The new-look offense

Since May 29th, when Buster Posey started his first game, the Giants have averaged over five runs per game. It would be a fallacy to imply that Posey is entirely responsible for the improvement, but it would also be a fallacy to imply that Posey has limitations. Could Posey create a curveball with so much break that even he could not hit it? Philosophers can waste hours debating that question, right after they ring you up at Borders*.

If you want to go deeper down the causation/correlation rabbit hole, you could note that the Giants are scoring almost five-and-a-half runs per game since acquiring Pat Burrell. That one actually might have a nice correlation going, as Burrell is hitting .407/.452/.741 in his ten games as a Giant, which has helped the offense just a wee bit.

So the Giants are "scoring runs." It feels like the first time. Like it never did before. Open up the door. Won’t you open up the door? Yeah. Feels like the first time.The Giants offense improved after the team employed the novel "Get Players Who Hit Better" strategy. But will it hold up? There are six -- six! -- new additions to the lineup who have helped the Giants score more runs than expected:

Pat Burrell
Aubrey Huff
Buster Posey
Freddy Sanchez
Andres Torres
Juan Uribe

While some of those performances aren’t sustainable -- Pat Burrell just might not be a .400 hitter -- it’s not hard to believe that these players will continue to outproduce the Rowand/Renteria/Bowker/DeRosa lineup from the start of the season. One by one:

  • It’s tempting to believe that the old Burrell is back, as he’s looked like a patient, powerful masher since arriving. But that’s why sample sizes are important -- every crazy-hot player looks like vintage Ted Williams while they’re hot. We haven’t seen the Burrell who waves at breaking balls that bounce in the first-base coach’s box, and that’s the one who was frustrating Tampa fans for 150 games over the past two seasons. I’ll split the difference: he’s not going to be as wretched as he was with Tampa, but he isn’t an offensive savior. If he sniffs his Philadelphia production, he’ll have his uses on a team with a strikeout-oriented staff, especially against left-handers. One warning: if Burrell suddenly goes 4-for-93, it will take a crowbar to remove him from the starting lineup now.
  • Huff is walking more than he’s striking out, and even though he’s over 30 and looked wretched last year, it’s worth noting that he’s just 18 months removed from a 16th-place finish in the AL MVP race. He’ll probably cool off a little bit, but if he just matches his career averages for the rest of the year, he’ll be the best acquisition of the past few years.
  • Posey started hot, but he only has two hits in his last 16 at-bats. It’s a good thing that happened after he was already hitting .444. Imagine if he started 2-for-16 this year, and 4-for-33 for his career. You’d be able to spread the panic on a sandwich, and there’s a good chance that Posey might not have had another start in the majors until September. So let’s appreciate that he Velezed his way into the lineup for a while, but he did so while actually having major-league hitting ability. That was pretty lucky.
  • Freddy Sanchez needs to hit for a high average to be a productive hitter, which he’s doing. The BABIP will come down from .397, so hopefully he’ll at least be able to maintain the pace he was on (.296/.334/.442) before the Giants traded for him.
  • Andres Torres is worth a post of his own. He’s been the best leadoff hitter in the league. He’s hitting for power, walking more, and striking out less. There isn’t a lot of precedent for a 32-year-old player to win a starting job and suddenly turn into one of the 20 best players in the game. So I’ll enjoy this, and I’ll wait for the other shoe to drop for the next two years, while hoping it doesn’t.
  • Juan Uribe just might have been extremely unlucky this whole time. After his breakout year when he was 24 (.283/.327/.506), Uribe had a .260 BABIP spread over four seasons. A low BABIP doesn’t always mean a player was unlucky, but for perspective, that would be a lower mark than anyone else in baseball over the past three years. So he was available for a tub of mutton, and his BABIP has been much closer to the rest of the league since he’s been a Giant. Maybe, just maybe, he was more unlucky than bad when he was on the White Sox.

All of them could crater. All of them could continue to contribute. I’m not going to invest mentally in either scenario. I’ll just enjoy the new-look lineup that often features seven -- seven! -- hitters that don’t make me cringe. Even though I’d prefer a team with Nate Schierholtz instead of Bengie Molina -- both at the plate and in the field -- it’s almost ungrateful to complain about that right now. Seven hitters that don’t make me cringe? Rod? Rod Serling? Is that you in the bushes? You can come out now.

*guffawed the English major

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