From the NY Gothams to the San Francisco Giants – is this the best run ever for the Bay Area boys?

San Francisco Giants  – A True Dynasty In The Making?
by Jim Silva

    Ten World Series victories, if you include the two they won before it was considered the World Series, eight if you don’t – that’s what the Giants franchise has managed since they got their start in 1883 as the Gothams. That puts them within spitting distance of the second place Cardinals franchise who have won 11 (12 including a pre-1903 victory), tied with the Red Sox, and one behind the A’s of Philadelphia, Kansas City, and Oakland. Nobody is going to catch the Yankees for a long, long, LONG time as they have 27. The recent run of Giants even-season victories – three so far – has brought the dynasty conversation to Giants fans’ lips. Three World Series victories in five seasons is unusual, if not quite rare in World Series history, which begs the question even if the fans don’t – are the current San Francisco Giants a dynasty? The last team to win three World Series in five seasons, before the Giants pulled it off for the first time in their history, was (yawn) the Yankees when they won four in five years (1996-2000). Aside from the Yankees, the A’s are the only team to have done it more than once, winning the Series thrice between 1910 and 1913, and three years in a row from 1972 to 1974. Here is a link to the complete list in case you can’t sleep until you know who won the 1923 World Series.
    Aside from the Yankees, the Red Sox are the only team to really mess up the neat little paradigm of three victories in five seasons by besting that. They won four between 1912 and 1918 which really makes two runs of three if you choose to count victories in both sequences. The Yankees have messed things up three times, winning seven World Series between 1932 and 1943, 10 between 1947 and 1962, and four between 1996 and 2000. No wonder so many reasonable people hate their guts!
    So, most people would assume that this is the closest thing to a dynasty that the Giants franchise has ever mustered. Certainly, if we measure it with World Series victories then that is true. No other team in Giants’ history has three World Series victories in five seasons. But let’s look at this another way. Let’s look at winning percentage as a marker of how good the franchise has been over any particular stretch of time.
    The current iteration of the Giants started winning more games than they lost in 2009, the season before they started their World Series even years hopscotch run. Uh oh – table time! (Note that if a team made it to the playoffs but not the Series then they are in green, while World Series losers are in blue, and World Series victors are in red – as in red hot!)
Season
Winning Percentage
2009
0.543
2010
0.568
2011
0.531
2012
0.580
2013
0.469
2014
0.543
2015
0.519
2009-2015 (7 seasons)
Average Winning Percentage 0.536

Not bad but nowhere near their best stretch in terms of length or winning percentage. Obviously great in terms of post-season performance with three appearances all ending in a World Series victory.

Here is a nice little Giants team, led by Barry Bonds.
Season
Winning Percentage
1997
0.556
1998
0.546
1999
0.531
2000
0.599
2001
0.556
2002
0.590
2003
0.621
2004
0.562
1997-2004 (8 seasons)
Average Winning Percentage 0.570

Really great eight year run with no World Series victories but one appearance, plus three losses in the playoffs.

And then there is this club with Mays, Marichal, and McCovey for much of the run.
Season
Winning Percentage
1961
0.552
1962
0.624
1963
0.543
1964
0.556
1965
0.586
1966
0.578
1967
0.562
1968
0.543
1969
0.556
1970
0.531
1971
0.556
1961-1971 (11 seasons)
Average Winning Percentage .562

Again, a much better run in terms of duration and winning percentage, but only two post-season appearances including one World Series loss.

And oh, by the way, remember – the Giants also played in a small town called New York. These teams were John McGraw’s teams led by “Big Six”, Christy Mathewson. (Here is a link to Mathewson’s fascinating, if somewhat tragic, bio in the SABR Bio Project written by Eddie Frierson)
Season
Winning Percentage
1903
0.604
1904
0.693
1905
0.686
1906
0.632
1907
0.536
1908
0.636
1909
0.601
1910
0.591
1911
0.647
1912
0.682
1913
0.664
1903-1913 (11 seasons)
Average Winning Percentage .634

An amazing stretch, where translated to a 162 game season, they averaged 102 wins a season for 11 seasons! With four World Series appearances but only one win, they still don’t match up with the modern day Giants in terms of the post-season. 1904 is in blue because the Giants won the National League title but refused to play the American League champs, characterizing the upstart league as beneath them.

This last stretch could be broken up differently, but that’s true of all of the groupings. It is arranged this way because it is bookended by World Series appearances. It takes the Giants from Christy Mathewson to Frankie Frisch and Travis Jackson and the beginning of Bill Terry’s career, and it overlaps by three seasons with the 1903 to 1913 run so instead of turning it into one huge run, they intersect somewhat.
Season
Winning Percentage
1911
0.647
1912
0.682
1913
0.664
1914
0.545
1915
0.454
1916
0.566
1917
0.636
1918
0.573
1919
0.621
1920
0.558
1921
0.614
1922
0.604
1923
0.621
1924
0.608
1911-1924 (14 seasons)
0.600

These teams managed eight World Series appearances, although only two wins. They lost a game seven to the Senators in 1924 when Muddy Ruel scored on a walk-off, bad-hop single over Freddie Lindstrom in the bottom of the twelfth!

    It’s hard to talk about dynasties when you have to hold up your club to any of the great Yankees’ runs. The Giants are a tremendous franchise with many stretches that could argue for the dynasty label. Had some of the early Giants’ teams been in the current division system with a Wild Card, they likely would have easily bested the three World Series victories in five seasons. Remember that until 1969 there were no divisions or playoffs. The team with the best record in the NL faced the team with the best record in the AL. And it wasn’t until 1994 that the Wild Card was instituted with the team with the best record among the second place finishers in each league playing against the team with the best record in the first round of the playoffs. Then in 2012 a second Wild Card team was added with a one game playoff to see which team would become the fourth team in the first round of each league’s playoffs. If not for the Wild Card, the Giants wouldn’t even have made it to the playoffs in 2014 because they finished second to the Dodgers by six games. In the old, one-team system they would have finished tied for fourth in the NL, missing the post-season by eight games with the Nationals going to the World Series. The 2012 team which won the NL West would have placed tied for third with the Braves four games back – again staring up at the Nationals. The 2010 team? They would have placed second, this time finishing five in back of the Phillies and watching the series against Tampa Bay on television. The ’97 to 2004 teams would have only made it to the series in 2000 although in a heart-breaker the 100 win 2003 team would have missed by one game as the Braves won 101 that season.
    So what if we break up teams into divisions all the way back to the beginning? How would that have changed the fortunes of some of those older Giants teams? There weren’t as many teams back then in the good old pre-expansion days, but we can at least split them the way it was done in 1969 into the East and West divisions. The ’62 to 1971 Giants in the NL West that includes the Dodgers, Astros/Colt 45’s, Braves, and Reds would actually make the playoffs four times instead of two. The ’71 Giants fell to the “one team only” rule I applied to the rest of the post divisional teams, but the pre-1969 teams benefitted from a conversion to a divisional format.
    The New York Giants of 1903 to 1913 would likely be in the East with the Dodgers of Brooklyn, Phillies of Philadelphia, and Braves of Boston. The Cardinals were the furthest east of the rest, so the “West” would be Chicago, Cincy, St. Louis, and the Pirates. Amazingly, the New York Giants would win their division every year except for the 1907 season. So instead of four post-season appearances they would at least make the playoffs 10 times in 11 seasons! That is dominance albeit in a division with only four teams.
    As for the 1911 to 1924 Giants, they would make the post-season 10 times instead of eight – again, that is incredible dominance. It isn’t a big difference from what they did anyway and they were certainly considered one of the greatest teams in baseball at the time. They were favorites in more than one of those World Series matches that they ended up losing.
    Time makes us forget things – even baseball fans forget. God knows I’d like to forget Gibby taking Eck out on a backdoor slider, or Jeter and that damned flip play (why didn’t Jeremy Giambi slide?) – but sadly those plays are forever emblazoned on my amygdala like other traumas. For many Giants fans, their recent success certainly represents the best Giants teams of their lives and by today’s standards measures up as a dynasty with the ’96 to 2000 Yankees. While it is much easier to get to the post-season nowadays, it is considerably harder to win the World Series once you get there. Look at the 2014 champs who had to win a one game playoff followed by three more series comprising 16 more games before they could call themselves the best in the world. A run like that involves some good luck to be sure – getting hot at the right time – and luck that comes from already having assembled an excellent team. But Buster Posey’s Giants aren’t even close to the top three Giants dynasties in their history and that is something to be proud of if you’re a fan who wears the black cap with the orange “SF” on the brim.
   

Author: elfuego25

When I'm not writing about baseball (or shoving kettle corn into my mouth at the ballpark), I am probably walking Daisy, who is a very good dog, researching my Portuguese-Irish roots, or wondering when my lovely wife will return from her latest fabulous trip. Yes, life is good!

5 thoughts on “From the NY Gothams to the San Francisco Giants – is this the best run ever for the Bay Area boys?”

  1. My nephew Eli is a great kid, but can sometimes be a snot-nosed, insufferable bastard when it comes to gloating about his Giants. He really started paying attention to baseball just when the Giants won their first championship, and now he has two more in the bag as well, all before turning 14 years old. He continually lords it over all Padres fans like myself. Therefore, the black eye I gave him last year was, in my opinion, completely justified ;-).

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  2. I imagine you are looking forward to the day when he has a reason to return the favor? 😉 At least as a Padres fan you got to watch your boys in the World Series recently enough that you can still remember it. Good luck to Eli and to your Padres.

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  3. Jim – just stumbled on to your blog this is great stuff! I'm a big fan of the whole “dyansty” thing; more so for the NFL, but baseball as well. I'm sure you've checked out Bill James' dynasty point-based system (6 points for winning World Series, 5 for pennant, etc.); would be interesting to see how those Giants teams fare using that system. In any event, great read, thanks.

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  4. Hi Tom! Thanks for stopping by. I am a big fan of Bill James and always looked forward to the Abstract coming out each year. I use his 2016 handbook to help me research my articles. Yet, I had not heard of his dynasty point-based system. I will most definitely check it out.
    Thanks again!
    Jim

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  5. Did some searching and found this:

    http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2014/10/23/7028159/san-francisco-giants-world-series-baseball-dynasty

    Looks like that system is in a book called the “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract”.

    I've messed around with this stuff A LOT for NFL dynasties, and as far as ranking them goes, the hardest part is defining the beginnings and endings…so is the Giants dynasty still going on? If the don't get into the playoffs this year (seems unlikely) is the dynasty over? Anyway, great read, I'll be back!

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