It makes sense to think that the Giants are one of the worst baserunning teams in baseball. We can think of maybe a half dozen examples of Buster Posey being thrown out at home or someone being picked off at first base and think, Yeah, they’re pretty bad. Well, did you know that last year, the Giants made the fewest outs on base (32 OOB — lol, literally OOB) in all of Baseball?
Shocking, I know. They were 15th in 2017, when they were even worse as a team, and back in 2016, they were 10th-worst (or 21st best). This year, they’re tied with the Orioles for 29th with 12 outs on base.
I’m using Baseball Reference’s Baserunning/Misc leaderboard here, and their OOB (lol) count does not include pickoffs, caught stealings, or force plays. Their definition of an OOB (!) is
Runner is put out while making a baserunning play. Example play: out advancing on a fly ball, out attempting to reach another base on a hit, doubled off on a line drive, or out attempting to advance on a wild pitch or passed ball.
So, yesterday’s busted hit and run with Brandon Crawford and Kevin Pillar in the top of the 6th inning — still not sure how Pillar swung through a 93 mph fastball right down the middle, but then again, baseball is hard — doesn’t count as an OOB. However, it is recorded as a pickoff caught stealing, and when you smash together the Giants’ OOBs and their pickoffs and caught stealings, they’ve combined to make 15 outs on the basepaths already this season. Basically, every other game they’re making an out on the bases.
For a team that gets on base 27% of the time (29th in baseball) that’s catastrophic. They’ve made as many OOBs and POs and PCSs as the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Padres, but all four teams trail the Pirates, who already have 19. Bad baserunning will absolutely harm a team, but it helps when there are other workable, quality components to the offense.
The Giants don’t get on base, hit for average, or hit the ball very hard, so these are precious outs they’re wasting. I think I get it, though. If you’re deprived of something you really need, you’re probably going to go overboard once you get another taste. It’s like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife and then, when you get the knife, you drop the steak in a gutter.
Steak, in this case, appears to just be second base. The Giants have made more outs trying to advance to second base than any team in baseball so far in 2019. Six times have they made outs while going for second on a fly ball or stretching a single into a double, doubled off on a line drive, or while attempting to advance on a wild pitch or passed ball.
It’s the single into double heroics that probably need to stop, and that’s definitely a cause for concern because, as you know, the Giants rarely have runners in scoring position — 24th in MLB with 183 plate appearances. They’re also averaging the second-fewest runs per game (2.91), but that’s not solely because they make so many OOBs. By every offensive metric, the Giants are well below league average.
They’re also really slow compared to the rest of the league, except for Steven Duggar. They’ve had a reputation as being a “station to station” team for many years now. “Keep the line moving” and all that despite a “launch angle revolution”.
Until the Giants radically remake their roster to better reflect modern baseball, they should probably stick to their self-imposed base to base offense. Nine singles to score a run. Death by sac flies. It’s boring and it offers only a barely perceptible bump for their odds of scoring in a given inning, but it also doesn’t hurt them. At this point, not hurting themselves is a win.