Trifecta II

New York Giants members Fred Merkle, Larry Doyle, Christy Mathewson, John McGraw, and Fred Snodgrass in 1912

I mentioned in an earlier post that two teams managed to lose three World Series’ in a row. One was the Detroit Tigers of 1907-09. The earlier post talked about them. It’s time to turn to the other team, the 1911-13 New York Giants.

The Giants were a standard John McGraw team. They had great pitching, solid defense (for the era), and stole a ton of bases. The dominated utterly the National League for the three-year period. They were first in 1911 by 7.5 games, led the NL in batting average, OBP, slugging, stolen bases, and RBIs. They were second in hits, doubles, triples, and managed to finish second in runs scored by a total of one. In 1912 they won the pennant by 10 games, with second baseman Larry Doyle winning the Chalmers Award (an early version of the MVP). They were first in average, OBP, runs (by about 75), and stolen bases. They finished second in slugging and third in hits. The 1913 season saw them take the pennant by 12.5 games, but they led the NL only in average and stolen bases.

It was the pitching that was most famous.  Hall of Famers Christy Mathewson and Rube Marquard led a staff that gave up the least runs, the least earned runs, the least walks, and struck out the most opponents in 1911. They repeated, except for strikeouts where they were second, all those numbers in both 1912 and 1913. Marquard led the league in strikeouts in 1911 and in wins in 1912, setting a consecutive wins record. Mathewson led the league in ERA in both 1911 and 1913 while managing to walk at total of 93 men ( a peak of 38 in 1911) over 923 innings. That’s about one man every 10 innings.

But they lost the World Series in 1911 to the Philadelphia Athletics four games to two. The A;s out hit them .244 to .175 and Frank Baker became “Home Run” Baker with two crucial homers. The 1912 World Series went seven games (eight because of a tie) with game seven (the eighth played) becoming one of the more famous World Series games. The Giants actually outhit and outpitched the Red Sox if you look just at the stats, but much of that came in game six (seventh played) when the Giants won 11-4 and gathered 16 hits. The 1913 A’s didn’t mess around in the Series, dispatching the Giants in five games (Mathewson getting the Giants win). They outhit New York by sixty points, got two home runs (one by Baker) to one by the Giants and had more doubles and triples. The A’s ERA was a full point and a half better. They walked fewer men, struck out more than double the number the Giants’ pitchers recorded. The Athletics were held under six runs twice, a game two shutout loss and in game five when they got only three runs (to New York’s one).

What went wrong? Well, a couple of things. First the Giants were winning big in a league that was falling behind their opponents. The Philadelphia Athletics of 1911-14 were a truly great team and being knocked off by them was no shame. The 1912 Series is a little hard to figure. The Red Sox were something of a fluke (the 1915-18 team was better and only a few of the pieces were there in 1912). They did manage to hold the Giants in check except for one game and never won a game by more than two runs.

It was the end of the line for the Giants. They fell back behind the Braves in 1914, stayed out of the limelight until 1917 when they won another pennant (and suffered another World Series loss to Boston). They won again in 1921 and 1922. Those were McGraw’s last Series triumphs.


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