Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Quantifying the Giants' Season-Threatening Slump



If, like me, you found yourself thinking that the Giants offense has looked like the worst in baseball these last two weeks, it turns you were completely right.  

Let’s get right into the numbers:

Stat.
Last 14 Days
MLB Rank
BA
.200
30th
OBP
.258
30th
wOBA
.249
30th
SLG
.302
30th
wRC+
59
30th
BABIP
.241
30th
Runs
28
30th
RBI
27
30th
SB
2
T-29th

San Francisco’s 59 wRC+ in the last 14 days is three points lower than pitcher Adam Wainwright’s 62 wRC+ this season.

In other words, the Giants offense would have been better off these last two weeks with nine Wainwrights in the lineup instead of what they’ve been featuring on a daily basis. Wainwright is hitting .231/.268/.308 with zero home runs and zero stolen bases on the year.

That says it all, doesn’t it?

On the pitching end, the starters have actually been good lately. It’s the bullpen that’s been stinking up the joint.

Have a look for yourself:

  San Francisco Giants Pitching Last 14 Days (N.L. Rank in Parentheses)

 Personnel
ERA
FIP
WAR
K/9
HR/9
BABIP
LOB%
GB%
Starters
2.79 (4th)
2.84 (2nd)
1.7
(T-2nd)
7.14 (7th)
0.31 (1st)
.268 (4th)
73.5% (9th)
48.4% (2nd)
Bullpen
5.40 (13th)
4.02 (13th)
-0.2 (15th)
6.30 (15th)
0.90 (12th)
.347 (12th)
63.9% (13th)
37.0% (15th)

As you can see, the bullpen has been among the worst in the N.L. over the last two weeks. In that span, they’re the only bullpen in the league to have a negative WAR, and they’ve struck out the fewest batters per nine innings. They’ve also stranded 8.1% fewer base-runners than what’s considered normal.

The issue is that they’re not striking anybody out. San Francisco pitchers used to strike hitters out more than pretty much any other team. Nowadays, it’s just not happening. When pitchers aren’t striking people out, opposing teams are more likely to score runs because balls in play sometimes result in defensive mistakes and lucky hits.

The .347 bullpen BABIP over the last 14 days and 4.02 FIP compared to 5.40 ERA suggests that, indeed, the lack of strikeouts (an NL-worst 6.30 per 9 innings) has led to more chances for defensive miscues and lucky hits.

While we can expect some of these numbers to normalize (like the high BABIP and huge difference between FIP and ERA), the lack of strikeouts is seriously problematic.

So much of the Giants’ success in recent years was due to pitching dominance. So much of pitching dominance is about high strikeout rates.

The Giants no longer have a strikeout staff. Therefore the staff is no longer even close to dominant. That’s why the 2014 season is in serious jeopardy.

We can expect the offense to improve (they can’t be the worst offense in baseball with Brandon Belt, Buster Posey, Hunter Pence, Pablo Sandoval, and Mike Morse in the lineup most nights).

However, Angel Pagan is on the D.L., Posey gets frequent days off, and Morse and Sandoval are injury prone. 

So the Giants’ bench has received (and should continue to receive) a lot of playing time. And they’ve been one of the worst (if not the worst) benches in the league.  

We knew the bench was thin at the beginning of the year. We didn’t know that the strikeouts would dwindle.

Regardless, if the Giants want to get back to their winning ways, they’ll need to trade for more strikeouts from their bullpen and a much better bench. That’s a tall order. If they can’t address these glaring weaknesses, they just might spell the end of a once-promising 2014 season for the Giants.

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