SAN FRANCISCO, CA: Miguel Tejada #10 of the San Francisco Giants hits a ground out that scored Pablo Sandoval #48 in the second inning against the Minnesota Twins at AT&T Park in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Mark your calendar: the 28th of June. Afternoon game.
That afternoon -- this afternoon, as I type these magical words -- is when Schierholtz singled home a run in the sixth inning and Miguel Tejada hit a solo home run in the ninth. Before those two runs, the Giants had scored exactly as many runs as they had allowed. Before that game, they had actually been outscored by a few runs this season. But 11 runs against the hapless Cubs pitchers -- Doug Davis, mostly -- eliminated the deficit, and Schierholtz and Tejada took care of the rest.
Now -- well, pending the Giants' Tuesday evening game against the Cubs -- San Francisco is two runs to the good, with that positive number, no matter how small, looking better next to their 45-34 record.
Yes, they're just numbers. But in the grand history of the game, only six teams have reached the playoffs with a negative run differential. There's a pretty good reason for this: teams who don't outscore their opponents aren't real good, and it's hard to win the 88-94 games it almost always takes to qualify for the postseason.
Granted, it's happened six times before. And perhaps not coincidentally, the last two times were in the National League West.
In 2005, the Padres were outscored by 42 runs and won the West. One caveat: they won only 82 games.
In 2007, the Diamondbacks were outscored by 20 runs and won the West with 90 wins. This was a phenomenal outcome, and a fair number of people -- smart people, even -- tried to come up with explanations that weren't dumb luck. These explanations were convincing, some of them. But the fact remains that in 2008, with almost exactly the same players and a slightly better run differential, the D'backs won 82 games. So, you can decide.
In 1987, the Twins were outscored by 20 runs and wound up winning the World Series.
In 1984, the Royals were outscored by 13 runs and took a really weak AL Central with 84 wins (and boy, did I truly love that team).
In 1981, the Royals were outscored by seven runs and qualified for the postseason, but that was the strike season and they actually finished with a losing record.
And finally, we must remember that in 1997 these same Giants -- well, a bunch of guys wearing the same laundry, more or less -- were outscored by seven runs but somehow won 90 games.
So yes, it can happen. It's not how you design the season going in, though. If you go into the season figuring on being outscored but winning two-thirds of your one-run games -- as the Giants were doing, before drubbing the Cubs this afternoon -- you will 1) fail to win two-thirds of your one-run games, because that's up to God and Allah and Odin and all the rest of them, and 2) fail to reach the playoffs 99 times out of 100. At best.
Here's some truly brilliant baseball advice, then, from an old pro ... Outscore your opponents, if you can. And if you can't, start thinking about next year.