Tuesday, June 28, 2011


There has been a lot of talk (loose and otherwise) about the idea of dismantling divisions in search of something... anything new--as if "new and improved!" actually meant that.

This is likely just another example of Budzilla leaking some ideas to the press in order to see how people react (though this motive was a bit different when the world's luckiest used car salesman was spewing his swill about contraction). But just in case it isn't, it's time for me to jump in with both feet and take the discussion into a realm stranger than any visited by any of the various members of the Starship Free Enterprise.

Let's start with the premise that leagues and divisions should be preserved as they are now as opposed to the free-for-all that has been suggested. They will be preserved, but at the same time subverted. That's what Budzilla did when he introduced inter-league play, something that became tiresome within a few years and has now been bedraggled into some of the sillier sabermetric efforts to characterize the relative strengths of the leagues.

Yes, you can own a moral imperative--but the moral
high ground is out of stock...
In any event, our subversion will be, for lack of a better phrase, more subversive. It will strain the bounds of credulity due to its overactive and overheated double-entry method for awarding the extra wild card teams that Budzilla and the suits at the networks seem determined to cram down our throats.

Forget about the idea of just having 30 teams go at it head-to-head. That's a messy schedule, even messier that the spaghettini of the present day. It can't be balanced, and since there is no balance possible in a baseball universe comprised of 30 teams (could it be that Budzilla refuses to expand because there just aren't enough reputable multi-millionaires left in the world to own franchises? Was contraction actually a moral imperative? Insert bitter laugh track here...).

What we want is a schedule that combines the notion of everyone playing everyone else and a race within divisions. What we need in order to do this is a double-entry standings system which preserves the standard way of winning divisions and wild card but adds a divisional sub-component for awarding the second and third wild card teams in each league.

Got that? OK, here's a chart that demonstrates it. We use the results from the 2010 AL to keep the ping-pong ball suspended in mid-air. You've got division winners (in orange). You've got a wild card team (in yellow). That's the same old schtuff you've been seeing for years now. What's new (and improved!) is the divisional overlay, the double entry standings that permit teams who otherwise aren't quite going to make the grade to enter into the post-season by excelling within their own division.

The teams in green shading at the right--the Blue Jays and the Angels--are the two teams not already in the post-season through the front door with the best divisional records.

Now you could argue (and you doubtless will...) that the teams that should be the extra wild card teams are the ones who had the best overall won-loss records after the top four teams. My counterarguments are two: 1) that's the boring, conventional way to do it; 2) paying attention to the divisions will be more interesting once we introduce the other schedule wrinkle.

Brows suitably knitted? OK, here's how we do it. We overlay the idea that everyone plays everyone: each team plays the other 29 in two two-game (home and away) series. That totals 116 games. The other 46 games are played back inside the divisions. Those games, plus the inter-division games that occur due to the mandate of everyone playing everyone, count in the standings as a secondary selection system for the extra wild card teams.

The theory is that teams will keep playing harder, especially within their own division, once they realize that they can make the playoffs by excelling within a subset of the season.

While the 2010 example doesn't show the actual number of games that would be played in each division under the proposed system, we'll take the results from the intra-divisional standings to create a six-team postseason: for purposes of our next travesty, we'll single out the Rays, Jays, Yankees, Twins, Rangers, and Angels.

So here's the next twist. There are no play-in series. There are three best-of-five first round series, each pitting a wild card team against a division winner, with the latter team getting the home field advantage.

But...but--that leaves three teams for the second round! Well, yes, it does. How the heck does that work? It works as a round-robin tournament, that's how it works.

(In the old days when we wrote this type of stuff, it was in a book--a very thick book that folks were loath to throw across the room due to possible orthopedic consequences. Now, with blogs, life is much better: you can simply throw your lap-top or mobile device across the room. Ready, aim, chuck!)

OK, those of you who are left, in unison: how the hell can a round-robin tournament work?

Actually, it works really well. Let's presume for purpose of fleshing this out that the three teams that make it to the second round are the Rays, Yankees, and Rangers. What you do is take all three teams to the same city--in this case Tampa Bay, home of the team with the best in-season won-loss record. There the Rays have two home games, against the Yankees and Rangers. After a day off, the series moves to New York, where the Yankees have two home games against the Rays and Rangers. After another day off, the series moves to Texas, where the Rangers have at least two home games against the Yankees and Rays. If one team hasn't won four games at this point, the series continues back to Tampa for two more games. And so on, until someone wins four games. If you lose four games, you are out.

The sample result shows you how it works. The tension builds up in triplicate. Note, though, that this sample was picked to highlight a scenario that might produce some objections on the grounds of fairness. The Rays, battling back from 0-3, don't get a chance to win their fourth game because the Rangers get there first. Unfair?

Actually, no. The Rays had six chances to win four games. So did the Rangers, who managed to do just that. It's baseball's newest innovation: its own version of the pocket veto. If you get there first in the same number of games--well, that's how it goes sometimes.

Of course, it's not likely that this scenario will occur all that often. Some of you with advanced wise guy tendencies, however, are probably wondering what the heck happens in the above scenario if the Yankees actually win that last game from the Rangers. If they do that, the three teams have identical 3-3 records.

So how the heck do you have a single playoff game that gives all three teams a chance to win their fourth game at the same time? Once again, Goode Olde Malcolm has painted himself into a corner. (Or, should we say, painted three teams into a corner all at once.)

Fear not, for here is the greatest "new and improved!" innovation yet. You simply have all three teams play in the game against each other!

"Uh...Don??" "Just how do they do that?" "Can I have some of what you're smoking??"

It's simple. Each "inning" consists of three home-away matchups--NYY/TEX, TEX/TBR, TBR/NYY. There are a total of four of these (though I'm open to it being five). Teams are allowed to start two different pitchers and use differing lineups in each of the two "games" they are playing. That way there's no random luck involved in when batters and pitchers appear against each other. Each team gets eight times up, eight times in the field.

A very special scorecard will be required in order to keep track of what's going on, and a whole new scoreboard arrangement will be necessary.

OK, it's not simple. (Though it's a lot easier than keeping track of the three separate scores that this "troika game" produces--let's see: the Yankees beat Texas 5-2; the Rays beat Texas 3-2; the Rays beat the Yankees 2-1.) But it's kind of amazing to superimpose two separate games on top of each other and get one result. Two lineup cards, two separate pitchers, two chances for Mariano Rivera to earn a save.

Now this is what baseball ought to trot out there for the fans--something new and improved! Well, something new and different, at least. Something that no one has seen before! Baseball needs to have its own version of a jubilee year, and free itself from its own preconceptions and knee-jerk traditions. A number of new strategies could emerge from such a playoff system, and once in a blue moon we will have a three-way free-for-all game such as the one described above.

I guarantee you: if you ever saw a game such as the one described above, you would never--never, never ever--forget it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


It is disgustingly simple (though not as simple as looking at average runs scored per game).

We want to look at what the average winning percentage in baseball during any single year (from 1901 to the present) when the team scores four runs or less.

The higher the aggregate WPCT, the lower the run scoring basis for the league is in that given year. The opposite applies as well: the higher the runs scoring, the lower the aggregate WPCT.

The "normal operating range" for this value is between 275 and .325, with occasional spikes of deadball-style performance (remember, it's an inverse relationship, so we're looking at above .325 WPCT years--with 1968 sticking out as the year of years...in case you're wondering, that's a .362 WPCT for games with 4- runs scored) and extra-lively performance (the 20s and 30s, the 90s and the 00s).

As the chart shows us, the recent reversal began in 2008, and the increase from 2009 to 2010 was actually about twice as much (.020) as the increase between 2010 and this year (thus far).

We'll look at the percentages of games in the 4- runs bucket and the 5+ runs bucket soon, but for now realize that in terms of effective run scoring, offense is simply getting back into line with the historical average (teams win just a shade under 30% of the time when they score four runs or less).

Sunday, June 19, 2011


The loss of Josh Johnson is a major reason why
the Florida Marlins have been free-fallin'...
While we were all elsewhere watching, the Florida Marlins have thrown their season into reverse. That grinding sound is what you hear when a team shifts while still moving...

So, the question 'round the mulberry bush is: what happened?

The answer is that the Fish pitchers stopped pitching. (Losing Josh Johnson didn't help.) In the last 21 games through June 18, Florida's hurlers have posted a 5.69 ERA--and this in what the glibocracy has taken to calling the "new deadball era." (Not--and certainly not if the Fish keep up this "pace." They seem to be doing whatever they can to reverse that trend all by themselves.)

But, as is usually the case around here, that led to a larger question. Just how often does a team go 2-19 over a 21-game run? Thanks to Forman et fils, we can answer that question (though--Sean...Mr. Chairman--you can make this easier to do than how things are currently set up: remember who gave ya yer first break...).

IT turns out that 2-19 isn't all that uncommon. The chart at right shows the worst 21-game stretches over the past dozen years (2000-2011). In seven of those twelve years, there has been at least one team who has tanked down to this level of decrepitude.

What makes things a bit different in 2011, however, is that the Fish were 29-19 when this 500-mile stretch of bad road came up to greet them. When you look over the winning percentages of the teams appearing on this list, there is only one other playing .600 ball when they suddenly vaporized more than a tenth of the season.

Who was that, you ask? The 2006 Arizona Diamondbacks, who were 34-22 when they hit the skids.

The key characteristic of these teams when they go bad is that their pitching goes south. In the case of the 2007 Orioles (who actually won three games), the pitching is more like T-ball. I mean, jeez, 196 runs in 21 games--hell, even the 1930 Phillies weren't givin' them up that fast.

(Check out those 2006 Cubs, though. 3-18 but they were projected to win nine games. That has to be some of the most concentrated examples of bad luck in a season--we're going to have to look more closely at that sometime.)

All this brings up, of course, another question. Just how many teams have actually been worse than 2-19 over a 21-game stretch? Has anybody actually lost at 21 games?

The answer is: hell yes, somebody did. Two somebodies became nobodies in just this fashion. The most recent: the 1988 Orioles (roll over, George Will). As shown in the chart at left, they joined the 1961 Phillies in the long walk off a short pier department.

Some of these teams were only respectably bad (and I think we know how they got that way). But there are several of the worst teams in the history of baseball (OK, not our old pals the Cleveland Spiders--we'll have to break out their season sometime, too). You can tell which teams are in the deepest part of the slag heap by noting which of them have not one, but two separate 1-20 stretches during the same season.

Yes, the 1916 Philadelphia A's and the 1935 Boston Bees are clearly in a league of their own. (Note that the A's 1-20 streaks are adjacent to one another, meaning that they went 2-40 over that stretch. Outside of those Spiders, this has got to be the worst fourth of a season ever turned in--even the Bees went 7-35 in their worst 42-game stretch!)

Our last chart shows the distribution of fewest wins over any 21-game stretch in all seasons from 1901 to the present. The range is 0 to 4. The average crept upward by decade until the 1960s, and then has declined a bit ever since. There hasn't been a year where the lowest 21-game win total was 4 since 1986.

Of course, the Fish still have a chance to get to 1-20 (they are 1-18 in June). No one other than Anibal Sanchez has won a game for them since Memorial Day. As Chester A. Riley used to say, it's a revoltin' development...

Friday, June 17, 2011


Jemile Weeks, off to the races...
It only took seven big-league games for Jemile Weeks, the speedy little rookie second baseman for the Oakland A's, to add his name to a very short list of players.

When Weeks hit his third career triple in his seventh big-league game, he became only the fourth player to do so (at least based on what we know from the Retrosheet data available in vagariously sortable form from Forman et fils).

There is a problem, however. Turns out that the other players who've managed this feat aren't exactly ones whose careers panned out (at least for the folks that we know about...without the play-by-play data prior to 1919, we won't know if Ty Cobb or Sam Crawford or any number of deadball-era players whose triples were as much about power as they were about speed got off to rip-roarin' start in the three-bagger department).

Prior to Jemile, here are the three chimps who hit three triples in their first seven games. We're going to do it in reverse order of the number of games required to do it....


Nope, not Mack Hillis. This is Ali Hillis, with whom getting to
third base might be more interesting--if she'd just lose
the pooch (and who the hell names a dog Chloe, anyway?)
Hillis was a career minor-league second baseman who played at total of twelve major-league games, one with the Yankees in 1924 and eleven with the Pirates in 1928. His three triples came in games three, four and seven. Called up by the Bucs due to an injury to starting second baseman Sparky Adams, Hillis was sent back out after the game in which he hit triple #3. He returned in September, but was given only two more starts. He wound up in the PCL in 1929 and would later spawn a great-granddaughter with nice curves and lamentable taste in canines.

Adam Piatt, in an all-too-characteristic pose...


Piatt was part of the crop of prospects that fueled the Oakland A's in the late 90s. In 1999 he set the Texas League on fire (.345, 1.155 OPS, 39 HRs, 90 XBH) and split the 2000 season with the A's and in AAA.  Called up to replace the struggling John Jaha (who'd hit 35 HRs the year before when the A's had their quintessential "Ken Phelps All-Star" squad and flirted with the playoffs), Piatt tripled in his fourth game and hit two in his fifth.

He wound up with five for the season, and hit exactly one more in his major league career, which ended in 2003.


Now, surely you've heard of Mike Gates?? Mike is the only guy whose early-career triples spree was spread over two years.

They can't take away Mike Gates'
baseball card, either.
Brought to fill out the Expos roster in early May 1981, Gates was inserted into a laugher on May 6th, a game in which Montreal (remember, there was actually a team in Montreal??) trailed 11-1. With the score 13-1 in the ninth, Mike banged an RBI triple off our old pal Juan Eichelberger. (Back in the day when men were men, Juan faced 39 batters, including five in the ninth before being dragged from the mound. Final score: Padres 13, Expos 5.)

More than a year later (June 18, 1982, to be exact) Gates played his second big league game, and tripled off Tom Filer in the seventh. Two days later, in his fourth game, he tripled off Doug Bird.

He had one more triple on what should have been a lucky day (7/11), but a few weeks later Gates and his .598 OPS were shipped back to the minors, never to return.

But he did hit three triples in his first four major league games. Cue Fred Astaire...

* * *

OF course, if you extend things out another game or two, you start to get some pretty good players who had three triples in those immediately post-umbilical moments. How about Carl Crawford (triples in games 5-7-8) or Carlos Beltran (triple in game 7, two triples in game 8)? Or Frank Baker?? (Sorry, wrong Frank Baker: this is the guy who played for the Indians in 1970.)

Carlos Bernier, upstaged by his team's mascot...
The three-triples-in-single-digit-major-league-games list has a few more names who make it in Game 9: Gil Flores, Buddy Hassett, Jeff Heath (who actually hit a lot of triples), and Gus Suhr.

But then there's the record holder--the man with four triples in his first nine major league games: Carlos Bernier. Bernier is the most unusual guy on the list because, back on May 2, 1953, he went into his ninth career game with one triple--and then proceed to hit three in one game.

This was the guy that Jemile was trying to tie yesterday, in his ninth big-league game. He came close--he got a double, and he helped his slumping team win two in a row for the first time in recent memory. But here is another cautionary moment for those of us ready to embrace Jemile: Bernier lasted only one season in the majors, hitting just .213. Like Mack Hillis before him, Carlos wound up back in the PCL, where he thrived for many seasons.

Let's all hope that Jemile beats the rap...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Dillon Gee (Hong Kong crossover actor or porn star?) is 7-0.

Now, no, he can't be Abb Vaughn (go back aways and you'll get the reference...) but he is one of the few genuinely bright lights in the New York Mets' rather soggy 2011.

There is a lot of skepticism out there in the over-numerated world of baseball anal-y-sis concerning Dillon, however. It seems that he's living some kind of charmed life according to a series of "advanced metrics":

--Fangraphs shows that his FIP (fielding independent pitching, a formula that supposedly measures the portions of a pitcher's performance not colored by the fielders who surround him) is a good bit higher than his actual ERA.

--He's giving up far fewer HR than would be expected given his performance in the minors.

--He's having the luck of ten Irishmen (actually 9.68, but what's one-third of an Irishman among friends??) with respect to line drives: according to the data at Forman et fils, the league is hitting only .484 when hitters hit liners against him, as opposed to the league average of .718.

On the basis of this type of data, there's actually a sportswriter in New Jersey who suggested that the Mets trade Gee now while he's hot. (Perhaps the ultimate endorsement for the "wins mean nothing" approach, but somehow eat cake and having it, as it assumes that insiders--saturated with numbers-numbers--can't quite grasp the concept and will fall for the sabermetric variant of the Indian rope trick.)

What's clear from the rest of the data is that Gee is getting great run support (5.7/g) and he's pitching extremely well in his home ball park (1.77 ERA thus far.) What's equally clear is that he's not going to keep winning at this pace.

What we want to find, however, is as simple as possible a method for looking at young starting pitchers after "x" number of games and see if the data can tell us anything about how their careers will unfold. Dillon Gee has been in just seventeen games (only 14 of which have been starts). What happens when we look at the young pitchers over the past 5+ years (2006-2011) by freezing their stats after 17 games (with at least 10 GS) and see what they've done subsequently?

The big objection, of course, is that it's not enough time to know anything. In the immortal words of Eric Blore: bumblepuppy. Pitchers rise to great heights, or establish a level of major league competence, or regress/keep stumbling around in relatively short order, and things tend to shake out more logically than is often thought to be the case (even when applying "advanced metrics"). And it seems that we can get a handle on this when using only 17 games (yes, we picked it because that's just where Dillon Gee is at the moment) and at least 10 starts.

But how do we come up with a sorting mechanism that isn't already determined by results? Meaning: either by won-loss record (completely discredited), WHIP (mostly discredited), ERA (on the list of things to be discredited) and FIP (which is a "result" proxy, so we don't want to use it for this purpose, we want to let someone compare it to an approach from a different set of assumptions).

Well, we do it by taking some basic rate stats that are considered to be significant these days, such as K/9, K/W, and adding back in WHIP (eyebrows rise in consternation even as we type this), plus a few more arcane but easily computed stats such as HR/IP, and what back in the days of BBBA we liked to call POW (K/H).

If you read the text carefully, this reference will make
"sense"...if you don't and it doesn't, just dig Neo's cape 

and practice your kewpie-doll face in the mirror....
If you want to try the formula at home, first get some additional insurance, and then put this into Ye Olde Pipe and smoke it:


Yes, it's kind of a bathtub gin version of TangoTiger's construct, only it's regression-free and contains 50% less fat than the usual tub of theoretical goo that's in the refrigerated section of a neo-sabe's ideological shopping cart.

To make a long story short, we take this value and matricize it against the WHIP value. Why do we do that? Because we want to, that's why. No, actually, it's to create a set of gradations based on the comparison of the most basic non-run-based measure (WHIP) with a set of values that try to simulate a variant of the "fielding independent" suite of stats. Once we do that, we can break each group out into quintiles, and see what we get.

And what we get from this is kind of interesting. Looking at the chart of pitchers from 2006-2011 in their first 17 games (with at least 10 of them GS), we see a virtually linear descent of career evolution that radiates into the future. While it's not by any means perfect, it's still surprisingly predictive of who will be really good, who will be fair to middling, and who will be borderline at best (we like to call it "Meh", as you'll see below).

The pitchers who begin their careers with solid WHIP built into their "XK" stats (the formula designed to mimic the fielding independent data by emphasizing K/9, K/W, and the ability to keep the ball in the park) tend to roll onto a very solid level of performance (read the names in red--a few of these could probably be moved around, but it seems like a reasonably viable list...you can quibble about Dice-K if you want, but in his first two seasons with the Sox he was quite a successful pitcher. If you want to keep quibbling, we can just take the older pitchers and the Japanese pitchers out of the data and it really doesn't affect the results.)

There does seem to be a significant anomaly here, of course--some types of pitchers come up and struggle before making a big leap forward. Interesting how many of the guys over in the "5" column who turned it around despite semi-inauspicious beginnings happen to be lefties.

Rick Reed: the same number as Gee, but not really
the same guy...
So what about Dillon Gee? That's what all this hoo-hah was about. Well, he's in the 3,1 box. That's a place where pitchers do go on to solid success, but it's not a slam dunk. The question that many are asking is whether Gee's pitching profile, pitch selection strategy and execution has evolved since reaching the big leagues. The short form of that question is being stated thusly: is Dillon Gee the second coming of Rick Reed?

The answer: no, he's not. He doesn't have Rick's pinpoint control. He can probably strike out more guys if he keeps his change-up in good form. If he keeps the ball down, he can keep the ball in the park (something that Reed didn't really do).

Can he do all that? Signs are promising that he just might. He's pitched well against good teams (2.92 ERA), but he hasn't faced all the good hitting teams in the NL as yet. There is going to have to be some level of regression due to that low line-drive OPS compared to the league, but the effect of that might not be all that dramatic if he can avoid feeding his gopher.

(We're going to go back and test this method with earlier pitchers; it will probably show up here at some point...when you least expect it, of course.)

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Jon Lester
No, we're not referring to the Red Sox' current run to the top of the standings in the AL East...that is not particularly surprising even with their slow start out of the gate in 2011.

We are referring to the fact that the Boston hurlers are on a spree of hitting opposing batters with pitches that has them on a record-setting pace.

John Lackey
Jon Lester and John Lackey have been leading the charge in June. To be fair, neither man was especially prolific in the "plunk" department previously, though both men have had their years in double figures. This year, however, they've already combined for 16 HBPs with just about two-fifths of the season played.

[UPDATE 6/11: Adding Josh Beckett's 3 plunks against the Yankees last night, the Sox have 40 HBP in 62 games, putting them on pace now to plunk 104 hitters in 2011]. This would set--in fact, shatter--a modern record. (The all-time record is 109, but this dubious mark was achieved by baseball's most dubious team, the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.)

Alfredo Aceves
The return of Tim Wakefield to the starting rotation could be what locks the Sox to a new HBP mark. Tim's erratic floater may not hurt much when it lands on a ballplayer's body instead of his bat, but his HBP rate of .52 per nine innings is near the top of the list for starting pitchers.

And the Sox have Alfredo Aceves, who might see more time in the rotation. Aceves' lifetime HBP rate is .60 per nine innings. He's already plunked 5 batters this season in 37 IP.

Hit batsmen don't even out over the course of a few years; they don't appear to be random. Since Terry Francona has taken over as the Red Sox skipper, his squads have hit 612 batters [EDIT: 616 when we count Beckett's "hat trick" last night].

That gives them a lead of just under 50 HBPs over the second place team (the Texas Rangers, with 567).

As the our "HBP heat chart" (below) shows, while the numbers fluctuate from year to year--and the average number of plunks per team has fallen off by nearly 20% from 2003 through 2010--some teams just seem to have a knack for coming inside, while other teams simply put up HBP numbers that are nearly half of what the Red Sox have been "achieving" (case in point: the Atlanta Braves, who've hit only 358 batters over the past 8.4 seasons.

As you might suspect, the Sox pitchers have hit Yankee batters more than anyone else over this time span. A total of 98 Yankee batters have been plunked by Sox pitchers. The Yankees have hit 79 Red Sox hitters over that same time span.

Right now the Tampa Bay Rays hold the modern record for pitcher HBPs, with 95. (That's back in 2003, when they were still the "Devil" Rays.) The Sox are no lock for a new record, but they are clearly off to a "promising" start. It's rare for a post-season team to lead the league in HBPs, but the Sox led the league in 2004 in HBPs. (The Yankees and Phillies each led their respective leagues in 2009, and they met in the World Series.)

Maybe it pays to plunk...

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Despite the loss of Buster Posey, the San Francisco Giants are staying afloat (though the Pythagorean Winning Percentage suggests that they are doing it with mirrors). What they are trying to avoid, of course, is that infamous "June swoon" that the team always seems to have.

(So far, they are 3-1 this June. UPDATE: make that 4-1, as the amazing resurgence of Ryan Vogelsong continues.)

But just how often do the Giants actually have this "June swoon"? The way it is written about, in both mainstream and "alternative" press (and we include "blogolalia" in that "littery world" of baseball ecriture just to keep our streak of oblique references to Mark Twain intact...), you'd think the Giants do it every year like clockwork.

Maybe it's the cheap rhyme that does it. The actual history of the Giants and their record in June reveals that the "swoon in June" seems to date from the dawn of the team's transfer from New York to San Francisco. That would be 1958, when "swoons in June" were in the pocket for the gliberati who couldn't get enough of a certain set of song lyrics from My Fair Lady.

Make no mistake--the 1958 downturn in June was definitely a "swoon." The Giants came out with their hitting shoes not only on, but polished to a high sheen (a term that seems downright oxymoronic when uttered in current times). After the contests on May 31, 1958, the Giants had hit 64 HR in 44 games (a pace that would have set a new record for team HRs in a season).

Willie Mays and Orlando Cepeda had 13 HRs; Mays was hitting .402.

(41-year old Hank Sauer hit 7 HR in 12 games during April.)

They were hitting .295 as a team; Daryl Spencer (of all people) was hitting .348 with 9 HRs.

They'd scored 5.7 runs per game.

They were 27-17 and in first place.

So they were ready for what we now call a "readjustment."

They went 10-17 in June (four pitchers--Ruben Gomez, Ramon Monzant, Stu Miller, Marv Grissom--combined to go 0-12). They were 3-11 in one-run games.

The Giants regrouped in July and got back in the pennant race, even reclaiming first place on July 29th. But they lost ten out of their next eleven games as the Braves (trying to defend their '57 World Series win) took command. They would finish the season 80-74, 12 games back.

Loaded with talent during this time frame, the Giants would post an aggregate .558 WPCT over their first ten years in SF. They didn't have another June as bad as the one in 1958, but they did struggle as compared with other months: over those ten years, they were 150-142 (.514).

The real mythologizing of the Giants and the "swoon in June" would occur in the following ten-year span (1968-77) as they attempted to transition from the Mays-McCovey-Marichal era. The '71 squad was the last hurrah of the team that was built around this core, and they raced off to a great start (37-14 at the end of May).

They then proceeded to lose eight of their first nine games in June. It was the second year in a row in which they'd struggled in the early days of the month, and it cemented the "June Swoon" into something roughly akin to a "collective sub-consciousness."

In fact, the Giants did struggle a bit more in the first ten days of June. Over their first fourteen years in San Francisco (1958-71), they were 58-72 (.446) over those days. Of course, prior to their 3-13 record over 1970-71 they'd been just four games under .500--and if you removed their 2-8 mark in 1963 they were actually over .500 for all the other seasons--but that didn't matter. Like the damn rain in Spain, the Giants swoon in June.

Ed Goodson--not nearly good enough...
Any hope that this might fade from sight was crushed in 1974, when the Giants went 7-20 in June to usher in a long era of futility. It seemed as though the team had weathered its transition by developing some new players whose names began with "M"--Gary Matthews and Garry Maddox. There were other promising young hitters--Ed Goodson, Steve Ontiveros, Gary Thomasson.

Despite the ongoing decline of Juan Marichal, the Giants seemed to be developing a pretty good corps of young pitchers who could take over for him (Ron Bryant, Tom Bradley, Jim Barr, with flamethrowers John D'Acquisto and John Montefusco just over the horizon).

June 1974 put the lie to all of this optimism. None of these guys became big stars. As the Giants settled into mediocrity, their "swoon theory" stayed intact even though they played the same way in most of the other months as well.

From 1988-91, the Giants had four straight good-to-great Junes (aggregate won-loss record: 68-39). In 1992, the "swoon" was back when they went 7-19. They've had some poor Junes (who hasn't?) in the ensuing years: 1996, 2005, 2007. Those keep the myth alive, even though the Giants are only .007 below their overall WPCT from 1998-2010 in June during that time frame.

The "Swoon" is dead. Long live the "Swoon."