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Just how bad are the Giants on the road?

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We’re just going to take a look at the offense because that’s painful enough.

San Francisco Giants v Oakland Athletics Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Remember the time the Giants scored 3 total runs in a three-game series at Coors Field? That was a month and a half ago. Remember the time the Giants scored 1 run in 11 innings at the Great American Ball Park, a park where the average score this season is Visiting Team 5.17, Reds 4.5? Yeah, that was yesterday.

Last week, I looked at the Giants’ home run totals since 2008 and noted

Despite hitting the fewest home runs in baseball since 2008 (1,341, 88 home runs behind the Royals at #29) and scoring the third-fewest runs (7,091) over that same stretch, the Giants have won three titles and won 888 games, good for 8th-best in Major League Baseball and 3rd in the National League.

... so home runs don’t tell the whole story of the Giants’ road woes. And it’s the offense I’m talking about specifically, because the pitching staff’s 4.19 FIP is tied with the Brewers for 16th (and a 3.99 road ERA that’s good for 11th) in MLB, so at worst they’re in the middle of the pack.

On the other hand, the only way to describe the Giants’ road offense is with this image:

Favela Life On The Margins Of Rio’s Upcoming Olympics Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

To sum it up in a single number: Terrible. To sum it up in a single word: 78. That’s the Giants’ team wRC+ on the road.

Now, when you see me throw wRC+ into an article, you might say as commenter Smooth Jazzer did in the comments of the above referenced home run article:

Funny article featuring a sports journalist dreaming of being a math major. The SFGs stink and we are subjected to a boring piece full of fecal waste numbers.

Here’s the thing: I hate math. So, I’m all for boiling math down to a single number. wRC+ (Weight Runs Created-Plus where the plus means fun!) makes that process easy by telling me how well a player or team is at run creation adjusted for the ballparks and era in which they play. A 100 wRC+ is league average.

The major league average includes a .248 batting average, .319 on base percentage, and .410 slugging percentage (.729 OPS); and, if you want to get granular, 4.46 runs, 8.47 hits (including 1.72 doubles and 1.15 home runs), 3.24 walks, and 8.43 strikeouts per game.

At home in 2018, the Giants have a 102 wRC+, which means they’re 2% better than league average. On the road, it’s 78, in a three-way tie with the Padres and Orioles, all three teams just ahead of the Detroit Tigers who have a 75 wRC+. But, again, the Giants are at 78 — 22% worse than league average.

They’ve averaged just 3.54 runs per game on the road despite averaging 4.00 runs per game on the season. I mean, 4 runs per game on the season is still objectively bad, but for all the Giants’ kvetching about how nobody wants to hit at AT&T Park because it’s impossible to hit at AT&T Park and how AT&T Park had a baby and the baby looked at the Giants, they’ve been worse away from there this season. Much worse. Unbearably worse.

From 2010-2017, however, the Giants’ road wRC+ is a not good but not historically awful 92. That puts them in a three-way tie for 14th in MLB (with the Brewers and Orioles).

Now, the easy answer here is that they’ve simply faced better pitching and better teams.

Giants Road Offense vs. Opp Pitching - 2018

TEAM ERA FIP GIANTS OVR GIANTS AWAY DIFF
TEAM ERA FIP GIANTS OVR GIANTS AWAY DIFF
LAD 3.51 3.65 3.19 1.90 -1.61
SD 4.44 4.15 3.92 3.50 -0.94
AZ 3.59 3.91 4.13 4.00 0.41
ATL 3.84 4.04 8.00 8.00 4.16
PHI 3.80 3.73 2.86 2.00 -1.80
PIT 4.18 4.08 4.86 4.00 -0.18
HOU 3.05 3.17 1.25 1.50 -1.55
CHC 3.79 4.31 2.83 3.33 -0.46
COL 4.62 4.21 4.08 3.17 -1.45
WAS 3.85 3.99 4.33 5.33 1.48
MIA 4.88 4.56 4.57 4.00 -0.88
OAK 3.80 4.14 4.17 4.33 0.53
SEA 4.14 3.99 5.00 3.00 -1.14
CIN 4.76 4.78 4.75 1.00 -3.76
-7.19

Not precise, of course. One bad game against the Reds skews it, but as you can see, the Giants definitely perform below average on the road against all opponents with only a few exceptions. The only real surprise this season was that series sweep against the Braves. That Giants team has not appeared at any time since then.

There are 10 players with 100 or more plate appearances on the road this season. Here is that list sorted by wRC+:

  1. Andrew McCutchen | 271 PA | 113 wRC+
  2. Evan Longoria | 202 PA | 104 wRC+
  3. Brandon Belt | 195 PA | 103 wRC+
  4. Nick Hundley | 108 PA | 93 wRC+
  5. Pablo Sandoval | 115 PA | 90 wRC+
  6. Brandon Crawford | 244 PA | 86 wRC+
  7. Gorkys Hernandez | 177 PA | 84 wRC+
  8. Alen Hanson | 124 PA | 72 wRC+
  9. Buster Posey | 222 PA | 70 wRC+
  10. Joe Panik | 130 PA | 63 wRC+

Austin Slater has a 124 wRC+ in 60 road plate appearances and Gregor Blanco a 105 in 67, but beyond that, the rest of the team is below the major league average away from the most difficult ballpark in which to hit in the entire history of professional sports (per the Giants).

The Giants need better hitters and/or better hitters than their presumed best hitters. They can’t beat good pitching and they, collectively, cannot hit on the road. Or the team needs to pitch better and allow zero runs all the time.