I am growing a bit weary of the mantra that the Giants -- individually or in aggregate -- are the "unluckiest" team on the face of the earth.
Let's review the facts:
- They ended the last half of the 2016 with the worst record in baseball.
- They have started the first half of this season with the worst record in baseball, except for the pesky Phillies who at least had the decency to finish strong last season.
- Combined, this gives us the worst record in baseball for almost a full season worth of games.
Luck shows up in the short-term or in a short series. That's why the playoffs are such a crap shoot and the "best team" on paper doesn't always win.
Skill demonstrates itself over the long-term. Small sample sizes go bye bye and conclusions can be drawn.
My conclusion: This team sucks. They are not unlucky, the are lesser skilled than their opponents.
Some in the blog-osphere are coming around to this conclusion. Like Grant over at McCovey Chronicles.
from McCovey Chronicles:
The thing about bad teams is that they can keep it close. It's not like every 100-loss team is down 9-0 before the fifth inning of every game. That's not how baseball works. Most wins and losses are built incrementally. A misplay here. A missed location here. A double play with the bases loaded there. They build and build and build, and you wonder, hey, maybe this is just bad luck!
No. You have watched bad baseball before. You have watched good baseball before. This is the former. I will admit to being someone hoping for bad luck in the second half of last season, but it's been almost a full calendar year. This team is abysmal.
There is another option in play and I hesitate to bring it up because it calls into question the professionalism of the individuals involved. As Micheal Mauboussin describes in his book The Success Equation: Untangling Skill and Luck in Business, Sports and Investing if you can lose on purpose, skill dominates the activity, if you can't lose on purpose then luck likely dominates that activity.
From Michael Mauboussin:
There’s a simple and elegant test of whether there is skill in an activity: ask whether you can lose on purpose. If you can’t lose on purpose, or if it’s really hard, luck likely dominates that activity. If it’s easy to lose on purpose, skill is more important.
Could the Giants be losing on purpose? Not like throwing games on purpose, but is the team chemistry so out of whack from the glory years when this was virtually Team Chemistry to the current version that appears to be a something constructed by the young ladies from Mean Girls?
I'm just asking. It seems a little more likely than some of the other alternatives. A lot of guys are playing like they have just literally forgotten how to play baseball (Matt Moore, Derek Law, Hunter Pence). They certainly have forgotten how to play at the level they once performed at, so what gives?
In fairness, we do tend to say a winning team has "good chemistry" and the total is greater than the sum of the parts when they out-perform our expectations (some SABR types default to "luck" here).
Is it possible that since the Giants are grossly under-performing even our most modest expectations over the last full season of games that somewhere bad team chemistry is at work?
If that's the case, the Giants front-office needs to tinker with the roster. The bullpen is an absolute shambles right now. Melancon, Law, Osich all have terrible ERA/WHIP whatever your pet stat is. Osich makes me long for Will Smith and he's a big LHP who can't get LH hitters out.
The only guys I have some confidence in are Strickland, Guerrin and Kontos.
The starting pitchers are a mess. Cueto is crumbling under the weight of carrying the staff in Bumgarners absence, Samardzia, even though .he's cleaned it up lately, seems to lose his way just long enough to lose his way. Matt Moore has totally lost his way and Matt Cain is still doing it with smoke and mirrors. It's as if hitters who've been around for a few years are saying "That's Matt Cain? Really dude?" and swinging at the old Matt Cain stuff. Once they adjust, it's game over for Matty, Except that we owe him a lot of money and management seems to want to get at least some ROR on the money. Greedy capitalists!! It;s what Bernie's been telling us all along!!
Anyway, the pitchers should be suing the hitters for non-support. Or is this another example of bad luck run amok? Eight guys all swinging the bats like it was a wet newspaper or a girls purse simultaneously? What are the odds of that happening? No productive outs, no clutch 2 out RBI. Hell, most nights, hardly any RBI at all. What gives?
Maybe it's time for an intervention of some kind. We've tried a good, old-fashioned bench clearing brawl and that didn't turn out too well. Maybe Dr. Phil is available.
Or Peyton Manning: