Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Giants Lack Power, Speed, Luck Last 30 Days

It’s been almost a month since the San Francisco Giants’ record-setting slide began. After going 42-21 in their first 63 games, the Giants have gone just 7-19 since and managed to fall from 9.5 games atop the standings faster than any team had done before.  It seems like a miracle they’re still nine games over .500 and one game out of first place.

Let’s examine some of the Giants’ numbers for the season compared to how they’ve fared in the last month. National League rank (out of 15 teams) in parentheses:

   San Francisco Giants Pitching 

2014 season
3.40  (10th)
73.2% (9th)
7.46 (13th)
20.4% (8th)
Last 30 days
   4.22     (13th)
65.1% (14th)
6.98 (14th)
23% (last)

   San Francisco Giants Offense 

2014 season
.244 (11th)
.304 (12th)
.144 (3rd)
7.4% (9th)
34 (14th)
4.5% (last)
10.2% (13th)
Last 30 days
.237 (13th)
.291 (12th)
.105 (12th)
6.6% (12th)
82 (12th)
4 (last)
4.3% (last)
12% (last)

The LOB% and ISO stand out the most.

According to fangraphs.com, 72% is usually the magic number for LOB%. Most Major League-caliber pitchers will average about 72% LOB given a big enough sample size.

In the season to date, the Giants’ 73.2% LOB is just about normal. However, their 65.1% LOB in the last 30 days is well below average, which likely means they’ve been unlucky. This is one number that we can reasonably expect to improve.

But the ISO drop-off is less promising, and staggering.

After hitting six home runs in April (plus one day in March), Buster Posey has just three homers in 217 plate appearances since. That’s one home run every 72.3 PA.

Since hitting 11 home runs in April and May, Michael Morse has just three since. He has only eight extra-base hits in 114 PA since the calendar turned to June. That’s one XBH every 14.3 PA.

Pablo Sandoval has only two home runs, four doubles, and one triple in 121 PA since June 1st. That’s one XBH every 17.3 PA.

The only Giant who’s been pulling his weight with power has been the 2014 All-Star Hunter Pence. Pence has four homers, eight doubles and a triple in 143 PA since June 1st. That’s one XBH every 11 PA. He also has 30 singles and eight walks in that span.

Overall, San Francisco’s 82 wRC+ in the last 30 days is equivalent to Dioner Navarro’s career wRC+.

Navarro’s 162-game average in his career is just a .251/.311/.369 slash line with 12 home runs, 23 doubles, and one steal.

Imagine nine Navarros in the lineup—that’s what the Giants offense has been these last 30 days.

For the season, however, the Giants offense has a 97 wRC+, equivalent to the career wRC+ of both Marco Scutaro and Freddy Sanchez.

In other words, the Giants’ lineup this year has essentially been, one through nine, Scutaro, or Sanchez, or any combination of Scutaro and Sanchez. Not bad.

Comparatively, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim have a 115 wRC+ for the season, equivalent to having nine Craig Biggios in their lineup every night. Pretty impressive.

On the pitching side, the Giants’ 3.40 team ERA this season is just higher than Matt Cain’s career 3.39 ERA.

Look for the pitching to remain good—not great—and for the hitting to improve to a respectable Scutaro- or Sanchez-like level (on average).

A pitching staff of Matt Cains and a lineup of Scutaros is not the worst thing in the world.

If the Giants really want to improve, they need to address their low team on-base percentage and their lack of speed. San Francisco’s infield-hit % is lowest the N.L. and they’ve stolen the second fewest bases.

Posey, Morse, Sandoval, and Belt should be able to hit for more extra-base power than they have lately for the rest of the season.

If that happens, and the pitching remains Cain-like, the Giants should be able to turn their slump around and secure a spot in the playoffs.

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