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The Giants celebrated National Singles Day by doing what they do best: hit singles

Are the Giants the best at the weakest kind of hit? Their runs per game rate would certainly say so, but do the other numbers back that up?

San Francicso Giants v Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

On National Singles Day, the Giants hit 10 singles. That means something. And even if it doesn’t actually mean something, I’m going to find a way to make it so.

According to the official National Singles Day website,

No longer a minority, much less the lonely, downtrodden bachelors and spinsters of yore, today’s singles are vibrant, active contributors to their communities, workplaces, families and to our economy, culture and vitality as a nation.

So, the Giants and their fans (hey — that’s us!) shouldn’t carry around any shame about watching a Punch and Judy lineup that was designed in the 1960s. Over the past ten years, they’ve hit the fewest home runs in baseball and, generally speaking, they just don’t hit the ball very hard.

All of that is, of course, intentional — the organization has deemed the ability to put the ball in play an undervalued skill in the marketplace. They may very well be right, but that doesn’t mean they’ve cornered the market. Despite preferring singles to walks, doubles, and home runs, the Giants haven’t led the league in singles over the past five seasons.

via FanGraphs

They’re only pretty good. That batting average doesn’t do very much and the strikeout totals are mediocre. Somehow, they don’t lead the league in double plays over the past five years, either; but, those 3,298 are fifth-worst. If singles aren’t hit in service of scoring runs, then I really don’t know why they’re so important.

There’s nothing special about hitting lots of singles. Here’s the five-year breakdown of wins and losses for that top 10:

  1. Marlins: 364-437 (.454)
  2. Royals: 398-404 (.496)*
  3. Tigers: 376-426 (.469)
  4. Red Sox: 440-362 (.549)
  5. Rockies: 379-422 (.473)
  6. Giants: 395-408 (.493)*
  7. Braves: 373-430 (.465)
  8. Pirates: 416-384 (.520)
  9. Mariners: 411-390 (.513)
  10. White Sox: 355-446 (.443)

*- won World Series

No correlation here between singles and success —

Our goal is to bring National Singles Day to every city and town in America and to expand the Singles Day retail experience to include national and global brands that offer specials both in-store and online, benefitting not only singles, but everyone!

Ah, that explains it. Singles Day is still a work in progress.

But Bryan, you withering idiot, singles aren’t the point — it’s about making contact! You said it yourself right up there at the top of the article! Why don’t you jump off a bridge?

I won’t be walking off a bridge anytime soon, random internet straw man who may or may not be a figment of my imagination, but you’re absolutely right — what about that precious contact rate?

via FanGraphs

Ahhhhhhh, that’s pretty interesting. The Giants are still hanging around the top 10, which verifies the notion that contact is what the Giants prefer and singles are a part of that success. The winning percentages for that top 10 is also a bit more revelatory:

  1. Cleveland: 447-352 (.559)
  2. Red Sox: 440-362 (.549)
  3. Royals: 398-404 (.496)*
  4. Angels: 412-390 (.514)
  5. Athletics: 393-409 (.490)
  6. Yankees: 440-361 (.549)
  7. Mets: 394-404 (.496)
  8. Reds: 342-461 (.426)
  9. Marlins: 364-437 (.454)
  10. Giants: 395-408 (.493)*

*- won World Series

The easy answer here is that there are some teams who just pursue players with high contact rates and there are some teams who pursue players with both high contact rates and high quality contact. The former strategy works for rebuilding or financially-strapped teams that are just trying to stuff the margins with replacement level players and the latter strategy seems to be preferred by efficient, “smart”, forward-thinking teams that understand arbitrage and have a lot of money.

Whichever way you want to slice it, contact rate does seem to be a metric for some success. Just eyeballing it here, most of those teams don’t seem to suffer from offensive struggles as much as they have with their pitching.

But back to the Giants, who might actually be the exception to that. Let’s take a look at the top 5 singles hitters of the past 5 years:

via FanGraphs

How does that list work with contact rate?

Angel Pagan jumps onto the list because I set the minimum plate appearance to 1,500, thinking that would capture the top five again. It does, but as you can see, Pagan still makes it on there. These are the six best players of the past five years to fit the Giants’ preferred type of player. This is an important note to keep in mind when I start writing my offseason “Free Agent Target” articles for the site.

In the meantime, the Giants are trying their darnedest to make the most of being a team of singles (hitters). They might not have perfected it — or even their intended goal of being a high contact team — but that doesn’t mean the work has to stop.

National Singles Day recognizes this growing segment of society, and with an eye toward a more equitable future in which being single is held in as legitimate a light as coupling up, we encourage everyone to join us in celebrating singles!

So, hooray to singles, the lifeblood of the San Francisco Giants!