The San Francisco Giants are a professional baseball team that employs athletes to hit a small white ball that has red seams on it with a larger wooden bat. Through numbers, we can evaluate just how effective these athletes are.
This is where McCovey Chronicles comes in. As an Internet website devoted to the Giants, we can sift through all of the many stats collected on each and every baseball player (there are at least six stats, maybe more) and find the one that best describes how each player is doing. So, setting an arbitrary minimum of 40 plate appearances and sorting by the fewest to the most, we start with ...
Alen Hanson: 8 extra base hits, 6 singles
This couldn’t last. Even if he hadn’t ended up being injured, there’s just no way this could last, right? He’s never had even close to this much power, and while the defense is, uh (checks baseball cliche dictionary), a work in progress, he’s homered four times in 52 plate appearances, which is absurd. His ISO is .340, which is absurd. Even in Hanson’s better years in the minors, his power was fine, but unspectacular. It was not absurd. Now it’s absurd. There’s no way it lasts.
TINY BUT PERSISTENT VOICE IN THE BACK OF YOUR HEARD, LURING YOU INTO TEMPTATION: but what if it does
Shush, voice. We don’t need a Bowker Redux here.
Hunter Pence: 0 barrels
According to Statcast, in his 61 plate appearances in the majors so far this year, Hunter Pence has not barrelled up a single ball. Barrelling up a ball is a key part of hitting it hard, which Pence has had trouble with this year. This is the thing that you can see from home on TV. He’s just not hitting the ball like he used to.
Pablo Sandoval: .323 wOBA
That’s...a totally serviceable major league hitter? Maybe Fangraphs should double check the numbers on this one. It can’t be right.
Kelby Tomlinson: .049 ISO
When I did this same article premise in May of last year, his ISO was 0. Now it’s infinity percent better! Very impressive work from Kelby.
Nick Hundley: Average exit velocity of 91.9 MPH
There are 379 batters who have at least 25 “batted ball events” (that is any ball that is either a home run, in play, or a foul out) this year. Nick Hundley is 50th in average exit velocity. His exit velocity is .1 MPH better than Mike Trout’s average exit velocity this year. The conclusion here is obvious: The Angels should trade Mike Trout plus a prospect for Nick Hundley.
Gorkys Hernandez: 34.2 K%
On the surface, Gorkys’s numbers look garden variety bad. He’s the proud owner of an Acceptable For A Fifth Outfielder slash line of .275/.306/.362. But lurking in there are some problems. First off, we have that K%. Look through the leaderboard of guys in the majors whose K% is that high, and you have two types of hitters: guys with tons of power and guys who are terrible. And, uh, Gorkys doesn’t have tons of power.
(Also Gorkys has a BABIP of .405 but I said I’d only do one stat so that’s cheating)
Gregor Blanco: .362 BABIP
When you get down to the fundamentals, Blanco’s numbers are similar to Hernandez’s but better in pretty much every respect. Blanco has a better ISO than Hernandez, he gets on base more, and he just generally has a better slash line. But in none of those respects is he better by a whole lot. One great game from Gorkys Hernandez and a lot of that turns around. And the most similar thing about them is their extremely high BABIPs. Hernandez’s is 40 points higher than Blanco, so over the course of the season you’d expect him to fall further, but it’s not like Blanco has something to be proud of here. If he keeps performing the way he has, his numbers will drop precipitously.
Joe Panik: 99 wRC+
After Panik provided all of the offense in the two game winning streak the Giants enjoyed to start the season, it was easy to dream up big things for him. When he later homered against the Mariners to produce the third Giants run of the season, the question was unavoidable: could this be the breakout year Panik hasn’t had since 2015? The answer: no. Even setting aside his injury, Panik came crashing down to Earth after those five heady games and turned into essentially a league average hitter. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a good solid defensive second baseman who’s a league average hitter. Plenty of teams could use one of those. But we were all so tantalized at the beginning of the year, and it hasn’t come to much.
Austin Jackson: 6.8% Oppo%
Over his career, Austin Jackson has done a nice job of hitting the ball to all fields. It hasn’t been perfectly even, but there’s never been anything in his splits to suggest that he’s trying to be a dead pull hitter. And with that intro, we come to 2018, where Austin Jackson is adamantly refusing to take the ball the other way. We have no idea why this is happening or what effects it’s having, or even if there’s anything to it beyond statistical noise, but that trend does suggest a way to pitch to Jackson, and his numbers this year suggest that there’s something pitchers are doing that he just can’t deal with.
Buster Posey: 2 home runs
For several years now, we have known the deal with Buster Posey. He will be a fantastic offensive threat before the All-Star Break, and then after the break, he will still be a very good hitter, but he will lose all his power. It’s happened every year since 2015, and it’s just how things are. But this year, Buster is switching things up by also not homering before the All-Star Break. This does not make him in any way not a great catcher or excellent hitter, but it is something to look at and helplessly worry about, because it’s not like there’s anything any of us can do.
Brandon Crawford: 27.9 LD%
Line drives ain’t what they used to be. Now it’s all about launch angle and dingers and whatnot, which is kinda a shame, since Brandon Crawford is hitting lots of line drives. He’s 14th in the majors in line drive rate, which means you’d expect him to be seeing the ball well and getting hits. With the way the ball comes off his bat, it seems like his numbers should be a little better. But he’s hitting better now than he did at the start of the year, and his stats are acceptable coming from a shortstop, especially one with his defense.
Evan Longoria: .263 OBP
That’s, uh, a very low on base percentage. Thanks to his power, Longoria hasn’t been bad this year, but a low average and a rock bottom walk rate means that he’s making a ton of outs. Anyway, the next time he hits cleanup, I definitely won’t write an article asking if the Giants know what his on base percentage is, but if I did, I would think I was being very funny.
Brandon Belt: BETTER THAN PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT AND CODY BELLINGER COMBINED THAT’S RIGHT COMBINED ADD UP THEIR FANGRAPHS WAR VALUES AND YOU GET 1.4 WHICH IS LESS THAN BELT’S WAR OF 1.5 YOU HEAR THAT KNBR CALLERS PUT THAT IN YOUR DAMN PIPE AND SMOKE IT
People say you should stay away from long headlines, but sometimes they really tell a story.
Andrew McCutchen: 47.7% Hard%
Almost half the time McCutchen comes up to the plate, he’s hitting the ball hard. That’s seventh in the majors, and while it doesn’t 100% correspond to guaranteed future success, that’s because he plays baseball, where nothing 100% corresponds to guaranteed future success. McCutchen is hitting the ball hard much more often than any Giant has since they started tracking this stat. Again, this isn’t foolproof — Jose Guillen and Jeffrey Hammonds are in the top 10 on that list — but it’s a very encouraging sign.
Encouraging signs and “could be worse” pretty much define the Giants this year, but it’s better than 2017. Maybe that’s a low bar to clear, but the team has cleared the crap out of it, so we might as well enjoy that while we can.