There are a lot of arbitrary end points you can choose when isolating the San Francisco Giants current stretch of good baseball.
You can go for the large sample route, and point out that the team is above .500 over a two-month sample size. Or you can go the smaller sample route, and point out that they’re scorching the earth over a two-week sample size.
I want to look at the latter, not because it’s the predictive, sustainable option, but because the last few weeks of Giants baseball have been so fun.
Since June 30, the Giants are 13-2. During that span, they’ve plated 118 runs, and allowed just 60. They’re playing marvelous baseball.
They’re doing it in all phases of the game. It’s not just offense, as evidenced by Thursday night’s 16-inning victory, in which Madison Bumgarner pitched nine innings of one-run ball (needing only 94 pitches to do so), the bullpen allowed a lone run in seven innings of work, and the defense came up big time and time again.
But the offense has been the most notable part of the current equation, for two reasons: First, the Giants offense hasn’t been good in a while. And second, during this stretch that offense has been really, really, freaking ridiculously [redacted] hot.
So who’s been the hottest? Let’s check in on our old friend Weighted Runs Created Plus, which measures offensive output and scales it to 100 (100 being average, 50 being half as good as the average hitter, 125 being 125% as good as the average hitter, etc.)
Here are the 13 Giants position players over the last 15 games, from worst to best.
13. Joe Panik: 53 PAs, 0 home runs, .229/.283/.250, wRC+ of 34
It’s been a sensational run of hitting the baseball for the Giants, but nobody told poor Joe Panik, whose offensively-challenged season sadly continues.
On the flip side, his defense has been great.
12. Pablo Sandoval: 48 PAs, 1 home run, .171/.255/.293, wRC+ of 40
It’s kind of funny. When no one on the Giants could hit, there stood Pablo Sandoval, a bastion of offensive prowess. Now that everyone on the team can hit, Sandoval has sunk back into the shadows that have largely defined his post-2014 career.
Sandoval will likely get every chance to work his way out of his current slump. He’s the team’s starting third baseman while Evan Longoria’s foot is on vacation, and the Panda was too good in the first few months for the team to panic with him and make a change.
11. Tyler Austin: 18 PAs, 1 home run, .143/.333/.429, wRC+ of 104
Tyler Austin has been the least noticeable hitter during the Giants hot streak. His mediocre play of late, combined with the Bondsian performances from his fellow outfielders, has meant that his role has been reduced.
Still, he serves as a reminder of how well the team is hitting: 11 of their 13 position players in this stretch are hitting the ball better than the average MLB player.
10. Brandon Belt: 73 PAs, 1 home run, .302/.397/.397, wRC+ of 118
Brandon Belt’s odd season continues. The power simply hasn’t been there for the first baseman, who has just six doubles and three home runs in June and July combined.
But the remarkable eye remains, and now he’s starting to hit for average, even if most of those hits are singles.
9. Kevin Pillar: 70 PAs, 2 home runs, .328/.343/.507, wRC+ of 121
Kevin Pillar is not here to swing a bat. He’s here to do this:
But if he wants to keep hitting really well . . . I mean, that’s cool too, I guess.
8. Mike Yastrzemski: 46 PAs, 2 home runs, .318/.326/.591, wRC+ of 132
And now for some context: The Giants best hitter last year, excluding players with 10 or fewer plate appearances, was Aramis Garcia, who had a wRC+ of 117. 10 of the Giants 13 hitters are eclipsing that mark during this streak, including Yaz, who was nearly optioned, but is now a catalyst of the offense.
7. Stephen Vogt: 28 PAs, 2 home runs, .250/.321/.625, wRC+ of 134
That’s a backup catcher. That’ll do.
6. Buster Posey: 51 PAs, 2 home runs, .340/.392/.511, wRC+ of 140
That’s a defense-first catcher. That’ll do.
5. Donovan Solano: 48 PAs, 2 home runs, .400/.417/.644, wRC+ of 174
Every good team has a Donovan Solano. A bench player who starts a chunk of games when the matchup is right, and seems to be a thorn in the side of every opponent.
It’s nice that the Giants currently have one of those guys. It’s a bit more enjoyable than the Kelby Tomlinson and Ehire Adrianza days.
4. Austin Slater: 40 PAs, 3 home runs, .314/.400/.743, wRC+ of 189
It’s impossible to not be happy for Austin Slater. When Farhan Zaidi took over the team, there was an understanding that he would begin shifting the organization to align with what he values.
He brought in a lot of players from outside, and they seemed to displace the internal options that the previous regime had been high on. Jarrett Parker was gone. Chris Shaw was demoted to AA. And players like Slater - who likely would’ve made the opening day roster had Bobby Evans still been in charge - were sent to the minors, tasked with evolving their game if they wanted a chance to endear themselves to the new sheriffs in town.
Slater did just that, dramatically increasing his walk rate in Sacramento. While he did so, he watched Connor Joe, Michael Reed, Gerardo Parra, and Yangervis Solarte get the nod on opening day. Then he watched as Tyler Austin got an opportunity, and Mike Gerber, and Aaron Altherr (ever so briefly), and Mac Williamson, and Mike Yastrzemski, and Alex Dickerson.
It wasn’t until July 1 that Zaidi finally made it down to Slater’s name on the attendance sheet, and holy crap has the young outfielder made the most of his opportunity.
3. Brandon Crawford: 45 PAs, 4 home runs, .359/.444/.744, wRC+ of 204
Just a few weeks ago, it was really easy to think that Brandon Crawford’s days of being a good baseball player were firmly in the rear view mirror.
And then he heated up, the way he has a knack for doing. It was highlighted, of course, by a five-hit, two-dinger, eight-RBI game in the opener of Monday’s double-header, which he followed up with a home run in the closing game.
2. Alex Dickerson: 42 PAs, 2 home runs, .447/.500/.816, wRC+ of 238
If you Google “Max Muncy” or “Chris Taylor”, roughly half of the hits will lead you to articles about the Giants. Ever since Zaidi washed the Los Angeles Dodgers off of him, and jumped to the Giants, fans and analysts alike have been repeating the names of Muncy and Taylor, over and over.
They represent something that Zaidi has proven to do well: Find overlooked players who have never quite caught on, give them an opportunity, and watch them flourish.
It didn’t happen with Connor Joe or Michael Reed or Mike Gerber. But for now, at least, Alex Dickerson sure is making a case that he’s the Max Muncy or Chris Taylor that fans have been pining for.
1. Evan Longoria: 39 PAs, 6 home runs, .382/.462/.971, wRC+ of 256
It’s easy to forget just how well Evan Longoria was playing before landing on the Injured List. The team not missing a beat will do that.
But look at those numbers. Just look at them! Longoria was turning things around, in a loud and emphatic way.
And, I mean . . . come on.
There are, of course, two sides to the 13-2 coin that the Giants currently possess. The first side is that, wow, look at all those pretty numbers I just wrote down! That’s some incredible baseballing! The second side is that, wow, look at all those wildly unsustainable numbers I just wrote down! That’s some incredible sample size wizardry!
The truth may be in the middle. Kevin Pillar will likely regress to being a glove-positive, bat-negative center fielder. Alex Dickerson will probably not put himself in the MVP conversation for 2020. Evan Longoria is unlikely to return from a foot injury and keep hitting home runs once every six and a half plate appearances.
That doesn’t mean they have to regress to where the team was in April. And they likely won’t.
And either way, what happened still matters. And this is what has happened. It’s been marvelous.