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The Giants are striking out 9 times a game. Sustainable?

Part of why the offense doesn’t look good on paper is because the offense doesn’t look good at the plate.

San Francisco Giants v Arizona Diamondbacks Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images

It’s been extremely frustrating watching the Giants try to hit a baseball, mainly because they’ve been unable to make any sort of contact, and the contact they have made is, with few exceptions, not that hard. We know they’ll never be a lineup of home run hitters or even a lineup of on base percentagers, but we never would’ve imagined that they’d also, suddenly, and almost inexplicably become a terrible swing and miss team.

The Giants are striking out a lot. To contextualize “a lot”:

2017 (through 16 games): 600 PA | 121 K : 48 BB (1 IBB) ... 7.6 strikeouts a game, 3.0 walks
2018 (through 16 games): 598 PA | 149 K : 42 BB (5 IBB) ... 9.3 strikeouts a game, 2.6 walks

For an organization that takes pride in its successful subversion of the OBP is King paradigm that drives the industry, the lack of contact is a huge blow to the way they do business. Or, at least, that’s what you’d think. But again, it’s still extremely early in the season. These games don’t matter. Poor performances are not indicative of future failure...

Unless you strike out looking. Then it’s a quick trip to the bench, because it means you’ll never get “untracked” or “on track” (we need to reach a consensus about this baseball saying). Brandon Belt’s biggest problem is that he’d probably be leading the team in strikeouts by a healthy margin had he not been benched 12 times in 16 games (exaggerating for effect here). But he’s not the only culprit, even if the Giants-Journalism complex has suggested otherwise. Behold!

Hunter Pence - 56 PA | 20 K : 2 BB
Evan Longoria - 55 PA | 18 K : 1 BB
Brandon Crawford - 56 PA | 17 K : 5 BB
Brandon Belt - 52 PA | 16 K : 7 BB
Andrew McCutchen 69 PA | 16 K : 7 BB
Austin Jackson 47 PA | 15 K* : 2 BB**

Those are putrid numbers. But real quick, I think we can Bochsplain away most of this:

Per Mike Krukow, “Pence is actually squaring up some balls... To me when a guy’s hitting the ball, that tells you what his mechanics are like. You could be 0-14 — we watched it with Nick Hundley all spring — he’s been hitting the ball hard and got nothing for it. That can happen, but he’s still barreling the ball...”

And Longoria’s struggles seemed to subside in San Diego. Now this ankle injury will set him back, no doubt, necessitating an even longer rope for him to get “untracked”/”on track”. Well, that and the length of his contract.

Crawford has “been there before” and has faced a lot of tough lefties in the early going, but he’s also had some good at bats. The Giants don’t have a superior option here, anyway, and if an offense is relying on Crawford to carry it, that offense is in trouble. He’s there for his glove.

Brandon Belt needs to swing the bat.

Andrew McCutchen has had some big hits for them. He and Pence have played in every game. They need him to be in that lineup. He’s really an anchor for them. He protects Buster, does some nice things on defense and, uh, I think we’ll see that bat start to get going as it warms up and he gets more comfortable playing on the new team and in this new division.

Austin Jackson is the center fielder and the center fielder should be the leadoff hitter. And whenever he isn’t, people should ask, “Where’s Austin Jackson, the center fielder, who should be leading off?”

The Giants have indeed faced a lot of tough left-handed pitchers in the early going and they’re playing in a tough division with a lot of quality pitching. I just... I just can’t help but notice that 4 of the 6 high strikeout players are right-handed. 3 of the 4 are new to the team and could simply be pressing. And Bruce Bochy recently proclaimed of the 4th of those 4 that he hoped he “beats Father Time”. The other two are named Brandon. Does any of this explain why the Giants are striking out nearly 2 more times a game than they did on average all of last season, when they were the worst baseball team we’ve ever seen in our lives?

But there’s nothing Cueto’s changeup-level deceptive about this: the three new hitters are striking out at a much greater rate than the players they replaced. They and the holdovers all look like they’re being fooled by pitchers more than they probably ought to be — or, at least, ought to look. A pitcher’s whole purpose is to dominate and humiliate a hitter, but the good hitters have some sort of a plan. Or, at least, they don’t let the pitcher see them sweat.

From my vantage point, they all look like they’re pressing in one way or another. Austin Jackson didn’t look like he existed in our reality last night against Patrick Corbin. Brandon Belt feels like he’s in some weird “too clever by half” zone — dude, you could at least “spoil a pitch” every now and again, especially when the boss is breathing down your neck; Andrew McCutchen looks like he’s repeating his 2017; Brandon Crawford’s just there for his glove; Hunter Pence looks like he’s swinging underwater, but also that he has no idea what the pitcher’s going to throw him next; man, I still can’t get over how bad Austin Jackson looked last night; and, Evan Longoria needs to remember to stay back on the ball. He had a very lunge-y opening week and a half. The pitch recognition and plate discipline might not be there, but he can still control his swing better and get at least slightly better results going forward.

And, really, the most any of us can do is hope that there are slightly better results going forward.

*- 12 of these came in 4 at bats against Patrick Corbin last night
**- he’s the de facto leadoff hitter against left-handed pitchers