Saturday, May 16, 2015

2nd inning: 11-7

Reversing their 1st seasonal inning exactly the Giants fought their way back to .500 by Game 36. A spectacular 10-2 thumping of the Reds in Cincy behind Bum and some bombs brought the 2nd inning to a close at 11-7, flipping the 7-11 result from the 1st.

Despite a few recent surges, the Giants still don't score a hell of a lot of runs. Currently they are at 125 for the season, second from the bottom in the NL. At 3.47 rpg, the team is about half a run away from a competent attack--the current league average is 4.16 rpg. Here are the ugly numbers: 32 GIDP to top the NL and 279 LOB, also tops. That's a lot of blown chances. The flip side is that they are putting guys on base and putting the ball in play. Here are more numbers: sixth in hits with 323, fifth in walks with 113, and 249 strikeouts, the second-fewest. What's cool is the distribution of bases on balls: 16 apiece for Buster and Aoki, 14 for Panik, 13 for Craw, 11 for Belt, and 10 for Blanco. The Giants only have one great hitter, but they have a heap o'guys who do a lot of things well. The organization likes versatility and expects their players to man their position with aplomb and be able to get a hit, work a walk, move a runner over, lay down a bunt, steal a base, etc. It's the slow, steady, attritional work of carpenter ants and not the flash and bang of a demolition crew. Either way your house can fall down, am I right?

Reasons for optimism are plenty as the team has won as many games this month (9) as they did in all of April. They rate well enough in wOBA (.312, seventh), wRC+ (100, tied with two other teams for second), and OPS+ (97, seventh) to suggest that some of the low offensive numbers are park effects. If they can hit close to the middle of the pack all season long they will be fine. I like what we are seeing from Brandon Crawford and am not surprised by his improved hitting as he has gotten better every season with astonishing regularity. Who knows how high this guy can go? I'm happy Brandon Belt has had some recent success as now his numbers are closer to expectations. He reminds me a lot of Chili Davis--I remember him going in blazing stretches where he looked like Mickey Mantle and then matching those with total blindness for a week or more. Belt has that "now-you-see-him-now-you-don't" vibe going on, but in total he's a hell of a good player. Gregor Blanco is another under-appreciated fellow, right now he is fifth on the club in OPS, ahead of Pagan, Duffy, Aoki, Maxwell, and McGehee. Speaking of Casey Without A Bat, the poor man is a black hole at .191/.248/.287 for a .535 OPS. That's negative WAR territory. With Matt Duffy playing well maybe he can create some value as a quality backup and channel Edgar Renteria if they make the post-season. Hector Sanchez was the only one doing worse at the plate and he was optioned to AAA to make room for Hunter Pence.
The Giants have allowed 135 runs. That's ten more than they've scored and why they are a .500 team. That's the fifth-best in the NL, however. Only the Cardinals, Mets, Dodgers, and Pirates are better. It seems like the pitching is worse than it is. We know both Tim Hudson and Ryan Vogelsong have some ugly-looking numbers but we've seen that they can both still deliver strong outings. Tim Lincecum, Chris Heston, and Madison Bumgarner have been The Big Three so far. In the 'pen we've seen generally excellent work by the usual suspects. Sergio Romo perhaps embodies the feeling that things aren't 100% as he has 19 strikeouts in his 11 IP but also nine hits, five walks, and six runs. With a little more consistency from the whole squad we could see an uptick in results. Strikeouts are way low (7.0K/9, next-to-last) but walks allowed are good (2.8BB/9, fifth-best). as are hits (8.4H/9, fourth). FanGraphs saber-stats don't like the Giants much, ranking them in the middle of the pack mostly, but I think with the small sample size and the early struggles that's not a concern. There are some ugly box scores that have to get averaged out! With Jake Peavy and, we hope, Matt Cain in the wings the show will go on even if the cast changes a bit.

The 18-18 Giants find themselves 5-1/2 back of the 23-12 Los Angeles Dodgers who are killing it on both sides of the ball this month (84 RS, 44 RA, .714 win pct.) Their lineup is on a blistering home run pace (54 so far) and leading the league in OPS by 100 points. Their pitchers are leading the league in strikeouts (321) and have allowed the fewest hits (274). San Francisco has to keep pace and also has to fend off a challenge by the pesky San Diego Padres who are 19-18 and a half-game up. It's obviously very early in the season but teams can ride a hot start to a title as well the Giants know so it behooves them to avoid losing streaks and other long stretches of poor play. LA won 96 last year and it looks equally potent this year. They'll cool off naturally, all teams do. Let's hope the Giants are ready to streak past them when that time comes.

 Two more in Cincinnati and then home for three with the Dodgers after on off-day Monday.




obsessivegiantscompulsive said...

FYI, the Giants in the second inning averaged 4.0 runs per game, so things are already looking average. That was roughly their average in the absence of Pence, and where they should have been, had they not struggled collectively, early. But losing your second best hitter can do that to teams sometimes.

Great observation about their hitting. I was noticing the same thing, as the walks help to achieve high OBP production, which is the common link among recent additions to the lineup, Panik, Aoki, McGehee, with other existing lineup guys, Pagan, Posey, Pence, Belt, who also get on base a lot, and bench guy like Blanco, whose value is getting on base.

But that makes it hard to drive in runs, as there is not a lot of power, mainly Pence, Posey, Belt.

And that was what was missing in the first inning, Pence out, Belt either out or recovering, and Posey continuing his string of slow power starts.

But now that the three are together again, I think they can not only be middle of the pack, but above average, like they were last season. It may not seem like it, as the offense is as poor as prior seasons, but basically the NL offensive environment has slowly falling over the years, while the Giants have held steady relatively.

So great post, great performance by the Giants, and a lot of hopeful signs.

I think the first step is secure a wild card "spot", then we can think about taking on the Bridegrooms great record. But no team sustains a 16-4 start all season long, maybe 13-6 is more realistic, so 3 games of their lead is likely to dissipate in the long season.

Go Giants!

M.C. O'Connor said...

And 11 runs tonight! I like it.

Anonymous said...

And the LADs down by 6 tonight, going into the 9th--a wasted Greinke start for them--while both Arizona and SD also lost. Also another good start for Vogelsong, despite some wildness.

campanari said...

I don't know about the inning approach. But I do know that if the Giants play the rest of the season with the same W/L rate as they have already played since their 8-game losing streak, they are highly likely to win the West. They are a shade below winning 2/3 of the time since then, and to continue at that pace would bring them over 95 wins. Of course they've been doing this minus two SPs and Pence, and with McGehee a shambles.

Baseball has too many imponderables for one to expect that they'll keep on playing at the W/L rate that they've been maintaining; but it's hardly mindless, grinning optimism to imagine they can. For nearly a month now, against a variety of teams in a variety of parks, they have shown they can.

nomisnala said...

The giants have scored way under their predicted runs based on their OPS even with a minimum of power. The giants do lead the league in triples. The reason is they are making too many outs, the 32 double plays, and the runners making unnecessary outs, either caught stealing in an attempt to stop the double play from happening. They are also a station to station team. Eventually they will have to get more hits with runners on, if they keep putting runners on. A typical giants inning of failure earlier in the season might look like this. A lead off triple. A strike out, a walk and a GIDP. The giants in some games loaded the bases 3 times and came up empty, often with less than 2 outs. I wonder if anyone has run the true stats, of how many games Casey McGehee has cost this team so far. If you have an out, and then you get two hits, and the next guy hits into a DP, you don't score. Then you start the next inning with two hits, another DP, a wild pitch, a walk, and then a lazy ground ball to second for the third out. Last year the Giants did well with Sac Flies. Hits would have been better, but this year they can't seem to muster the less than two out runner on third, sac fly. The hope is that much of what occurred has been a statistical anomaly and the giants will score runs in droves.

campanari said...

And yet. And yet over the last four weeks or so they have been winning more than any other NL team, haven't they? Without the luck that would correct a "statistical anomaly," they have been beating their rivals, sputtering and plodding their way to an enviable recovery from a start that was disastrous.

campanari said...

Now at 3.8+ runs per game, after scoring 30 in three giddy days at the Great American Smallpark!

Zo said...

The "innings" are a great way to pause and look at things. But, they are kind of artificial breakpoints. We just finished a road trip at 4-2 after a 7-3 homestand. That's some good baseball!