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Rain delay musings

Heavens showering grace on San Francisco

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There’s weather in Detroit. The tarp is currently on the field, and both teams are lingering in their respective clubhouses waiting for a break in the clouds.

Normally, a postponement after a tough loss or two isn’t ideal. The beauty of the long season is that there is usually a quick turnaround between games: players penitently wash their malfeasance off in the evening shower and come to the park the next day ready to make things new. The San Francisco Giants need to cleanse the palette—but the postponement may be a sign of grace due to the projected Tiger’s starter (and iconic Giant): left-handed pitcher Matt Boyd.

Among all the early season woes—from a broken down bullpen carousel, the high K-rate, the shoddy defensive patchwork filling injury holes—the numbers against left-handed pitching have been brutal and explains the boom-bust bats.

Right now every left-handed pitcher is Randy Johnson to the Giants. The Little Big League version: early 90’s, Seattle, Larry Bird blond mustache, stirrups with tongue-flap Nike Air cleats, cowbell heartbeat and guitar riff stare down. No one wants to face that guy. That guy is scary.

Only Wilmer Flores and Thairo Estrada have a wRC+ above league average (100) against LHP. Right-handed bats J.D. Davis, David Villar, Joey Bart, Heliot Ramos, and Bryce Johnson have yet to record an extra base hit against a southpaw.

Take this series against Detroit. On Friday, lefty Joey Wentz allowed a lead-off homer to Estrada, scattered four singles in between, then a double to Estrada in the 5th. Lefty Tyler Alexander linked up with Wentz for 1.1 shutout innings. The moment AJ Hinch dipped into the righty pool in his bullpen, the offense perked up. Garret Hill allowed 2 quick hits and left with runners on first-and-third. Mason Englert took the rubber and J.D. Davis launched the first pitch he saw into the bleachers.

On Saturday, RHP Michael Lorenzen took the mound and quickly forfeited 6 runs and 2 homers in less than 3 innings, and muscled his way through 4, before LHP Tyler Holton allowed 1 hit over 3 key innings as the Tigers chipped away at S.F.’s lead.

As a team, the Giants have a .541 OPS and a 49 wRC+ against left-handers—both numbers the worst in MLB right now. Their .863 OPS vs. RHP is second in baseball.

I feel contractually obligated to say the look of this roster isn’t what was projected in the off-season. Mitch Haniger should balance out the outfield—and allow Blake Sabol to return to a more appropriate role for him as back-up catcher, or keep Estrada at second. Austin Slater and his career .845 OPS against LHP will platoon well with Yaz or help shore up the outfield if Conforto lags in his return to defense.

And there are right-handed bats that are healthy now that have yet to capitalize on match-ups.

Davis’s career splits against lefties typically hang around his opposite numbers with a .903 OPS mark in 2022. Villar knocked a .978 OPS in 65 AB last season. Ruf is capable of causing damage, though his 1.007 OPS split in 2021 is fast disappearing.

The sample size of the season is small and the sample size against left-handed pitchers is small (no one has more than 20 PA, 162 team total on the year). Last year, they had around 1900 plate appearances against LHP (about a third of their PA) so there will be more opportunities.

Skills often revert to the mean, and it’s more likely than not that these players get more comfortable and find their groove facing southpaws—but right now statistics feels like religion. Fans are watching each game in faith. There’s projections and then there’s results and we haven’t seen much of those lately.

So maybe I need to walk back praising the weather. It’s a respite in the present, but the Giants need more exposure against the left-side of the mound. They can’t depend on acts of god to avoid a current team weak spot. Better to get those reps in early. Probably better to do that against someone like Matt Boyd.

If today’s game gets postponed, the next lefty they’ll face is...tomorrow in Miami.