Statcast is Baseball’s propriety software platform that uses “state-of-the-art tracking technology” to measure the motion and velocity of every person and object on the field of play. If you’ve watched any telecast over the past few years, you’ve definitely seen a replay that incorporated its signature components: exit velocity and launch angle.
If you’ve watch any Giants game over the past decade, you’ve definitely seen a team that in no appreciable way generates much power or does anything approaching league average when it comes to things like flyballs and extra base hits.
Farhan Zaidi was hired in part to fix that problem, and while it’s still too soon to tell when or even if his efforts will yield results year after year, since the Giants have entered the second half of the schedule, they’ve done nothing but pound the ball.
For the first time since May 15-16, 2015, a pair of wins against the Reds in Cincinnati, the Giants have scored double digit runs in back-to-back games. But unlike yesterday’s 10-4 win against the Diamondbacks, tonight’s game wasn’t a mix of free baserunners via the base on balls (the Giants walked just three times tonight) or even well-timed hits. Yesterday, they had just five extra base hits (four doubles and a Kevin Pillar home run) against Robbie Ray and four Dbacks relievers.
Tonight, they had five extra base hits just against the Padres’ starter, rookie Logan Allen. They had four more off the Padres’ below average bullpen on their way to a 13-run, 14-hit night, but I’m really being sterile in the description, so hear’s Statcast to illustrate what happened tonight:
The Giants hit 20 balls with an exit velocity of 95+, labeled by Statcast as “Hard Hit”. They “Barreled” five of those 20. A reminder about that label:
The Barrel classification is assigned to batted-ball events whose comparable hit types (in terms of exit velocity and launch angle) have led to a minimum .500 batting average and 1.500 slugging percentage since Statcast was implemented Major League wide in 2015.
It was a night of top of the league-type hitting. The sort of thing we should expect more often once this rebuild gets going, especially against teams starting a rookie pitcher.
Of course, just last week, the Giants lost to a rookie call-up with a 6.09 ERA in Triple-A. I wrote of that loss:
That nagging feeling in the back of your mind (I know, it was in mine, too) that this is wrong somehow ought to be allayed by this search: tonight was the 26th time in the past decade that the Giants have lost to a pitcher with five or fewer major league starts to his record.
The Padres started Logan Allen tonight. Just his third major league game. He had done extraordinarily well in his first two starts (1.38 ERA in 13 IP, 10 K), and his fastball-changeup combo was similar to what Chris Paddack offered in the early going to flummox the Giants.
Tonight was setup to be a lot like the opening series of the season — the Padres would blitz the Giants with rookie talent and run circles around them. It didn’t play out that way. Not this time. Donovan Solano and Tyler Austin, both strong platoon righties against left-handed pitching, put together great at bats around the Giants who tend to put together good at bats on any given night against any given pitcher.
One of those good at bat-havers was the latest call-up, Austin Slater. He’s been working on a new swing, which you can read about in Doug’s interview with him from last month, and it seems to be working. Not only is his extra base hit rate up in the minor leagues, he had a triple and home run tonight. That triple in particular was crushed to the opposite field, a power stroke we’ve not seen from Slater before.
What’s his big change? Launch angle. Getting the ball in the air. Like the data says: that’s the key to success.
Later in the game, Evan Longoria hit a home run to left field in a way I could only describe as “just with his hands”:
Evan Longoria homers (8) on a line drive to left center off Phil Maton— Strand Sport Stats (@StrandStats) July 2, 2019
Exit Velocity 98 MPH
Distance 367 FT
Launch Angle 24.56#SFGiants vs #FriarFaithful pic.twitter.com/1TOKJxjqBs
That home run might’ve angered the Padres, because in Longoria’s next plate appearance, against hard-throwing Robert Stock, he took a 99 mph fastball to the left arm. Now, I want to give the player the benefit of the doubt for this reason: the situation. The game was well out of hand, Stock’s in the bullpen for a reason (6 walks in 7.1 IP coming into tonight), and really, outside of Kirby Yates, the Padres’ ‘pen is no good.
All that said, the Padres always seem to be on just this side of hooliganism. I’ve had my eye on Andy Green he changed the starting pitcher at the last minute after the Giants had already submitted their lineup.
Regardless of the cause, it sufficiently angered up the Giants and perhaps gave Kevin Pillar — who already had a hot bat coming into tonight’s game — a bit more focus in the top of the eighth inning just before he did this:
Truth, justice, and hitting dingers.— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) July 2, 2019
Pillar was saved by the ump on the previous pitch as he was ruled to have checked his swing on a 1-2 slider away. It’s a credit to the Padres’ general averageness that Stock didn’t think to throw that pitch again, but forget all that for the moment:
Kevin Pillar leads the team in home runs and RBI and now he’s doing team leader-y things like avenging his plunked teammates. Whatever his on base ability might say, he doesn’t have to give back those home runs and RBIs, and whatever non-public data Statcast tracks must surely be picking up on his whip-like bat speed.
I’m saying... is Kevin Pillar suddenly one of the three most valuable trade chips at the deadline? None of this makes sense.
The Giants won 13-2 and they did it in the way that teams win nowadays: by simply pounding the data bytes out of the baseball.
And now, Tatis Jr. Corner, where we take a look at the miracle that is Fernando Tatis Jr.:
Here he is scoring on a pop up to Joe Panik:
Hey, remember when Fernando Tatis Jr. tagged up and scored on a pop fly to the second baseman in Pittsburgh?— FOX Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) July 2, 2019
Well... he just did it again. The. Kid. Makes. Things. Happen.#FriarFaithful | @Padres | @tatis_jr pic.twitter.com/1WZs0CgDZI
Which came soon after he somewhat effortlessly tripled. Also, here’s how he started off the game:
Yowza, Tatis Jr. pic.twitter.com/T9Csmwo9eI— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) July 2, 2019
Fernando Tatis' ridiculous 94 mph throw to get an out at first tonight is the fastest that Statcast has tracked from a shortstop this year.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) July 2, 2019
Your top 5:
1. Tatis: 94.0 mph
2. Tatis: 934 mph
3. Tatis: 93.0 mph
4. Tatis: 92.4 mph
5. Machado: 92.0 mph
Tonight was his 49th major league game. He has a 1.026 OPS. A .337 average. A .405 on base. 13 stolen bases.
The Padres got him in exchange for 34-year old Big Game James Shields, who at the time of the deal had a 4.44 FIP through 11 starts. There are fewer teams willing to make this deal today. Maybe even zero teams willing to make such a deal. But it’s... not impossible?
Jeff Samardzija pitched eight solid innings, striking out six and walking just two. He didn’t give up any home runs. Some hard contact for sure, but he was solid all night long. He teased the zone with movement pitches and then used the Padres’ sellout-for-power swings against them with fastballs on the outside edge. It was the type of game the Giants expected from him when he signed that contract.
It was just one night, but one that made it easier to see what the next good Giants team could look like.