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The Giants and Soft-Tossers

The Giants were dominated by Jamie Moyer in the spring. My favorite factoid about Moyer: turns out he's five years older than Omar Vizquel. Crazy but true. And it seems like a truism that the Giants struggle against finesse pitchers like Moyer. Actually, there probably isn't a finesse pitcher like Moyer -- he's the finessiest. But it sure seems like the Giants struggle against guys who count on hitters to get themselves out. It also seems like the Giants struggle against:

  • guys up from the minor leagues, filling in for one start
  • rookies in their first spin around the National League
  • veterans
  • hard-throwers
  • soft-throwers
  • medium-throwers
  • guys whose legal names use letters from a standard alphabet and not Wingdings

Yeah, hardy had har. You saw where I was going with that. But it's true: It sure seems like we can mutter, "Oh, great, one of those guys" for just about every classification of pitcher. Yeah, part of that has to do with the Giants being bad against pitchers, but there has to be one kind of pitcher that's especially hard on them, right?

So I put on my Baseball-Reference cape and went into my Baseball-Reference lair. My mom was at work, so it was cool. From last year:

vs. Power 1926 31 172 438 .234 .307 .349 .656
vs. avg.P/F 1703 38 119 327 .231 .291 .362 .653
vs. Finesse 2462 52 157 357 .256 .308 .387 .695
Provided by View Original Table Generated 4/11/2012.

The definition of power/finesse that Baseball Reference uses:

Power pitchers are in the top third of the league in strikeouts plus walks. Finesse are in the bottom third of the league in strikeouts plus walks.

So it looks like the Giants hit soft-tossers better by this imperfect measurement. But there's one more thing to consider: what the rest of the league does against finesse pitchers:

vs. Power 27128 559 2691 6548 .228 .311 .354 .665
vs. avg.P/F 34580 792 2723 6868 .253 .317 .392 .709
vs. Finesse 37055 930 2618 5484 .270 .326 .417 .743
Provided by View Original Table Generated 4/11/2012.

The rest of the league crushed finesse pitchers compared to hard-throwing strikeout artists, hitting them for way more power and a much better average. Against power pitchers, the Giants were a league-average team. Against guys like Jamie Moyer -- or Joe Saunders or Chris Capuano or ... -- the Giants don't have the advantage that the rest of the league does.

It's not too hard to make a guess why the 2011 Giants fared so poorly against finesse pitchers: They swung at more pitches out of the strike zone than any other team, but they were only in the middle of the pack when it came to swinging strikes. They swung at a lot of crap, and they made contact more than they should have.

Helllllllo, Jamie Moyer. And Jeremy Guthrie, who starts against the Giants today.

But those are last year's numbers. Angel Pagan has been much better in his career against finesse pitchers, and so has Melky Cabrera. Buster Posey wasn't a big part of those numbers up there, and he has a huge split between power and finesse guys. It's a different lineup, so you don't have to expect the same results. But if you were wondering why it felt like finesse pitchers did so well against the Giants, there you go. The Giants actually hit them better, but not as well as they should have. That's why the light-armed guys with the big ERAs didn't pitch like guys with big ERAs against the Giants.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm sit over there and not do research for the rest of the year if that's okay with you. Gets in the way of the stupid jokes. Like that one about Jamie Moyer! Turns out he's the same age as Tom Cruise and Jim Carrey! Isn't that wild?