When you think of the Giants’ offense, you might think of groundballs, strikeouts, home runs robbed by the dimensions and air of AT&T Park, probably, how they don’t take the extra base or try to steal many. You would be right on all those counts, but maybe not quite in the way you thought. It would appear that everything the Giants have done this season, they’ve done to an average degree at worst. 13th in runs scored, 18th in home runs, 14th in on base percentage and, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, tied for 15th in stolen bases.
But this isn’t a post about stolen bases. This is about how the Giants run the bases. For a team that gets on base an average amount of the time, they run them with the speed of an average team. If you’re an absolute number idiot like me, then you’ll need MLB’s Baseball Savant / Statcast definition of Sprint Speed here:
Sprint Speed is Statcast’s foot speed metric, defined as “feet per second in a player’s fastest one-second window” on individual plays. For a player’s seasonal average, the following two types of plays currently qualify for inclusion in Sprint Speed. The best of these runs, approximately two-thirds, are averaged for a player’s seasonal average.
* Runs of two bases or more on non-homers, excluding being a runner on second base when an extra base hit happens
* Home to first on “topped” or “weakly hit” balls.
The Major League average on a “competitive” play is 27 ft/sec, and the competitive range is roughly from 23 ft/sec (poor) to 30 ft/sec (elite). A player must have at least 10 competitive runs to qualify for this leaderboard.
The first time a San Francisco Giant appears on this leaderboard, btw, is Andrew McCutchen at #54. Indeed, as you’ll see next, he’s the Giants’ leader in sprint speed:
And more to the point, you can see how the Giants basically have of their qualifying players, an average team speed. There are 7 players above league average, Evan Longoria is exactly league average, and 6 below the Major League average. Even in the below major league average grouping, however, they’re still a bit faster than the 23 ft/sec minimum competitive foot speed. Although, I think you’d agree that Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval are hardly elite baserunners, but when they need to hustle on an infield hit or try to take two bases on an extra base hit, the Giants aren’t throwing out 6-8 Adam Dunns or Bengie Molinas.
So, out of 600 recorded “competitive runs”, Evan Longoria’s exactly average speed accounts for 11.67% of that. 43% are above average (258/600) and 45.33% below average (272/600). It feels like that passes the eye test. What it means for run scoring in the future remains to be seen. As the season goes on, a lot of these numbers are likely to go down as dudes get tired.
Another point to consider is the distribution of at bats across this list. The McCutchen to Longoria section of the list (average/above average runners) totals 841 and the slower part, 696 at bats; if Longoria slows even a little bit, the Giants suddenly, as a whole, become a slow team. However, if the Giants somehow figure out a way to add someone like, say, Steven Duggar and Mac Williamson into the mix (he had 9 competitive runs — just below the qualifier threshold, and sported a 27.6 ft/sec speed), then it could easily swing the other way.
In short, and in conclusion, the Giants are as slow as you thought, but not as slow as you feared.