I wrote this on Monday, and I published it about 15 seconds before the Giants put Joe Panik on the DL. I quickly hid it and deleted the tweet that promoted it because it felt like spectacularly awful timing. Crowing about the Giants' offense, when one of the key cogs was put on the DL indefinitely? Depressing.
Unless it's uplifting. Even though Panik's spine will need an injection of lizard DNA and nanobots before we can feel good again, it's worth remembering exactly what kind of lineup the Giants have built. It's a good one. That makes me feel better than whatever else there is to think about today.
It's been a long time since I've subjected you to my favorite toy on Baseball-Reference, and it's time to fix that. A primer: Go to a player's page on Baseball-Reference, click the "More Stats" tab above the player's hitting statistics, and scroll down until you get to the part that reads "Neutralized Batting." That lets you play with the stats, putting them in the context of any league, park, and year.
This is fun, but it's also useful. Baseball is in the middle of a huge offensive lull right now, rivaling the pitcher-friendliest seasons from the '70s and '80s. Offense around the National League is up a smidgen this year, but that's probably entirely due to Matt Duffy being rad. It's still a pitcher's era, which makes it hard to appreciate fully what the Giants have done, and that's before you get to the ballpark. AT&T Park is playing like one of history's most pitcher-friendly parks, and it has for a few years now.
Low-scoring era + low-scoring ballpark = a recipe to underrate what the lineup has done. To combat this, let's look at what this lineup might have looked like in 2000. That year was chosen because ...
- It's still AT&T Park
- League-wide scoring was up, but not wacky
- It's recent enough for a lot of you to remember in some capacity
- That was the year the Giants had their best lineup since Will Clark, if not Willie Mays
Here, we go, then. What this year's lineup would have looked like in 2000, according to Baseball-Reference estimates:
|M . Bumgarner||45||.289||.319||.489||3||6|
Really, the point is this: When you see ex-Giants like Randy Winn or Rich Aurilia on TV, your brain still makes automatic evaluations about what kind of players they were. Jeff Kent? Power-hitting second baseman, just the best. J.T. Snow? Hey, he was pretty okay, wasn't he? Except we don't really realize how different the league is now. It's hard to put into context when you live through it. Like the old wives' tale about the frog in the cold water in a slowly heating pot, it's hard to notice exactly when things are changing drastically.
This helps. If this were 2000, the Giants would have five regulars hitting .321 or better. Six if you include Gregor Blanco. A majority of the lineup would be at a .380 OBP or better. Madison Bumgarner would be Joe Carter in his good years, basically.
And it would be so very obvious to the rest of the world that this was a solid lineup. Average dependent and a little lacking in the dinger department, sure, but it would have been an obviously strong lineup in 2000. You're watching that lineup. It's just, you know, here. And different. The numbers are depressed, for whatever reason, and it makes the Giants easy to overlook.
The current run-scoring environment and park also hurt career statistics, too. Posey would be a career .338/.405/.533 hitter if he hit in a league with a 2000 run-scoring environment. That's essentially Tony Gwynn with more power, framing the heck out of pitches. (Maybe it's more impressive to note that if Posey had played every season under the conditions of Candlestick Park in 1968, he would still be a career .298/.362/.470 hitter. Which is absurd.)
Now, it's smart to remember that this is more of a toy than a precise statistical model. There's no way to really know what these hitters would have done in 2000, had they been of age. Maybe the hitters were just better back then, boosting the numbers up because everyone was so excellent and talented.
Somehow, I doubt that. This is probably at least in the ballpark, and it helps you realize how unique this team is. For their era, this is a pretty special lineup. If only we could duct-tape the 2009 pitching staff to it.
In conclusion, this is one of my most popular tweets ever, and it proves that people love sharing tidbits and interesting facts on social media.
Barry Bonds's career if he played in 2000 Coors Field his entire career. (This never gets old). pic.twitter.com/LCI0d3UWAD— Grant Brisbee (@mccoveychron) July 25, 2014