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The new GM’s first priority is to find players who can hit the ball hard

You and I can sneeze and cough louder than the Giants’ bats can make contact with a baseball. Is there no hope for the hopeless lineup?

San Diego Padres v San Francisco Giants Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Yes, we all know the Giants can’t hit and don’t hit the ball very hard when they do. Thanks to MLB’s Statcast data, we can see just exactly how weak the entire Giants’ lineup was this past season. What’s the point in knowing the numbers behind what our ears (seriously, the Giants’ contact sounded extremely weak) and eyes told us for six months? Masochism!

According to Statcast, there were 14 Giants with 100 or more Batted Ball Events (BBE). I’m cheating a little bit here by including Steven Duggar on this list, because he actually only had 98 BBE, but I wanted to include him because he’s close enough and I wanted to get as large a sample as possible just to see how the team overall fared.

Why BBE/Barreled rather than Barreled per plate appearance? It’s more inclusive.

A Batted Ball Event represents any batted ball that produces a result. This includes outs, hits and errors. Any fair ball is a Batted Ball Event. So, too, are foul balls that result in an out or an error.

Batted Ball Events are a fundamental part of Statcast data. They are used as the denominator when determining batting metrics such as average Exit Velocity and average Launch Angle. All Batted Ball Events by a given hitter are used to determine these averages.

It’s just a quicker way of figuring out which Giant hit the ball hard most often.

As a result of that Duggar adjustment and Statcast’s search limitations, the MLB rankings cited here are based on a minimum of 90 BBE, creating a list of 406 qualified players. Anyway, here is the Giants’ Barreled Ball per BBE rate leaderboard for 2018:

Barrels/BBE % SF Giants 2018

Player BBE Barrel % MLB Rank
Player BBE Barrel % MLB Rank
Brandon Belt 294 10.5% 70th
Evan Longoria 384 7.6% 154th
Gorkys Hernandez 307 7.5% 155th
Nick Hundley 197 6.6% 182nd
Buster Posey 347 5.2% 238th
Hunter Pence 178 5.1% 245th
Pablo Sandoval 179 5.0% 252nd
Steven Duggar 98 4.1% 289th
Alen Hanson 229 3.9% 298th
Gregor Blanco 133 3.8% 303rd
Brandon Crawford 414 3.6% 310th
Joe Panik 333 2.7% 351st
Austin Slater 131 2.3% 361st
Kelby Tomlinson 106 0.9% 394th

Belt’s 10.5% represented a 0.6% decline from 2017 probably due to 20 more Batted Ball Events. Still, congrats to Brandon Belt for showing in every way that he really is the best hitter on the team, even when he crawled through the season at less than 100%. Longoria’s rate shot up 2.4% thanks to 132 fewer BBEs. So, yeah, the less playing time, the better chance some of these players have at barreling a higher percentage of pitches.

That list is pretty bad and paints a sad picture of the Giants’ offense. Belt’s 70th ranking places him just below Yasiel Puig and Salvador Perez (both 10.6%) and above Josh Donaldson, Adalberto Mondesi (both 10.4%) and Chris Davis (10.3%). Still in the top 25%, but yeesh. The rest of the team is middle of the pack to outright bad.

This look might be a bit more helpful if I had included context, like comparing the Giants’ lineup to their NL West opponents. I didn’t do that because it’s late and I’m tired, so rather than a team-by-team comparison, here’s your MLB Top 10:

  1. Joey Gallo (293 BBE | 22.5%)
  2. Luke Voit (100 BBE | 20.0%)
  3. Max Muncy (266 BBE | 16.9%)
  4. Khris Davis (408 BBE | 16.9%)
  5. Eric Thames (150 BBE | 16.7%)
  6. Aaron Judge (266 BBE | 16.2%)
  7. Mike Trout (351 BBE | 16.2%)
  8. Shohei Ohtani (225 BBE | 16.0%)
  9. J.D. Martinez (430 BBE | 16.0%)
  10. Tyler Austin (152 BBE | 15.8%)

It’s interesting to me that Voit and Tyler Austin were both acquired midseason for pitching prospects. Not on this above list but at #11 is outfielder Teoscar Hernandez, now with the Blue Jays but formerly of the Astros, acquired by Toronto when they traded Francisco Liriano to Houston last July. That’s three hard-hitting players acquired in deadline deals.

The Giants have been out of it the past two trade deadlines and have not been able to convert any of their strengths or tradeable assets into desperately needed lineup help. Unless you’re counting the offseason moves for Andrew McCutchen (by the way, he ranked 134th at 8.4%) and Evan Longoria... which the Giants most certainly are but we really can’t afford to at this point. The results speak for themselves.

Hopefully, the next GM / Baseball Ops Overlord can find these kinds of hard hitters and be willing to part with pieces the team won’t actually need in the next season or two. Such moves may not remake the Giants overnight, or even ever, but they’ll at least help keep us awake with loud contact.