Strike One -- They Left Their Bats On The Parade Floats Dept.
If life was just one big pitch-off, the 2011 Giants would still be headed for October, just like the champs who came before them.
But the powers that be in this sport continue to insist that these Giants have to hit, too. And that half of their equation isn't working out so hot.
Until now, though, we bet you never realized just how un-hot it was.
Well, here goes. The 2011 Giants are averaging a mind-boggling 3.39 runs per game. Which means that, if they keep this up, they're going to score a mere 550 runs this year. And friends, that's not good. But here's how really, really not good it is:
• Only three teams in the last quarter-century have scored 550 runs or fewer in any full season.
One was last year's historically inept Mariners, who scored 513 -- and lost 101 games.
The second was Jose Offerman's 1992 Dodgers, who scored 548, lost 99 games and had one player on the roster (Eric Karros) who drove in more than 39 runs.
The third was Jeff Stone's 1988 Orioles. That team scored exactly 550. It also lost 21 games in a row to kick off the season and finished up 54-107.
But to link these Giants with those teams makes it sound as if at least they have a little company. And that's misleading. Why? Because this is THE WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS we're talking about. That's why.
And the fact is, no defending champs IN THE HISTORY OF BASEBALL have ever had as much trouble crossing home plate as this team.
If we ignore complications like labor debacles, you know the last team to win the World Series one year and score 550 runs or fewer the next year? That would be Nemo Leibold's 1918 White Sox. They scored a mere 457. But because of World War 1, their season was shortened to 124 games. So they scored 3.69 a game -- way more than these Giants.
If we look at "full" seasons, then, the only other defending champs that's even in this neighborhood was Doc Hoblitzell's 1916 Red Sox. They scored 550 on the nose. But that was in 156 games -- which computes to 3.53 a game. And you don't need a TI-84 to know that also would be considerably more than these Giants.
So if you catch our drift, by now you've figured this out. Barring a monumental offensive resurgence in the next three weeks, the 2011 Giants are going down in history -- by scoring fewer runs per game THAN ANY INCUMBENT WORLD SERIES WINNER EVER.
And again, that was EVER. In the live-ball era. In the dead-ball era. In any era. EVER.
Now it's still possible, technically, for them to avoid that fate. But by our calculations, they're going to have to score 91 runs in their last 20 games to do that -- a level of offensive eptitude they've reached in just one 20-game stretch all year (late June, early July). And if they don't reach it again, well, we have a feeling we won't be talking about Doc Hoblitzell and his 1916 Red Sox next year at this time -- or any year at this time.
Strike Two -- Zero Hero Dept.
You might recall that Eugenio Velez was a proud, if not necessarily integral, member of those 2010 Giants. Well, even though he's in L.A. now, whatever black offensive plague those Giants caught, he clearly has also contracted.
The Dodgers brought Velez to the big leagues in July. And every day that's gone by since has had one thing in common:
He hasn't gotten a hit in any of them.
He's now 0 for 30 for the year. And that inspired loyal reader Michael Kealey to ask: Has any position player ever gone hitless in a season when he had that many at-bats?
And the answer is yes -- but just barely.
Once upon a time, Hal Finney, a backup catcher for Pep Young's 1936 Pirates, went through his season of Zero Hero fame by going an action-unpacked 0 for 35. And for the last 75 years, he's barely been seriously challenged -- except by a bunch of pitchers who couldn't be held responsible.
Now, though, along comes Eugenio Velez, to pull within five at-bats of him. The good news for Velez is, he's made more contact during this streak than you'd think -- striking out in only seven of those 30 trips. The bad news is, that still makes his BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) a picturesque .000.
We guess you could make a case he's therefore been "unlucky." But this just in: If he roars past the legendary Hal Finney, the Zero Hero judges will not be allowed to cite his BABIP luck factor. We're making that official announcement right now, because clearly, the Hal Finney countdown has a chance to consume all of us in these final, pennant-race-free weeks of another historic baseball season.
Strike Three -- Useless Info Dept.
In other news
• The first cycle of the season was authored by -- who else? -- George Kottaras. Bet you didn't know he was only the second backup catcher in the live-ball era to hit for a cycle. The other: Buddy Rosar, who was Bill Dickey's backup on the 1940 Yankees.
• As loyal reader Chris Isidore reports, FIVE players have had multi-homer games this year before their 22nd birthday: Jesus Montero, Eric Hosmer, Freddie Freeman, Mike Trout and Mike Stanton. Last time that happened in any season: 1965, when the five who did it were Joe Morgan, Tony Conigliaro, Ed Kranepool, Ron Swoboda and Curt Blefary.
• The Red Sox have now won a 14-0 game, a 14-1 game and a 16-4 game IN Toronto this year. So how many times in the live-ball era have the Red Sox beaten the same team by at least 12 runs three times in one season? That would be never.
• In that 14-0 wipeout Tuesday, the Red Sox erupted for nine doubles and two homers. Last time they had at least nine doubles and two home runs in the same game: June 8, 1950, in a 29-4 squashing of the St. Louis Browns.
• Since arriving on this side of the Pacific, Hiroki Kuroda had made 112 starts for the Dodgers (counting the postseason) and never allowed more than two home runs in any of those games. Then, of course, he served up three in the first INNING Monday in Washington.
• Box-score line of the week: A day after allowing three home runs in one inning, Phillies reliever David Herndon spun this classic Sunday in Florida: 3 2/3 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 7 BB, 5 intentional BB, 0 K, 1 HBP. According to baseball-reference.com's fabulous Play Index, he was the first reliever to issue five intentional walks in one game since Lynn McGlothen on July 19, 1975 and the second ever to do it in an outing that short. Even more impressive, Herndon was just the third reliever in the live-ball era to allow 12 baserunners in an outing that short and still only give up ONE run. Last to do it: Robin Roberts, on Sept. 10, 1957.
• Vance Worley has now made 20 career starts. The Phillies have won 17 of them. Want to guess the last team to go 17-3 in ANY pitcher's first 20 career starts. Good luck. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the pitcher was -- ta-taaaa -- Bob Wickman, for the 1992-93 Yankees. You were expecting maybe Pedro Martinez?
• And the always-inventive Rany Jazayerli reports that if Melky Cabrera just hits one more double this year, the Royals will become the first team in the history of baseball to have all three outfielders (Cabrera, Alex Gordon and Jeff Francoeur) hit at least 40 doubles in the same season. Of course they will!
Remember, our September History Watch will be rocking all month. So feel free to send your own potential history makers to firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet them at us at @jaysonst.