Evan Longoria is hitless as a Giant. In 15 plate appearances, he has not reached base, which is bad. If I were him, I would try not to make 15 outs in 15 plate appearances, but what do I know, I’m just a guy on the internet.
The question before us is this: Should we panic about Longoria’s slow start? Is this telling us anything meaningful about how he’ll produce for the Giants this season?
No. But read the rest of this article just to humor me.
An 0-for-15 slump isn’t rare. It’s not like two triples in the same inning or even two triples in the same game. It’s like a triple. They happen often enough. Don’t freak out. We’re just paying attention more because it’s the start of the season, and this is all we’ve ever seen from Longoria in a Giants uniform. Tony Gwynn went 0-for-14 in this stretch, and he was still Tony Gwynn. I spent exactly one minute looking for that slump, and we’re talking about one of the greatest contact hitters who ever lived.
Does this mean that Longoria will have a good year? No! He might be terrible now. He might be like James Shields is for the White Sox, a horrific remnant of a once-reasonable idea that backfired horribly and set back the rebuilding plan in multiple ways.
But it certainly doesn’t mean that we have proof that’s the case. Here, let’s go through history and find other Longorias.
Willie Stargell, 1970
Are you tired of me talking about Willie Stargell every time we go to Alameda? Congratulations, you’re not one of my daughters. But in 1970, a very much still-in-his-prime Stargell couldn’t get a hit at the start of the season. He finished the month of April hitting .093/.180/.222, which is Zito-like.
He hit like Willie Stargell for the rest of the season, of course.
Willie Stargell, 1971
This wasn’t to start the season, but I thought I would point out that Stargell was 0-for-14 against the Giants in the 1971 NLCS.
The Pirates still won, of course.
Mike Moustakas, 2014
Ah, but the Giants would not always lose.
Willie McCovey, 1964
This was actually the worst year of his career until he was 40, but I did want to chronicle his slow start here.
Dale Murphy, 1980
He would finish with MVP votes that year, and he made the All-Star team that year. Mostly because he was very good, and the first 15 at-bats of a season don’t really mean a damned thing, but we can argue about that later.
Craig Biggio, 1995
Biggio was 0-for-17 in his start to the season, but he finished the year with a .302/.406/.483 line and a Silver Slugger award. I’m guessing that Astros fans weren’t too worried because they were used to the good Biggio, but you know there were a couple of Greg From Galvestons calling in and wondering why he was still starting.
Ryne Sandberg, 1982
While we’re on the topic of Hall of Fame second basemen, let’s remember that Sandberg started his Cubs career with an 0-for-19 slump. After nine games, he was hitting .033/.091/.033 in 34 plate appearances, which had to have been killing him.
After that, he hit .283/.323/.388, and he finished sixth in Rookie of the Year voting behind five guys who didn’t make the Hall of Fame. He was fine. Everything is fine, especially Evan Longoria.
Miguel Cabrera, 2017
Miguel Cabrera was pretty bad last year, and his start to the season was an absolute harbinger of doom.
This is just a reminder that Longoria still might be in trouble. He doesn’t have to be okay just because small sample sizes are a thing. But it’s much more comfortable to use the sample-size bogeyman to make us all feel better.
Boy, Cabrera sure fell off a cliff. They need to put mattresses at the bottom of that cliff.
Manny Machado, 2015
There are a lot of these. After being very bad, Machado ended up being very good. He eventually helped his team win a lot of baseball games.
This happened a lot, really.
Matt Williams, 1989, 1991, and 1993
This is what the kids today call a “microphone drop.” There were three years in which the Giants’ third baseman was hitless over his first 15 plate appearances. They won the pennant the first time, and they won 103 games the second time. He was also pretty good while this was going on.
Is the moral of the story that Longoria is going to chase a home run record next year, when the season will be cancelled because of a strike? Maybe. But it’s mostly just a reminder that it’s bad to read too much into the first four games of the season. If you had Longoria as a .300 hitter before the season, guess what? He’ll finish with a .275 batting average now, even if he is still a .300 true-talent hitter for the rest of the season. These slumps count, and it’s possible that it will futz up his season totals.
But they’re not telling us much about what kind of hitter Longoria really is, either. Apparently, we’ll have to wait and see, just like every other baseball-related thing in April.
Was it a drag to watch Longoria this last week? Yes. Will he continue being this bad? Probably not. Lots of greats have started this slowly. Longoria is just one in a very long line.