The quest for a league average offense - How small changes can have a large effect

As this site has seemed a little downbeat recently i thought I'd introduce a fanpost to remind people that whilst our offense is awful, there is hope for change. Firstly, it's easy to forget at a specific moment in time but things change very quickly in baseball.  For example, there's a good chance that only one of the starters on opening day last year (Rowand) will be back on our team next year. So, whilst our offense is poor now there's no guarantee it will be that way forever (cue snarky Sabean comment).

Before i get on to the main part of this post, a disclaimer. This is NOT in any way a projection of what will happen, it is merely a demonstration of how changing around a poor offense isn't a lost cause. As a point of reference the Giants scored 657 runs last season, with the average in the NL being 718. That means, we needed to have scored another 61 runs in order for us to have been league average on offense. The calculations below use the offensive runs above average from Fangraphs and are only very rough & approximate. Below is a number of hypothetical changes to the roster and the effect they would have had on the offense last season.


The "Big Bats"

  1. Prince Fielder / Adrian Gonzalez. I've seen reference a few times to the fact that we're not one bat away from a competent offense and I'd like to point out that that's not necessarily true. Fielder and Gonzalez were last season around 75 runs better on offense than our Ishikawa/Aurilia/Garko combination. So adding one "big bat" could very easily have the effect of bringing our offense up to standard. Of course players of that caliber are almost impossible to acquire, but we're talking in hypotheticals here. Difference: 75 runs.
  2. Matt Holliday / Jason Bay. These are obviously possible targets as they're available in free agency this year. Holliday / Bay were pretty close offensively last season and would have been approximately 50 runs better offensively than Winn was last year. That wouldn't have been enough to bring us up to league average but it would have gone a long way. Difference: 50 runs.

See what effect younger players (Bowker/Posey) could have had as well as the effect our trade targets (Sanchez/Garko) could have had after the jump.

The Young Guns

  1. John Bowker. It's difficult to determine the effect Bowker would have had on the lineup as he spent most of the year in the minors, but I'm going to use his Fresno MLE (which corresponds to an OPS of 842). There's no guarantee he would have performed like that in the majors but it's an interesting test. Doing a very rough calculation (i'm not sure where you can find MLE wOBA's) Bowker comes out at around 30 runs better offensively than Winn if he'd had the same amount of at-bats. Difference: 30 runs.
  2. Buster Posey. This one is even harder as he played at multiple levels, but i'm going to use his Fresno MLE (which corresponds to an OPS of 761). Again there's no guarantees that he's have performed that way, especially due to SSS but it's an interesting question nonetheless. A rough calculation says that corresponds to around 15 runs better than Molina over the same amount of at-bats. Difference: 15 runs.

The New Acquisitions

  1. Freddy Sanchez. I've seen mention a few times that Sanchez wasn't that big an upgrade (and he obviously wasn't due to injury, etc) but if we'd had Sanchez all year (including, injuries, poor performance and all) we'd have been much better. Taking Sanchez's performance over the whole year (including any missed time) he would have been an upgrade of approaching 20 runs offensively over the Burriss, Downs, Sanchez, Uribe combination. Obviously Sanchez cost a lot to obtain and this isn't a discussion about the trade and it's validity merely a demonstration of relative performances. Difference: 20 runs.
  2. Ryan Garko. Again, Garko's often been said to be of negligible value as he's a platoon player but he would have had a decent effect on our offense last season. I'm going to ignore at-bats against RHP and deal solely on this potential upgrade against LHP. If Garko had hit his career average against LHP (and OPS of 887) then he'd have been worth roughly (depending on the number of at-bats) 15 runs better than the Garko/Aurilia combination we had last season. Difference: 15 runs.


This discussion was mainly just meant as an illustration of the possibilities of offensive changes, but it's probably worth mentioning defense as an aside.

  1. Prince Fielder / Adrian Gonzalez. Adding in defensive contributions decreases their total value by around 10 runs to around 65 runs total.
  2. Matt Holliday / Jason Bay. Adding in defensive contributions brings Holliday's value down around 10 runs to around 40 runs total. Adding in defensive contributions brings Bay's value down around 30 runs to around 20 runs total.
  3. John Bowker. Using a single season of UZR is too small in of itself, but Bowker's UZR is too small a sample size. Taking him to be roughly league average brings his value down 15-20 runs to 12 runs total.
  4. Buster Posey. Measuring catchers defense is a tricky subject so I'll make no adjustment.
  5. Freddy Sanchez. Adding in defense his value goes up by around 5 runs to 25 runs total.
  6. Ryan Garko. Adding in defense his value goes down a couple of runs so his total value stays around the same.



One interesting result from these calculations is that if you ignore any of the possible big bats and just add up the effect of the smaller changes you get a offensive increase of around 80 runs which would have made us a better than average offense. Now I'm not claiming that we would have scored that many more runs if we'd made those changes at the start of the year. And I'm not claiming that making those changes next season will make us a better than average offense. It's merely a demonstration that it's amazing how such seemingly small changes can have such a major effect on the offense.

And that's the general point that i'm making with this post. It's not meant to be rose-tinted projection of what will happen (or would have happened) there's lot of other things to consider (such as variation in individual performance, variations in the total runs the team scores, defensive implications, etc) and a negative set of conditions could be outlined in the same way. It's just a positive post to demonstrate that we look towards the ridge of offensive competence, that the size of the task isn't what it seems from down here in the gaping chasm of our offensive futility.

This FanPost is reader-generated, and it does not necessarily reflect the views of McCovey Chronicles. If the author uses filler to achieve the minimum word requirement, a moderator may edit the FanPost for his or her own amusement.

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