As the spooky season draws to a close this evening, let’s haunt ourselves with some numbers from the San Francisco Giants most recent, truly a gruesome and terrifying experience.
For all the caterwauling about platoons and openers or whatever, they used only 24 pitchers this season, and four of them were position players! Last year, it was 34 (with 5 being position players). They also used just 32 position players compared to 37 last season.
In terms of pitching platoons, I proved at the end of last season the opener strategy works. This year, with John Brebbia, Ryan Walker, Scott Alexander, and Jakob Junis being the unconventional quartet of first inning pitchers, the Giants went 18-17 and the bullpen gamers posted a 3.88 ERA and 4.11 runs per game. Not quite as impressive as last season (3.44 ERA / 3.89 RA), but effective. For context, Alex Cobb had a 3.87 ERA in 151 IP and the Giants went 18-10 in his starts.
Hitting platoons, on the other hand... look, there are simply few things on this planet that are scarier than the lineup of a San Francisco Giants team in any given season. For whatever reason, the stadium is haunted or the front office is inept or the fog is too powerful. In any case, this franchise road the Bonds train for as long as it could, switched to high contact guys before that fell out of favor, and now they’re stuck trying to optimize conventional baseball wisdom. And I promise you, this post is about to get a lot more X-rated — cursed, even, but before that, let’s look at how they did with those lefty-righty, righty-lefty hitting matchups?
This is how the Giants’ left-handed hitting contingent of LaMonte Wade Jr., Michael Conforto, sometimes Mike Yastrzemski (injury), sometimes Patrick Bailey (handedness), and Joc Pederson did against right-handed pitchers. 26th in MLB. That’s with the 7th-most plate appearances in MLB with this split (3rd in NL).
Whatever advantage Wilmer Flores, Austin Slater, Thairo Estrada, and J.D. Davis provided as righties against left-handed pitching, it doesn’t really show up in the season line. While it’s true that they were better as a team in this split (nearly slugging .400!... .397...), it’s more true that they sucked in this split, too, ranking 25th in MLB. That’s despite the 6th-most plate appearances in MLB with this split (5th in NL).
We continue our descent into madness with this number, the lowest combined on base + slugging percentage in the National League and 26th in Major League Baseball. This not the absolute worst ranking conceals some uglier truths.
- Their .383 slug is the lowest slugging percentage by the Giants in the last 50 years. That’s despite an ISO (Isolated Power) of .149, which ranks as 18th over the past 51 seasons, right between the vaunted 1993 team and the disappointing 1998 team. How can that be?
- Well, the Giants’ 24.5% strikeout rate in 2023 is their highest strikeout rate of the last 50 years.
If you knock out the COVID year (2020), and the strike -shortened seasons over the past 50 years (1981, 1994, 1995), they had the third-fewest hits in the last 50 years (1,271), trailing the 100-loss 1985 team (1,263) and the 2021 was definitely a fluke that disproves all positive contributions the new front office has made to the organization team (1,261). Consider their MLB-worst 57 stolen bases (8th-lowest since ‘73) on 73 attempts (also lowest in MLB) as a sign of a slow team and suddenly, the revelation that within those 1,271 hits there were just 13 triples makes sense. That leads to a shocking reveal that those 13 triples represent the lowest total of any year, COVID, strike, etc. in 50 years. In fact, that’s the least amount of triples they’ve hit in a season in the entire history of the franchise.
Last season, they had 9 hitters with a league average line (100 OPS+):
Joc Pederson, 146
J.D. Davis, 142
Jason Vosler, 129
David Villar, 122
Austin Slater, 121
Evan Longoria, 116
Thairo Estrada, 105
Wilmer Flores, 101
Darin Ruf, 100
This season, they had 9 hitters with a league average line (100 OPS+):
Wilmer Flores, 136
LaMonte Wade Jr., 119
Mike Yastrzemski, 113
Joc Pederson, 111
Austin Slater, 107
J.D. Davis, 103
Darin Ruf, 102
Thairo Estrada, 101
Michael Conforto, 99**
What does this tell us? Not very much beyond that Darin Ruf flourishes in a Giants uniform. However, if I were to hazard a guess, it’s that the team is really stabbing in the dark trying to hit on one of these free agent gambles. You’ll notice that most of the players on these lists represent platoon halves or have very limited playing time because of call up status. (RIP David Villar, for example). And, as you can see, I’m including Michael Conforto on this list basically as a courtesy.
Don’t know how he will parlay a league average season into another long-term deal versus opting in for a free $18 million, but it’s tough to understand the mind of a baseball player sometimes. What is clear is that year over year, there’s no stability in the Giants’ lineup and the players don’t even know what their efforts will bring. Oracle Park is a nightmare. A hitting graveyard. And no controversy-free player on a Hall of Fame path would want to be caught dead in it.
BUT! That’s not the spookiest thing! I must once again recite my ancient curse: After the Giants completed their sweep of the Dodgers in Los Angeles On June 18, they had a team wOBA of .327, 8th-best in MLB and 4th in the National League. They were 39-32 through 71 games. From that point, they went 40-51 almost certainly because of a .285 wOBA... literally the worst lineup in baseball over their final 91 games.
For 3+ months the Giants walked the night consuming human flesh when they weren’t reciting ancient incantations for the purpose of soul snatching. They were devils. They were monsters. They couldn’t hit and we all knew it.
I offer this up as a cautionary tale: do not expect the Giants’ lineup to improve next season. They don’t have the money to buy enough players to stabilize it. They don’t have the juice to even get players who could help it. It strains credulity that Donnie Ecker was the reason for their offensive output in 2020 and 2021 — how does all of that coaching evaporate the instant he leaves?
The organization has focused on “swing decisions” with some degree of “improving strength” so that in those rare cases when a Giants zombie makes contact with a baseball, that ball actually travels in an advantageous way — but, as demonstrated above, not so advantageous. More like, kinda loud sometimes. Five years of limited results shows that some other qualities might need to be considered, even with the franchise’s limited financial resources and free agent’s limited interest in joining their sickening coven.
The Zaidi era has gotten by on a shortened season that led into a regular season where everyone was well rested. On either side of those seasons we have seen a barely league average lineup. The path forward is pitching and defense. The Giants are cursed to walk the earth blighting ballparks with batted ball buffoonery. Hide your families from this ancient dread and steel yourselves in hopes that you won’t have to endure this vomitous group of can’t-hits any longer than absolutely necessary.
The most terrifying thing in all of sport is the lineup of the San Francisco Giants. Proof that there is no God but that evil exists.