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Who is the Batter of the Year?

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The Giants had another terrible offense, but which of these batters was the best of the bunch?

Pittsburgh Pirates v San Francisco Giants Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Yeah, the Giants were one of the worst hitting teams in baseball this, and over the past three seasons, they’ve scored the second-fewest runs in baseball. Still, after posting a Pitcher of the Year poll yesterday (voting is still open! Click the link and vote now!), it’s only fair to do one for the bad batters of the Giants.

Here’s the field of candidates as determined by the McCovey Chronicles staff. Don’t like your choices? Vote “other” and tell us below who it should be. Remember, as this is an internet poll, its results are legally binding.

Donovan Solano

Pros

I’m going rogue right out of the gate. Nobody else on staff nominated him and when I finally started writing this post I noticed we were a candidate short, so here I am inserting the 96th-best hitter in baseball in 2019 (minimum: 200 PA) to complete the set.

He was one of only five players to post a wRC+ of 116 or greater with fewer than 10 home runs. He had as many (4) as Twins’ infielder Luis Arraez, whose 125 wRC+ ranked him 69th.

Maybe we’ve underrated Solano. He was one of many minor league free agent deals Farhan Zaidi made, signing a guy who had been in the Dodgers organization in 2018 and a player the Giants had admired from afar even before they hired a President of Baseball Operations.

Midway through July, he led MLB in line drive rate. He ended the year with the best line drive rate (33.9%). Before you go jumping to conclusions, he led the league in line drive rate despite just a .708 OPS in the first half. It was .882 in the second half. And, as much as he was there to be a platoon option up the middle, his righty-lefty split isn’t stark:

vs. RHP: .320/.333/450 (.783) in 105 PA
vs. LHP: .339/.382/.461 (.843) in 123 PA

He was 9-for-30 as a pinch-hitter, did damage in the #8 spot of the order (.834 OPS in 67) but most from the leadoff spot (.842 OPS in 99 PA) and hit .405/.426/.548 (47 PA) with runners in scoring position, .421/.450/.526 with two outs and RISP (20 PA).

Cons

Still, we’re talking about 228 plate appearances. His 4.4% walk rate and 21.5% strikeout rate and just four home runs means he had to rely on balls missing gloves. His .409 batting average on balls in play (a “normal” percentage is .300) means he was extremely lucky after putting the ball in play — thanks to that league-leading line drive rate.

Still, he wasn’t absolutely dominant. His 42.5% Hard Hit Rate was just 78th, tied with Paul Goldschmidt, and his barreled rate was a well below league average 3.1%. That means he hit the ball hard, but he didn’t hit it the ball on the bat’s sweet spot very often. An offseason of number crunching should spit out better defensive alignments against him should he see major league playing time next year.

But this is the only flaw on the resume. Solano was a plus defender (+2.1 Defensive Runs Above Average, +2 Defensive Runs Saved) and useful bat.

Kevin Pillar

Pros

Led the team in hits, tied with Yastrzemski for the team lead in home runs with 21 (a career high for both), and led in RBIs with 87. He struck out fewer than 100 times for a season strikeout rate of just 13.8%, good for 20th-best in baseball. He was also 14/19 in stolen base attempts.

ShutupWesley opines:

First to hit 20 homers this season, and even if the advanced metrics didn’t like him, he showed that baseball isn’t always about the numbers.

Bridget adds:

this quote he gave in a postgame interview best sums up who he is as a player and person: “I got a hit today so I’ll be able to sleep tonight.” I wish they all felt that way!

He was kinda clutch, too! His RISP and High Leverage splits look pretty okay:

RISP — .275/.305/.413 (154 PA)
High Leverage — .250/.265/.445 (136 PA)
2 outs, RISP — .295/.358/.475 (67 PA)

Cons

That excellent strikeout rate was paired with the absolute lowest walk rate in baseball (2.8%). That’s one percent lower than his three-year average rate (3.8%). His 85 wRC+ was the 12th-worst in baseball out of 135 qualified batters.

Alex Dickerson

Pros

Were it not for an oblique injury, Alex Dickerson might’ve surpassed Mike Yastrzemski for surprise of the year, but as it stands, he was the surprise of the month. As soon as the Giants added him, be began to mash, but injuries limited him to just 68 games and 190 plate appearances.

Still! A .213 ISO on just a .331 BAbip and a walk rate of 6.8% made him an imperfect yet highly effective middle of the order bat, and all he cost the Giants was Franklin Van Gurp. iIn his limited time (190 PA), he had as many triples (3) as Mike Yastrzemski (411 PA), Kevin Pillar (628), Austin Slater (192), and Brandon Belt (616).

Sami stans for these reasons:

If only because it allowed me to witness Bryan trying to start a one-man “Dick!” chant at the [McCovey Chronicles meetup] game in July. Also I still credit him for that whole [June-July] run, however irrational that is.

Cons

Limited playing time thanks to injuries is the main drawback. After returning from an oblique injury mid-August, he hit .164/.219/.209 in 73 PA (.386/.449/.773 in 98 PA with the Giants before that).

Stephen Vogt

Pros

The Giants’ catching situation would’ve been a disaster from an offensive standpoint had they not signed Stephen Vogt. 10 home runs, 40 RBI, a 7.1% walk rate, and .227 ISO in 280 plate appearances really saved the day in a lot of ways —

Roger adds:

Dude hits extra base hits! After all the missed time [from shoulder surgery] that was a heck of a return.

Cons

A pretty high strikeout rate (23.6%), low on base percentage (.314) and .265/.280/.456 line with RISP (.236/.273/.431 in high leverage at bats) hurt his candidacy.

Mike Yastrzemski

Pros

This is the easy choice, right? If Solano remains unheralded, then Yaz represents the come out of nowhere shock we’d all hoped for when the Giants hired Farhan Zaidi.

He led all Giants batters in fWAR (2.2) and wOBA and had an ISO (.245) better than Rafael Devers, Eduardo Escobar, Kris Bryant, Ronald Acuna Jr., Nicholas Castellanos, Francisco Lindor, and Mookie Betts. Remember, ISO is “a measure of a hitter’s raw power and tells you how often a player hits for extra bases”. Think of it as a player’s extra base hit average.

Anyway, the only other starting Giants in the last five years to be over .200 in ISO were Brandon Belt in 2017 and 2014 and Brandon Crawford in 2015.

Says Kenny:

20 homers. Decent walk rate, closest thing we got to the next Max Muncy.

Sami:

We can’t all pick Yaz, guys. (though I concur, it was Yaz).

Kevin:

Sorry, since I got to see Fenway give a standing ovation to a visiting player, I can’t not pick Yaz.

Cons

A 26% strikeout rate doesn’t suggest much future success, so if you want to count the possibility of him being a one year wonder against him when you got to vote, here’s some help with your argument. His batting average on balls in play was a very reasonable .325, but maybe people are more inclined to see the strikeouts, consider the changes to the ball and arrive at an unflattering conclusion about a player who is very obviously the Giants’ Batter of the Year.

But what do you think?

Poll

Who was the Giants’ Batter of the Year?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Donovan Solano
    (21 votes)
  • 13%
    Kevin Pillar
    (61 votes)
  • 2%
    Alex Dickerson
    (12 votes)
  • 3%
    Stephen Vogt
    (14 votes)
  • 75%
    Mike Yastrzemski
    (332 votes)
440 votes total Vote Now