San Francisco baseball fans are already making room for another Commissioner’s Trophy–awarded to the World Series Champion– not because of the team’s newest additions (Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Denard Span), but because it is an even year.
The San Francisco Giants were World Champions in each of the past three even-numbered years (2010, 2012, 2014), while failing to make postseason appearances in 2011, 2013 and 2015. But the Giants’ even year trend is not exactly a recent phenomenon. Tracing back to 1998, the Giants’ win percentage in even years has been .026 better, which equates to about four more wins per season.
What contributed to this even-year pattern from 2010 to 2015? Let’s take a look:
2010: The Giants’ first World Series championship since 1954 and their first since relocating to San Francisco from New York City in 1958. This season marked San Fran’s beloved Buster Posey’s ascension to fame, while Aubrey Huff led the team in homers (26), RBIs (86) and OBP (.385).
2011: The season of injury– During this odd-numbered year, the Giants lost players for a combined 971 days to the Disabled List (DL), 13 percent higher than the MLB average. Posey, the reigning National League Rookie of the Year, suffered brutal ankle ligament tears and a fractured leg in a home plate collision with Florida’s Scott Cousins. Pablo Sandoval (hamate bone), Freddy Sanchez (dislocated shoulder) and Barry Zito (shoulder) all spent significant time on the DL.
2012: Posey bounces back and veteran pitching leads to major playoff comebacks–On June 13, Matt Cain pitched the first perfect game in Giants franchise history. The team got a 15-win season out of 34-year-old Zito and another 14 wins from 34-year-old Ryan Vogelsong. In the Division Series, the Giants faced a 2-0 game deficit against the Reds, but came back to claim the division by winning three straight in Cincinnati. The comeback boys pulled it off again in the NLCS. The Giants found themselves in a 3-1 game deficit against the Cardinals, but came back to beat St. Louis in seven games to move on to the World Series. The World Series sweep ended with Tigers’ Triple Crown winner, Miguel Cabrera, staring at a called third strike from Sergio Romo. These exciting comebacks, combined with Sandoval’s three-homer playoff game, made for an action-packed even-year success story. Posey was also named NL Comeback Player of the Year and NL MVP and won the Silver Slugger Award for the catcher position.
2013: Veteran pitching and offensive failures– Matt Cain consistently got “Cained” this season, pitching 2.93 ERA ball, while not receiving enough run support to back him up. The offense scored zero or one run in 37 games. All explained by the fact that it was an odd year.
2014: MadBum put the team on his back– Madison Bumgarner set his career high in wins (18), innings pitched (217 1/3), and strikeouts (219). Nobody wanted to face MadBum in the playoffs. He annihilated his competition in the postseason with a 1.03 ERA in 52 2/3 innings. He pitched the final five innings of Game 7 of the World Series on two days rest. Rookie Joe Panik averaged .305 in 73 games.
2015: Post-prime talent and injured pitchers– 30-plus year-olds Casey McGehee (32), Jake Peavy (34), and Nori Aoki (33) delivered underwhelming performances, while Cain, Peavy, Lincecum and 39-year-old Tim Hudson all spent substantial time on the DL. 2015 was not the Giants season. But fans stayed calm, knowing that the upcoming even-numbered season would be theirs.
2016 Prediction–The San Francisco Giants and fans hope to continue this trend this season, and things are looking good following the acquisitions of Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Denard Span. The Giants started off the even year with a dominating 12-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers on Opening Day. The Giants’ bats were on fire, especially Span, Panik and Posey’s, who hit three homers in a row in the eighth inning, making the Giants the first team to go back-to-back-to-back on Opening Day since the Padres in 1997.
The lineup is stacked offensively. The only question marks remaining are if starting pitching will hold up and, as always, if the team remains healthy. In any event, Giants fans remain optimistic because, after all, 2016 is an even year!