First, here’s a chart of the Giants’ win margin and defeat margin so far in 2011. (Green bars above the line indicate how many runs the Giants won by on that particular day — It’s typically not by very much — while the white bars below indicate the number of runs they were defeated by.)
A couple of things that struck me:
–16 of 33 wins (almost exactly half) are by just one run
–Recently, their luck has changed some. They went 14-3 in their first 17 one run games. Since then, they are just 2-5 in one run games
–Over their past 43 contests (24-19), they’ve only won a game by more than three runs twice (one four-run win, one five-run win)
Here also is their season long run differential chart:
It just does seem strange to be leading the division right now and seven games over .500 with a run differential of just plus (+) three (3) — they’ve had a negative run differential at the finish of roughly half their games. The National League West just isn’t looking particularly impressive. And, who’d of thunk it, the Diamondbacks are the team, by far, giving the Giants the most trouble right now.
That being said, if you’d have told me in March that… Cody Ross would miss time with an injury, Brian Wilson would miss a little time with an oblique injury, Mike Fonenot would hit the DL, Buster Posey would be lost for the season after a devastating collision at the plate, Barry Zito would get knocked out early and be replaced by minor league invite Ryan Vogelsong, Aubrey Huff would play outfield for a while like he was wearing cement boots and football pads while also hovering well below a .700 OPS, Brandon Belt would struggle before heading to Fresno and returning only to hit the DL after breaking a bone in his hand, Pablo Sandoval would miss more than a month with a broken hamate bone after being the only hitter with a pulse, Santiago Casilla would make one appearance before spending most of the season on the DL which would result in far too lefty-heavy bullpen, and finally, that Miguel Tejada would play nearly every day (even allowed to hit second) despite poor glove play and an OPS that is a couple of 0-fers away from being below .500… but that the Giants would have a half game lead in the division and be seven games over .500, well, assuming the laundry list of BLEH, UGH and CRUD(!) listed above was inevitable, I’d have been pretty satisfied all things considered.
I think we, as Giants fans, ought to be pretty grateful. But we must also understand that, like the current division lead of just a half game, the margin for error is very thin. Unless the offense starts to do a lot more, it will remain that way, and the roughly even run differential and paper-thin wins won’t turn into something less torturous. And there’s really no telling how this season will end up, especially if the injuries keep piling up.
A quick glance at one of Bochy’s lineups (including today’s) goes a log way to explaining that thin margin.
This is also the lineup that will look to back Tim Lincecum as he goes for strikeout 1,000 in his career. As David Schoenfield of the SweetSpot notes, as I did recently, the Freak has put himself into some pretty rare company in terms of strikeouts. He delves into overall value some, too, comparing his five-season WAR to best first five season WARs since 1900:
Now, strikeouts are just one statistic, and Lincecum has the advantage of playing in a high-strikeout era and in a good pitcher’s park. Has he been one of the best pitchers through five seasons? (Obviously, he has four months left in the season.) From Baseball-Reference, here is the list of top-10 pitchers by WAR (wins above replacement level) through their first five seasons:
1. Pete Alexander, 36.8
2. Tom Seaver, 36.7
3. Bert Blyleven, 29.3
4. Dwight Gooden, 28.6
5. Nap Rucker, 28.3
6. Bob Feller, 28.1
7. Frank Tanana, 28.1
8. Eddie Plank, 28.0
9. Robin Roberts, 27.9
10. Teddy Higuera, 27.3 …
As for Lincecum, his Baseball-Reference career WAR is 20.8, which currently puts him at 44th. If we extrapolate his 2011 numbers (2.0 WAR so far) we get four additional WAR, which pushes him up to 24.8 and into the top 20.
Good stuff from David, but there’s a couple of things worth pointing out that he failed to mention that I will, and I’ll leave it at that. The first is that Lincecum didn’t pitch a full season in 2007 (the first of his “five” seasons.) The second is that many of the pitchers mentioned pitched in the era of four-man rotations, thus, they were able to rack up higher WAR totals with the added innings.
Anyway, good luck to Timmy in his bid for 1,000 tonight.