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The Giants are chasing team history with their struggling hitters

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By one metric, they have a chance to be the worst in franchise history.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Los Angeles Dodgers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

This post will use a nerd stat, but it’s a gateway nerd stat. You know about batting average. You hopefully know about on-base percentage. You have at least a vague idea of slugging percentage. OPS is when you inelegantly mash the last two into a single number. It’s crude, but it works well enough.

For the Giants, though, OPS doesn’t work that well. That’s because of AT&T Park, which is better at suppressing runs than any other park. The ballpark means that numbers are always, always, always going to need tons of context. It’s why Brandon Belt still curries favor with the nerds. It’s why Buster Posey might be even better than he gets credit for.

So instead of OPS, it’s better to use OPS+, also known as adjusted OPS. There are probably stats that are better than this one (wRC+, for example), but OPS+ is easy and it’s on Baseball-Reference.com, and their Play Index allows me to search throughout history. The benefit of OPS+ when it comes to evaluating the Giants is that it takes AT&T Park into consideration already. It’s park-adjusted. You can compare adjusted OPS for the Giants directly with other teams in the league.

An OPS+ of 100 is average.

An OPS+ of 120 is solidly above average.

An OPS+ of 160 is getting into MVP territory.

The Giants have a team OPS+ of 81. That’s bad. It’s dead last in baseball, in fact. So while it’s fair to look at the Giants’ team line of .246/.306/.377 and curse spacious, beautiful AT&T Park, they’re still the worst offensive team in baseball.

With that explanation out of the way, let’s talk about the distribution of OPS+ marks around the roster. Here are the players on the team with OPS+ that are better than the league average:

Buster Posey, 135 OPS+ (412 PA)
Jarrett Parker, 127 OPS+ (40 PA)
Pablo Sandoval, 119 OPS+ (7 PA)
Brandon Belt, 117 OPS+ (451 PA)
Austin Slater, 104 OPS+ (108 PA)
Carlos Moncrief, 103 OPS+ (11 PA)

You’ll notice a couple things up there. Three of the hitters on the list are there because of painfully small sample sizes. Two of the hitters on the list are broken because we can’t have nice things. But it’s the three hitters with a limited sample that concern me for this post. I’m pretty sure that with an 0-for-4-game, both Sandoval and Moncrief would fall below league average, and I’d go so far as to predict that both of them are likely to fall below the league average before the end of the season.

If they can do that, the Giants have a chance to have the most below-average hitters in a season in franchise history.

The Giants currently have 21 players who have taken an at-bat for them this season and have fared worse than the average player. The record is 23, held by those rascally 1902 Giants who keep popping up. They’re currently tied with the 1996 and 2005 Giants, which were both dismal entries into the franchise log.

Here’s the thing, though: We haven’t even gotten to September, where there’s a chance for more players to come up and get a handful of meaningless at-bats. Depending on the players the Giants recall, they can blow past this record with a little poor luck.

If you’re wondering about the worst ratio of good OPS+ players to poor OPS+ players, that’s currently held by the 2005 and 2009 Giants, who both had 17 more poor hitters than good ones. This year’s team is at 15. So there’s time.

While this isn’t a super informative study when it comes to predicting the future, it helps with what you already knew: Almost everyone on the Giants has been bad. If they’re up for a handful of at-bats, they’re bad. If they get regular starting opportunities, they’re bad. If they’re good, they’re either hurt or Buster Posey. It doesn’t matter who the Giants have tried, from Aaron Hill to Drew Stubbs, it hasn’t worked out. The list of hitters who have been disappointing relative to expectations keeps growing and growing, even when the expectations weren’t very high in the first place.

This is likely to grow into one of the most disappointing rosters in franchise history. I mean, it already is, but statistically, too. The Giants can’t hit, and you knew this. But what you might not have known is that they’re not hitting in a way few Giants teams in history can match.

The all-time record belongs to the 2004 Royals, who had 27 players with an OPS+ below the league average. The Giants would need some bad luck to catch them, but I don’t doubt their ability to make up the lost ground. I don’t doubt it at all.

(Those ‘04 Royals, with Ken Harvey, Dee Brown, Angel Berroa, and Abraham Nunez, who lost 104 games, are out-hitting the Giants according to OPS+. Have a nice day.)