All around baseball, hitters have reinvented themselves by hitting more balls in the air. JD Martinez went from a cast-off to a perennial silver slugger, Justin Turner went from a super utility player the Mets didn’t want to a third baseman who picks up MVP votes every year, and old friend Hunter Pence tweaked his swing and revitalized his career. Hitters are swinging up at the ball, meeting the ball out in front of the plate, and they’re reaping the rewards of getting the ball off the ground.
Meanwhile, the Giants have taken a while to get on board. Even if they were trying to hit more fly balls, the Giants couldn’t get airborne the past two years. Between 2017 and 2018, the Giants had the fifth-lowest fly ball rate in baseball. Playing in Oracle Park doesn’t help their offense, but the team wasn’t doing themselves any favors by pounding so many balls into the dirt.
Not coincidentally, the Giants were the worst offensive team in the majors the past two years. They ranked dead last in slugging, wOBA, and wRC+ between 2017 and 2018.
Recently, though, the Giants have been one of the best . Since July 1, the Giants lead the majors in home runs at 24. They’re leading the majors in runs scored at 86. Even going back to June, they’ve been unusually competent. Since June 1, they’ve scored 5.37 runs per game which would comfortably make them a top-ten offense if they did that for a full season.
Incidentally, the Giants have been getting more balls in the air. On the season, the Giants rank 15th in fly ball rate, but over the last month and a half, they’ve jumped up to the number five spot. June and July have been the Giants’ best fly ball months in the last three years. Through July, the Giants have actually hit more flies than grounders.
That might not last through the end of the month, but they’ve even been trending up since the year began. That makes sense when you consider just how much the roster has turned over.
Since May, the Giants have added Stephen Vogt, Mike Yastrzemski, and Alex Dickerson. Before that, they added Kevin Pillar and Tyler Austin. Each have a fly ball rate higher than league average. Austin Slater’s new swing is also helping him get more balls in the air though more of his ground balls are turning into line drives rather than flies.
Of course, it’s not just the fly balls alone that make an offense good. The Giants still need to hit the ball hard, but they’ve done a better job of that as well. Per Baseball Savant, the Giants hard hit rate has risen by 2.5 percent. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s the difference between being fifth-worst in the majors and being tied with the Astros.
Their hard hit rate has only gotten better as the season has gone on. According to FanGraphs* (who have a different definition for hard hit), the Giants rank ninth in the majors at 40.2 since June 1. Even going back to May, the last three months have been the Giants’ best since the 2017 season began.
This doesn’t mean that the Giants are suddenly a good offensive team even if they’ve been one the last few weeks. Still, I think we can expect better things going forward. The last two seasons have been dreadful, but the Giants may finally be showing some signs of life.