009 the Giants averaged a team OPS+ of 82 — that’s the worst team offense since the 1902 squad. Losing Bonds after 2007 had a clear and immediate impact on the offense, that much is clear. Which isn’t the most shocking thing to say, since anyone would have a hard time replacing Bonds’ annual near 200 OPS+. And, in addition, it was a transition time for the team when it came to position players. However, I think it goes to show that while the 2010 hitting wasn’t sexy (95 OPS+) it was a huge improvement going from ‘terrible’ to ‘just below average’. Thankfully for the Giants, their team ERA+ didn’t skip a beat between 2009 (121) and 2010 (121). The swing of 13% towards league average on offense coupled with the sustained pitching excellence was enough to net the Giants their first championship since moving to San Francisco.
Here’s another take on the data set, I plotted teams by decade. It’s still cluttered, but I think it’s an interesting way to look at things.
A lot of 1900s, 1910s, and 2000s in the upper right quadrant. Those were good times to be a Giants fan. The lower left quadrant looks to predominately filled with teams from 1940s and 1990s, but there’s a general good mix. The 1940s were something of a lost decade for the Giants — the team never finished higher than 3rd place in the National League and the ’43 Giants had the 2nd worst winning percentage (.359) in the history of the franchise.