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Seesaw offense

The offense dried up after Monday’s outburst

San Francisco Giants v Chicago White Sox Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

If the (albeit brief) San Francisco Giants 2023 season was a game in Vegas everybody would be playing it: All or nothing, feast or famine, flood or drought, 50/50 win or lose, quite literally home run or strikeout. As a gambler, you take those odds. As a spectator, that’s a tantalizing toss-up, if not a maddening one.

After hitting 7 home runs and a dominant start from Anthony DeSclafani in the series opener against the Chicago White Sox on Monday, Logan Webb and the San Francisco Giants returned to the Southside after an off-day, and…didn’t do much, losing 7 - 3 in the afternoon contest.

Giants bats pieced together 2 hits through 8 innings again, finally cashing in one of their 9 walks with Joc Pederson’s 2-out 2-run double in the 9th. It was San Francisco’s only hit with 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position—the only other run-producer being J.D. Davis’s solo shot in the second off Chicago starter and 2022 Cy Young contender, Dylan Cease.

If we were to diagnose the ills of this 2023 offense based on the first 5 games, it’s the strikeout (63 K). If we were to define its strengths: the long ball (10). These diametrically opposed outcomes explain the massive pendulum swings in terms of run-producing and game outcomes.

David Villar homered twice on Monday with 5 RBIs while today, he struck out 3 times, leaving 5 runners on base.

In the four ABs before his 9th inning double (which nearly cleared the fence), Pederson had struck out twice and failed to score 8 runners.

(To be fair, his line drive in the 3rd that left the bat at 109 MPH and tore through first baseman Andrew Vaughn’s glove was initially ruled a hit before being overturned…probably by some nerd.)

The Giants never had the lead in this game, but because of their power bats and ability to work walks, it never felt out of reach—a lovely purgatorial experience for your Wednesday afternoon.

They had a bases loaded opportunity in the 3rd but Cease fanned Mike Yastrzemski to escape the jam.

With two runners on in the 5th and still a 2-1 game, Cease K’ed Pederson to close out the inning.

After a lead-off single from Bryce Johnson and a walk by Roberto Perez and the score 4-1 in the 7th, the possible tying run for San Francisco came up to the plate four times: Wilmer Flores, Michael Conforto, David Villar, Pederson. Flyout, strikeout, walk, strikeout. 3 of those 4 hitters homered in Monday’s game.

It wasn’t until White Sox scratched 3 insurance runs off Sean Hjelle (with the help of a Brandon Crawford error) in the bottom of the 7th that the Chicago lead felt unmanageable.

Thus the magic and frustrations of the long ball. It’s a thrill and a curse—though this is the definition of baseball. Brief peaks of success breaking up an overwhelming valley of failure. The 2022 strikeout-% of your 2023 SF sluggers: Villar, 32%; Yaz, 25%; Conforto, 21.7% (but in 2021), Davis, 33.4%; Pederson, 23%. All of those guys also hit the snot out of the ball.

The design of this offense is to hit home runs—all of them are capable of hitting 20-25+ home runs—and all of them are capable of striking out 175 times. Even with the new rules overhaul and pace-of-play face lift, baseball can’t fully go back to the ‘80s— three-true outcomes baby!

There will be more like today’s 7 - 3 loss against Chicago; and there will be more like Monday’s win; and there will most certainly, hopefully, god-willing, be some kind of leveling out in terms of these extremes. The seesaw will break eventually.

Some Webb thoughts:

The headline of this game was the missed opportunities on offense, but Logan Webb took the mound today, looking to trim the excess offense and convert his 12-strikeout performance from the season opener into a win.

It didn’t happen.

Hung with the loss against the Yankees, Webb was still dominant. 12 strikeouts is an impressive feat, and he worked his three pitch mix well. He was dinged on some elevated sinkers from some pretty notable bats. It happens. Home runs aren’t typically Webb’s problem, and you can’t really play defense on ball that lands 10 rows up the bleachers anyway.

Unfortunately for Webb, with the new shift restrictions, it’s a lot harder to play defense on grounders to the right side of the infield. The White Sox put 18 baseballs in play against Giants pitching: the exit velocity of 11 of them qualified as “not hard.” Of those 18 balls in play, 13 of them landed as hits. Only 2 of those went for extra bases. None of them cleared the fence. You don’t have to hit homers to win games, you just have to put the ball in play (though technically that isn’t true with the new clock infraction punishments, but you understand my point.)

In 5 innings, Webb was tagged for 4 runs on 9 hits with no walks and 4 strikeouts. He seemed to lack a feel for his sinker. He didn’t paint it as well as he did in New York, nor did he get as many called strikes, while relying more on the change-up, which didn’t get as many swings-and-misses.

Nothing in the stats is egregious though—but today’s mound troubles felt more indicative of the kind of game Webb can become susceptible to. His K% and Whiff% aren’t great. Without the weighted defensive alignments, he could get peppered against a team that can put bat to ball.

Webb might have to figure out a way to channel that 12-K performance more often and start missing lumber.