Hello. I’m the same idiot who has written the words “sample size” 5,372 times over the last 10 seasons, usually before the end of April. I would like to talk to you about a small sample size that I absolutely believe in. This isn’t just because I’m a hypocrite. It’s also because I’m simple-minded. But it’s very important that we ignore the sample size to talk about Mac Williamson.
That is, Mac Williamson, the Giants outfielder hitting .548/.659/1.129 in Triple-A this season, with five home runs in 41 plate appearances. He is exactly what the Giants need in left field, and there has to be a way to get him on the roster. Sure, his stats might be a sample-size mirage, like they were with Todd Linden in Triple-A back in 2005, but ... uh ... I can’t really think of a way to finish this sentence.
Fine, it might just be a small sample.
But here’s a rundown of the events so far. Tell me that you’re not convinced either.
The first thing to note is that Williamson changed his swing. The “new swing” trope has replaced the “best shape of his life” trope, and it’s the perfect vehicle for irrational optimism, but that doesn’t mean it’s always poppycock. Justin Turner changed his swing and became an All-Star. Chris Taylor changed his swing and became a valuable regular. The Giants deserve one of these guys.
Actually, the Giants don’t “deserve” anything for another 20 years, you greedy hog-person.
Well, fine, but it still doesn’t seem fair that the Dodgers have 20 percent of their lineup filled with fixed swings and pixie dust, while the Giants have struggled to find a left fielder. It also doesn’t seem fair that the Giants still haven’t sent a homegrown outfielder to the All-Star Game since Chili Davis. Here’s a way to fix both.
The second thing to note is that it worked in the spring. Like, really worked. Williamson hit .318/.333/.727 with four homers, two doubles, and two triples in 44 at-bats. The strikeout-to-walk ratio wasn’t pretty (13 to 1), but his goal was to impress the front office with his new swing. Even though he was sent down, the strategy still worked. The Giants definitely curious.
The third thing to note is that the strikeout-to-walk ratio is much better now in Triple-A, with Williamson striking out just four times to seven walks in those 41 plate appearances. We’re not yet in the part of the season when the stats get more stable, but strikeouts and walks are the first stats to stabilize. Williamson has always had a strong eye, but there was a lot of swing-and-miss in his game. And after considering his ...
[opens window, leans out of window with old-timey megaphone]
... NEW SWING ...
[closes window as neighbors call the cops yet again]
... I’m very willing to believe that he’s capable of making more contact now.
If, like me, you’re desperate to get Williamson on the roster, you have to figure out the logistics. What are the Giants’ options?
Release Hunter Pence
I, uh ... wait, are you new here? Not only is this offensive and shameful, but it’s also completely unrealistic. Hunter Pence loves it here. Here loves Hunter Pence. I know he’s 35 years old and struggling mightily, but it’s a huge step to give him the full Aaron Rowand this early in the season. He might be a sunk cost, yes, but nostalgia and popularity do count for something.
We are talking about him losing his job, too. It’s not like he gets a full pass. It would be extremely unlike the Giants to make a move like this late in the season, much less after a couple of weeks.
Expose Gorkys Hernandez to waivers
If Hernandez still had options, he wouldn’t be on the roster right now, I’m guessing. It’s not that the Giants aren’t happy to have him — he’s kind of the best hitter on the team right now, ha ha ha ha sigh — but Gregor Blanco as the fourth outfielder and starter against righties, combined with someone like Williamson, would have made more sense for the bench.
Still, would the Giants be willing to lose Hernandez entirely just because of a hot 50 at-bats from a Triple-A slugger who hasn’t been able to stay healthy in his career? Seems unlikely.
Designate Gregor Blanco for assignment
Wait, you mean the second best hitter on the Giants? Man, this is a tough crowd.
This is trickier, though, because Blanco has become a de facto starter in the Giants’ platoon. He might be older than Hernandez, and there might be less upside in him, but he’s a better fit for a team starting Austin Jackson against left-handers.
Release Pablo Sandoval and teach Williamson how to play third?
Hrmm, think we’re a little off track. Reel it in, folks.
Here’s the thing about jettisoning one of the outfielders on the current 25-man roster: The Giants have a ton of outfield depth at Sacramento right now. Williamson is crushing the ball, sure, but so is Chris Shaw. So is Austin Slater, who can also play center field, and don’t forget about Steven Duggar, who is the heir apparent. Orlando Calixte isn’t off to the same kind of start, but he’s a viable replacement for someone like Hernandez if the Giants need another center fielder for some unknown reason in the future.
They wouldn’t miss Gorkys Hernandez, in other words. This is how I would get Williamson on the roster and into the lineup. I don’t like it, but I want dingers.
Small sample? Sure is! Perhaps we’ll laugh at this content in a month, when Hunter Pence already has 10 home runs and Williamson has fallen back to earth. But of all the ways the offense is struggling, there’s only one that’s the same problem as last year, and there just happens to be someone with a ~~~new swing~~~ in Triple-A who is crushing the ball.
Seems like that’s the easiest fix the Giants could have ever hoped for, but we’ll see if they agree.