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What's Wrong With the Giants Offense? Oh, A Couple of Things...

This post isn't for most of you. About 99% know all of this. But if you would kindly alert the non-baseball nerd world to some of these points, that'd be just swell.

After the Giants' offense failed again, people were all abuzz about Edgar Renteria's at-bat in the sixth inning. "Edgar should have bunted! Edgar should have given himself up to hit one to the right side! The Giants can't afford not to do The Little Things. This is why the Giants lost!"

This is dangerous, dangerous thinking. It puts the blame on an inability to make outs the right way. It shifts the blame away from the real culprit, which is an inability to avoid outs. The Giants don't score runs. For example...

Tm R/G ▾
PHI 5.12
COL 5.02
MIL 4.86
LAD 4.78
FLA 4.71
ATL 4.56
ARI 4.54
STL 4.50
WSN 4.47
LgAvg 4.45
CHC 4.41
NYM 4.19
HOU 4.09
PIT 4.07
CIN 4.03
SFG 4.02
SDP 3.91
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2009.

Hey, look at that. They're one of the worst teams in the National League at scoring runs -- the worst if you give the Padres extra credit for Petco Park, which you should. What a shock. But why? I look up and down the lineup, and consarnit, there isn't even a .280 hitter other than Pablo Sandoval! The Giants need some contact hitters, and...

Tm BA ▾
LAD .273
NYM .268
FLA .266
ATL .266
HOU .263
WSN .262
MIL .262
COL .262
STL .261
LgAvg .259
SFG .259
PHI .258
PIT .254
CHC .254
ARI .254
CIN .244
SDP .242
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2009.

Oh. So they're actually a league-average team when it comes to batting average. Well, that doesn't prove anything. If they could just do the little things and move runners over, scoring with a runner on third and less than two outs, they could take advantage of...

Tm Opp Suc % ▾
HOU 484 173 36%
NYM 519 181 35%
SFG 498 171 34%
FLA 504 170 34%
COL 520 177 34%
CIN 507 174 34%
MIL 487 162 33%
LAD 555 183 33%
ATL 470 157 33%
LgAvg 502 161 32%
STL 489 157 32%
PHI 463 139 30%
SDP 500 147 29%
PIT 475 140 29%
ARI 516 152 29%
WSN 534 152 28%
CHC 509 134 26%
8030 2569 32%
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/4/2009.

PrdOut is short for "productive outs", defined as one of three events: 1) a successful sacrifice for a pitcher with one out, 2) advancing any runner with none out, and 3) Driving in a base runner with the second out of an inning. And the Giants are at the top of the league. They can do the little things with the best of them. They move runners over as much as any team in the league.

It feels like they constantly fail, though, because every runner-on-third, one out situation feels like it will be the only chance for the Giants to score. And we remember those failed opportunities at the end of the game. They sting. But those missed chances happen to every team.

Tm OBP ▾
LAD .347
COL .344
WSN .342
MIL .342
ATL .340
FLA .338
NYM .336
PHI .335
LgAvg .331
STL .331
CHC .330
ARI .327
HOU .323
PIT .320
SDP .319
CIN .313
SFG .310
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 9/3/2009.

The problem isn't productive outs. The problem is outs. Every hitter who isn't Pablo Sandoval or Fred Lewis makes more outs than the average hitter. Bengie Molina has the second-worst on-base percentage in the NL. Even worse, when he's on base, he isn't able to score from second on a single, or from first on a double. Randy Winn has the second-worst on-base percentage among NL right fielders. Even worse, these two players are routinely given spots of honor in the batting order, spots that maximize RBI opportunities and guarantee more plate appearances over the course of a season.

This is to say nothing of their lack of power, but there isn't a magic cleanup hitter waiting to spring forth and hit 20 September home runs. There are two hitters, though, who have a good chance at improving the Giants' on-base woes. John Bowker had a .451 on-base percentage in AAA. Lop off 100 points from that total if you think that's what the jump up to the majors will do to his numbers -- that's a bit of a overreaction, but do it if it makes you feel better -- and Bowker would still have the third-best on-base percentage on the team. And we know he can hit for a little power at the major league level.

Buster Posey had a .416 on-base percentage over two minor league levels. That would probably dip a bit in the majors, but he wouldn't be the second-worst outmaker in the league. Even if he were that bad, if his on-base percentage were to drop 150 points in the majors to match Molina's, at least he can make it home from second on a triple. And it isn't as if he's wearing an oven mitt on the field and telling the pitchers to throw knuckleballs, dropsy-dos, and slowballs. He's a freaking catcher. He isn't going to be that much worse than Molina.

But the Giants don't care about minor league performances. Can you imagine a GM saying, "Ah, I have no idea what Ruben Rivera did last year. Don't know his batting average. Don't know how many home runs he hit. I just know he has all the tools, and he looked good when I watched him play, so he'll be the cleanup hitter when the season starts"? Fired on the spot. Ignoring minor league performances is just as archaic. For every Todd Linden or Mike Marshall who sputtered after big minor league seasons, there are ten players who carried their success over from the high minors. You take Todd Linden as your example of AAA-to-MLB futility. I'll take every good hitter in the majors as an example that minor league stats mean something, with the exception of Hanley Ramirez, who didn't do a lot of anything in AAA.

Is it a risk to start young, unproven players in a playoff push? Absolultely. Imagine what would happen if they were the worst hitters in baseball. Why, they'd be replacing some of the worst hitters in baseball. What kind of Folgers crystals switcheroo madness that would be. And the Giants wouldn't score runs. Not sure where the risk is.

This has zero chance of happening. There's no way that Bowker or Posey will get any starts down the stretch. But if this post stops someone from saying "The Giants need a hitting coach who helps with the little things!", I'll sleep better. This is the best pitching staff we'll probably ever see. The people in charge of the offense were gifted one of the best hitters in the N.L. He was left on our doorstep, like a chubby little George Brett in a bonnet. And instead of being a part of a great team, he's the only thing that kept the 2009 Giants from being one of the worst offenses of all time.

The Giants are a bad hitting team. They could get better, but the people in charge will choose not to because they believe in dragons and unicorns veterans getting better with age down the stretch. I, for one, look forward to the contract extensions given to Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy. And Randy Winn and Bengie Molina, too? We can only hope.