Friday, June 26, 2015

Rollin' Around in the Grass

Oh, to be a lazy dog on a summer day...  While manfully trying to avoid thinking about the disastrous news emanating from Washington, D.C., where a group of five justices seems to view themselves as a sort of provisional dictatorship-- but only when it really matters, right?-- we've been traipsing through the midseason statistics, there now being enough numbers on the board to spot some trends, speculate on some outcomes, and generally immerse ourselves in baseball, because-- well, because, thankfully, we can. 

If the season ended today, the Pittsburgh Pirates would be hosting the National League wild-card game for the third consecutive year, and it would be the Chicago Cubs with visitation rights, not our Giants. The Cubs haven't made the postseason since 2008, and at the moment they're a half-game ahead of our heroes. Though playing in the hitters' haven of Wrigley Field, the Cubs are only an unimpressive ninth in the league in runs, and-- check that stat sheet again, Dave-- they're dead last in runs scored at home! Clearly those Wrigley renovations have had a deleterious effect on the home team, at least from plateside. But Chicago is a most respectable fourth in the league in ERA, with similar home/road splits. And it ain't Jon Lester doing it; the team's two top starters, Jason Hammel and Jake Arrieta, both have ERAs below 3.10, and the Cubs have really benefited from 100 or so innings pitched by three relievers-- Pedro Strop, Jason Motte, and closer Hector Rondon-- who are a combined 9-5 with 14 saves and low ERAs. 

Pittsburgh, meanwhile, is second only to the Cardinals in ERA, with early-season CYA favorite Gerritt Cole leading the league with 11 wins, and both he and teammate A.J. Burnett are in the top six in ERA (2.01 and 2.16). Like the Cubs, the Bucs are down in the lower middle when it comes to offense. Andrew McCutchen is, as usual, among the league leaders in OBP, and first baseman Anthony Rizzo is the Cubs' heavy hitter, slugging a healthy .586, sixth in the NL and well ahead of the Giants' top slugger, Brandon (.483) Belt. 

So, what do we think of this provisional lineup Bruce Bochy is using while both Nori Aoki and Hunter Pence languish on the DL? It's good that management recognizes Belt has to stay in the lineup against right-handers, at a minimum, even if it means moving him to left field and giving up a little D. Buster Posey does hit a lot better at first base, and Andrew Susac has been tearing the cover off the ball since he started playing regularly, and Gregor Blanco and Justin Maxwell do look better as a right-field platoon than as two corner outfielders... and all of this is temporary-but-necessary while the team is down two starters.  We can't argue with 19 runs scored at home in two games, especially considering what a fallow field the 'Bell has been for us so far. 

So, the Giants are only half a game behind the Cubs and a full game behind Pittsburgh for the wild-card, and also a game behind LA for the division. As we noted awhile back, the Giants lead the league across-the-board in all major batting categories on the road, while remaining tenaciously ordinary in pitching, both home and away (seventh overall, with that previously-discussed run-and-a-half home/road split). 

As they did a year ago, the St Louis Cardinals are winning with pitching, but unlike 2014, they're at least average in runs scored. Matt Carpenter and Kolten Wong are both among the top 15 in runs scored, though like the Giants the Cards are not a team of sluggers. Speakin' of which, Jhonny Peralta has moved, we note reluctantly, far enough ahead of Brandon Crawford in RBI and SLG to more than offset Craw's defensive advantage of half a play a game. Both need to be there in Cincinnati, but it looks as though Buster Posey will be our only starter.  

Posey's mercurial past couple of weeks-- two grand slam homers in five days!-- has moved him up to sixth in the league in RBI... Five Giants-- Posey, Joe Panik, Crawford, Belt, and Aoki-- all have scored more than 30 runs; only Washington and the Mets have five players who've done the same...  Paul Goldschmidt's hitting .354 and leading the league in walks, and in OBP with .473... Giancarlo Stanton, Bryce Harper, and Cincinnati's Todd Frazier lead the slugging parade, with Goldschmidt also weighing in because he has so darn many hits... Goldschmidt is one of only three NL regulars who's walked more than he's struck out, the others being two of our guys, Posey and Aoki...  Joe Panik is ninth in the league in batting at .310 and he's leading the team in runs. Yes, he's for real... The aforementioned Rizzo of the Cubs has been hit by the pitch 14 times, which leads the league. Whatever it takes, right?... Casey McGehee, despite only 136 plate appearances, has grounded into 14 double plays, tied for the NL lead with a guy who has 292 PAs.  Were McGehee allowed to play a full season, he'd break Jim Rice's record of 36 by August... Aoki and Howie Kendrick are the two most likely NL starters to hit a ground ball. Meanwhile, Curtis Granderson of the Mets is twice as likely to put the ball in the air... In terms of bang-for-your-buck, nobody's doing better than our own Matt Duffy. The dear departed Pablo Sandoval is having a good year in Boston, right in line with his career numbers: .275/.324/.408, 24 runs, 24 RBI, six homers. Now review Brother Duffy: .288/.338/.439, 23 runs scored and 34 RBI.  Even discounting Fenway Park's decided offensive advantage over AT&T, those are great comps-- and, of course, Pablo's cashing a $17.5 million check from the Sox this year. The Giants are paying Duffy 1/35 of that, or $500,000. 

Clayton Kershaw still leads the league in strikeouts, he's tenth in WHIP (right there with Madison Bumgarner) and his 3.33 ERA is still in the top twenty, but the two-time reigning Cy Young winner is only 5-5 on the year and that's what they look at first... Teammate Zack Greinke is "only" 5-2, but at 1.70 he leads the Nats' Max Scherzer by a run or so. Scherzer, who has to rate as the offseason's top pickup, has 123 strikeouts already and an ungodly WHIP of .080. How in the devil has he lost five games already?... Look, there's the Cards' Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha, and Carlos Martinez in order at 2.84, 2.85, and 2.89, with a combined 22-10 mark... Though he's pitched only 32 innings, Cincy's amazing Aroldis Chapman is second in the league with five wild pitches. Of course, when you consider he's struck out 56 men in those 32 innings and held opponents to a .193 average, a few slingshots to the backstop are worth the price... Still, having a closer who's already walked as many men as Zack Grienke is sure to give you a few sleepless nights... Cole "Trade Bait" Hamels is the hardest-workin' pitcher in the league, having faced more batters and thrown more pitches than anyone. James Shields, whom the Giants avidly pursued during the offseason and then beat up on yesterday, is another who's puttin' in the labor, as are Kershaw and Bumgarner... Shields is 7-2 with a 4.24 ERA while Hamels is a run lower at 3.26 but sports a 5-6 mark. Both are among the league leaders in strikeouts. No wonder the Phillies are asking so much for Hamels, and we have to figure he will go somewhere within the next thirty days.

New York is always a possibility, and we don't mean the Mets. Tampa Bay has taken the AL East lead for now, Baltimore is hot, Toronto was hot, Boston is in the cellar again, and all this means that division remains wide open. The Yankees are scoring a lot of runs but are 12th in the league in ERA. Get out the checkbook-- no, the big one... The Oakland A's are baseball's most mystifying team. They're third in the league in runs scored and second in ERA, and until last week they were languishing in the AL West cellar, barely above .400. Now they've won eight of ten and are making a move. Leading that division are, of course, the astonishing Houston Astros, who have hit more home runs than any other major-league team, with five guys over 10 already. What are we to make of Luis Valbuena, whose 19 homers represent half his hit total, and who is slugging .455 while batting .199? He does strike out a lot, though not at a record pace...  You want a record pace, keep an eye on teammate Chris Carter. He's already fanned 99 times in 242 ABs, which projects out to about 212 or so-- which was his total in 2013 and is only a few off the all-time record... This record has really taken off since the millennium, with the top 16 whiffers all active since then. We've come a long way from Bobby Bonds' record of 189 in 1970, which had some proclaiming the imminent end of the world... Anyway, in addition to all the homers, the 'Stros are fourth in the AL in ERA, mostly thanks to ace southpaw Dallas Keuchel, a big Oklahoma boy of 25 who is 9-3 with a 2.17, 95 K's and a 0.96 WHIP in a league-leading 116 innings... Hey, how about Keuchel facing Madison Bumgarner in the All-Star Game, hah?

Brian Sabean was in Cincinnati a few days ago, with rumor run rampant that he was scouting Johnny (2.98 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) Cueto and Mike Leake, who has a better W-L despite allowing one more run per game. At 34-37, are the Reds already midseason sellers? Both players are making about ten million and will be free agents after this year, Cueto is two years older but has shown more upside-- and both figure to be mighty expensive in terms of value given if the Reds do decide to move either one or both... There's little chance the Giants will do anything until Matt Cain and Jake Peavy both get a shot to rejoin the starting rotation. The two Tims, Lincecum and Hudson, appear most likely to be replaced at this time. Even without the no-hitter, Chris Heston is pitching 'way too well to even consider replacing. He is second to Bumgarner in all meaningful pitching stats and he leads the team with eight wins. Yes, Lincecum has seven himself -- like Bum, he is 7-4-- but he has also walked 36 men, second in the league, which is especially disturbing since he averages about one fewer inning pitched per game than his competitors. The league is hitting .286 against Hudson (5-6), and he's at 4.52, though he still doesn't walk people.  Ryan Vogelsong is the other candidate, but he's cut his ERA down by half a run with two good starts back-to-back. We'd argue "Vogey" has actually pitched even better than his record; in 13 starts he has three certifiable turkeys in which he was shelled. Two of those were in April; the third as two weeks ago and even then, he only gave up four runs (though it could have been worse and perhaps should have been). Still, if you're looking at numbers, he clearly outranks Hudson, though his 33 walks in 80 innings are troubling. 

What we can expect from Cain and Peavy is unknown, of course. Cain was bringin' it at 95 in his last Sacramento tuneup, and considering he's 30, with high mileage, and coming off two elbow surgeries, that is most encouraging. Peavy, three years older, is trying to overcome back issues, and most of us know how frustratingly difficult back problems can be.  Trying to be sanguine about this, we figure one of these guys will come back and make a contribution in the second half, and perhaps keep the brain trust from making a costly trade. For both to stay in the rotation-- well, that would be a blessing indeed, despite the difficult personnel decisions such an outcome would demand.  

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Candlestick Countdown Part II



The slow demolition of Candlestick Park continues apace, and we recently came to the belated realization that our last 'Stick-related missive was over a year ago, when we conclusively proved that the windy old hellhole did not cost Willie Mays the career home-run record or, indeed, any home runs at all over the course of his fabulous career.

We left the question hangin' as to whether this was further evidence of Willie's superiority over mere mortals, or whether, and how much, Candlestick cost anybody any homers, and the larger question of whether, and how much the 'Stick cost teams runs over the years. How much of a hitters' graveyard, in other words, are we talkin' about?

Lord knows, the anecdotal evidence abounds. "A cold park at sea level," mused the ineffable Bill James, "a nightmare for hitters." In a ballpark-by-ballpark review done in the early 1980s, the selfsame sage succinctly described Candlestick's infield as "Cobblestones." During his brief Giants sojourn in the late 1970s, former batting champ Bill Madlock put it this way: “It’s like trying to hit a cotton ball wearing an overcoat." Cleveland slugger Rocky Colavito was blunt. "If I had to play here, I'd think seriously about quitting the game," he groused after the 1962 All-Star Game.  We ourselves earned our Croix de Candlestick on a night when the old scrap pile put up her legendary weather trifecta: wind, fog, and mist.  Giants lost that night, of course, and to the Dodgers, too. 

So, with a plug and a thank-you to our good friends at baseball-reference.org, we ran a whole spectrum of numbers and came up with our best estimate as to just how much Candlestick Park affected home runs, and offense in general.


Home Runs

Over the entire 40 year-period, 5280 home runs were hit at Candlestick Park. The league average for all other parks over the same period was 4890. Thus Candlestick, by this simple comparison, increased home run production by about 8%. Over the course of an average season, 132 home runs were hit at the 'Stick, 122 on average elsewhere. The split is more pronounced (145-125) from 1960 through 1970, the years in which the outfield was open and the "Candlestick Express" gale winds blew west to east (left to right) across the field and out into the parking lot behind the right-field scoreboard. The advantage drops to 127-121 after the stadium was fully enclosed to accommodate the 49ers prior to the 1971 season. 

Of course, some of you wise guys are already nodding your heads, sharpening your pencils-- er, hovering over your keyboards, that is-- and ready to point out that from 1960-1970, the Giants had a whole boatload of home-run hitters on the roster, from Mays to McCovey to Cepeda to Jim Ray Hart, and that those guys were gonna hit the ball out anywhere, whether it was Candlestick Park or Yellowstone Park. And that will be a theme we return to later in this screed: how much of the "Candlestick effect", if there is one, can be attributed to the park, and how much attributed to the Giants? Which has the greater effect on the statistical skew?

The Giants outhomered their opponents, on average, 69-63 per year at the 'Stick; that's six of Candlestick's ten extra homers. From 1960-1970 the split was even more extreme: 82-64. That's 90% of Candlestick's 20-homer-per-year advantage for the decade.  If we remove the Giants from the picture entirely, most of the Candlestick difference from the other parks just melts away. Opponents averaged 126 homers per year at the 'Stick as opposed to 122 elsewhere, a 3% difference. Not quite statistical noise, but not terribly significant, either.

On balance, Candlestick Park was an average home-run ballpark.  In 30 of the 40 years the facility was open, more home runs were hit there on average than in neutral parks. Most of those years, the advantage was modest. And of the ten years where Candlestick saw fewer home runs hit, seven in a row were from 1975 through 1981, when the Giants were notably lacking in sluggers. The last year Candlestick fell below the league average was 1988-- just as a few guys named Mitchell, Clark, Williams, and (later) Bonds were warmin' up.  It seems beyond question that the quality and quantity of sluggers on the home team had a much greater effect on the number of home runs hit than did Candlestick's well-known deficiencies.

It didn't rob anyone or any team of homers. Of course, if you weren't a slugger to begin with, it didn't help much, either. Not a place for cheap home runs by any stretch, but the "homer to left ending up as a popup to short" is likely based more on myth than on fact.

Except for one year, 1960, the year the old battle-axe opened her doors. We'll have more to say about that later, and it may cast some light on how ballplayers and teams adjust to extreme park effects.  


Runs

"Well, maybe Candlestick wasn't so bad for homers, but my goodness, who wants to hit a cotton ball while wearing an overcoat? No batting champion ever played there, right? And my copy of the 1982 Abstract flatly states that Candlestick cuts run production by 10%. So there!" 

From 1978 through 1981, the years James measured, Candlestick did indeed cut run production compared to all other parks-- 2192 runs as opposed to 2486, which is more like 12%.  That's significant.

And it's an anomaly, too. Over 40 seasons, 658 runs per year were scored at Candlestick, 663 in neutral parks. That's less than a one percent difference, which really is down in the statistical noise. The difference between the old, open-outfield configuration and the later enclosed bowl is negligible. Twenty out of forty years, more runs were scored at Candlestick on average than at neutral parks. The other twenty years, fewer were scored. Dead even.    

If we look only at the Giants' opponents' runs, we see on average they scored 318 at the 'Stick, or a rate of 636 over 162 games, 28 fewer than in the neutral parks. That's a little less than five percent, which moves us into more familiar territory.

If we "normalize" the league stats to remove the Giants from the picture completely-- that's runs scored and runs allowed, hitting and pitching -- the results change slightly. Over 40 years the Giants' effect on the league was 587 more runs than average, or about 15 extra runs per year.

Given that Candlestick yielded about 5 fewer runs per year than did neutral parks, it would appear the Giants' influence on runs scored is about three times that of Candlestick Park itself.  If we remove the Giants' 15 extra runs per year, then Candlestick would probably yield about 20 runs per year fewer than an average NL ballpark, which is about a 3% reduction.

The most extreme bias we can apply is to measure how the Giants' opponents did on their own home fields as opposed to Candlestick. Opponents averaged 350 runs per year at home, or about 9% more than they did at the 'Stick (318). 

So, to summarize:

Visiting teams on average scored 9% fewer runs at Candlestick than at their home fields.  

Visiting teams scored 5% fewer runs at Candlestick than they did at all other parks.

The Giants averaged about the same number of runs at the 'Stick as they did elsewhere (341 versus 345).  Little or no home-field advantage, as we would expect.

Candlestick's park effects are statistically masked, to a certain degree, by the Giants' own numbers. 

Our best estimate is that Candlestick Park reduced offense by about 4% for an average team in an average season.


Outliers 

Enough dull numbers. What about the fun stuff?

There were 799 runs scored at Candlestick in 1970, 74 more than the league average. The Giants themselves scored 831 runs that year, their second-highest total ever-- but they also allowed 826, and thus finished third. They scored 413 at home, 418 on the road.

Those 799 runs were the most scored at the old ballpark until 1996, when 831 crossed the plate-- an appalling 431 of those allowed by the Giants' execrable pitching staff.

The 1962 pennant-winning team outscored opponents 479-299 at Candlestick and 878-690 overall, still the highest-scoring team in San Francisco history, and probably the greatest, too. 

The 479 runs scored remains the Candlestick record.  

Also, that 180-point spread is by far the biggest home-field advantage of any Giants team; only the 1989 pennant winners came even close, at 113. 

The only other Giants team to score over 400 at home was the 1998 squad (423), which lost a one-game playoff for the wild-card spot.   

Who remembers 1979? Oh, we're so sorry. Among other things, that team was outscored 361-298 at home, 63 runs to the bad, worst ever at Candlestick.  1974 (-58), 1984 (-53), 1985 (-42), 1995 (-59), and, of course 1996 (-45) were also terrible years. 

On the other hand, the 1997 team was outscored at home by ten runs and still won the division. Its complement would be that great 1993 club, which outscored opponents by 69 runs at home-- and 103 on the road, far and away the team record-- but lost the division by one game despite winning 103. 

The fewest runs per game allowed by any Giants team at Candlestick was in 1978, when opponents managed only 244 in 81 games. The Giants themselves scored a modest 291. The 1978 season total of 535 is the lowest in Candlestick history, excluding the 1981 strike year. It's even lower than in Candlestick's inaugural season of 1960, of which more presently. 

The Giants outscored their opponents at home in  each of their first 14 years at Candlestick. Not until 1974 were they outscored  at home.

The rising and falling fortunes of the Giants themselves had little effect on whether Candlestick yielded more or fewer runs than the average park. In six of the ten "3-M" years of the 1960s, with the open outfield, Candlestick yielded fewer total runs than average. Then, for nine straight years (1969-1977) that included some of the team's leanest, Candlestick runs totaled 409 more than average, including a 94-run bulge in 1973.

Just in time for Bill James' 1982 analysis, run totals cratered at the 'Stick in 1978-- 120 fewer than league average, the all-time low-- and for 15 of the park's remaining 22 years she remained a pitchers' park, with a few exceptions (1984, 1990, 1996).

And for a clear example of how a team can fare regardless of its park effects, consider the Giants of 1984-1985, two of the worst teams, certainly, ever to don  the orange and black. In 1984  Candlestick Park was 14% above league in runs scored, and the Giants lost 96 games. The next year, the Stick reduced offense by 13%, and the Giants lost 100 games.


1960

Candlestick Park's reputation as a hitters' graveyard was confirmed in her inaugural 1960 season, and likely was perpetuated for years and decades afterward by that experience.

119 fewer runs were scored at the Giants' new stadium that year than average, and 57 fewer homers were hit.  Both totals are major outliers for a ballpark that, on balance, proved to be essentially neutral for home runs and had, at best, a small bias in favor of the pitcher. The Giants scored only 296 runs at the new ballpark, but 375 on the road; opponents managed only 256 at the 'Stick. Both are among the lowest totals ever, and this during a season that was otherwise average for runs. It's not like the Giants had weakened their lineup, either; they had essentially the same players in 1960 they'd had in 1959, and the road numbers show that. It had to be the ballpark.

There were some strangely configured stadiums in those days-- the Dodgers were in their third year, of four, at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, a facility so ill-suited to baseball that it simply would not be permitted today-- but it seems likely that few, if any, professional ballplayers at that time had ever endured conditions such as Candlestick's for more than a day or so.  There were only 16 major-league teams, and none of them played in conditions where chilly winds and wet fog were a daily occurrence. The minor leagues were heavily skewed toward midwest, southwest and southeast locations where heat and sun, not cold and wind, were the prevailing conditions. We can only imagine the shock. 

And we can only imagine the ingenuity and resiliency that prevailed over those conditions before even one more year had passed. Runs scored at Candlestick shot up to 687 in 1961, 778 in 1962, and continued well over 600 every season up until the "Year of the Pitcher" in 1968, and then went right back up to 600-700 again. Willie Mays, after hitting 69 homers in two years at Seals Stadium, dropped to 29 his first year at Candlestick. He then went on the greatest home-run barrage of his career, 226 over the next five years-- playing in the same ballpark, where he hit 118 of those 226 homers. 

First impressions. We all know the story of Horace Stoneham, visiting the Candlestick construction site at noon, being surprised by the gusty winds, only to be told by the foreman, "Oh, the wind don't really pick up 'til about three o'clock." Candlestick Park was a lousy place to watch a baseball game, especially at night. It was a lousy place to play a baseball game, too, especially at night. 

But the baseball players, Giants and opponents alike, got over it, and got over it quick. It's in the record. 




Thursday, June 4, 2015

Stuck On My Craw

Brandon Crawford is the Giants' most valuable player so far this season, and it ain't particularly close. We've been fans of his defense and his timely hitting for four years now, and he seems lately to be developing a reputation as an under-the-radar kind of star, an "insider's" player, if you will. Unlike many such, Craw's not doing it with "intangibles" or "small ball." No, he's doing it with tangibles-- like 8 homers, tied for best on the club, team-leading runs scored and RBI, a .366 OBP and .505 SLG, 160 assists (second in the NL) and a 2.7 WAR.  At this pace he'll accumulate just under 8 WAR for the season, better than Rich Aurilia's 2001 season, better than Chris Speier in 1972, the only Giant shortstop ever to lead the team in WAR. His range is good if not the best, as is his DP total, and he's clearly ahead of his All-Star voting rival, Jhonny Peralta, in all major offensive and defensive categories. The two guys with really eye-popping defensive stats are the Braves' Andrelton Simmons, who's turned 45 double plays, and the Cubs' Starlin Casrro, whose league-leading range is complemented by a league-leading 12 errors. Neither is close to Crawford with the bat; Brandon's 37 RBI are more than those of such worthies as Andrew McCutchen, Joey Votto, Matt Carpenter, and, for that matter, teammate Buster Posey. "Craw" deserves to be in Cincinnati for the All-Star Game, and it says here he deserves to start.

Losing five in a row and getting swept at home, even by a red-hot playoff-caliber team like Pittsburgh, is almost guaranteed to let the crazies out of the looney bin for a quick Kook's Tour of the internet, and today's "comments" section on the Giants website proved that out. One guy suggested Angel Pagan be benched due to his low (11) RBI total; in the same breath Justin Maxwell was readied for DFA, though he has more RBI than does Pagan, and in 85 fewer at-bats. Sure, Pagan has dropped 30 points off his BA in two weeks (all the way "down" to .297), but two-week fluctuations count a lot more in a 50-game interval than over a full season. Another suggestion was to move Tim Lincecum to the bullpen; presumably the Giants are flush with starters whose ERA is 3 or less.  We get the feeling that the same folks pushing the panic button today are the ones who were waving buh-bye to the Dodgers in the rear-view mirrors of their minds a week ago. Relax, everyone. There are 107 games left to play.

Speaking of the bullpen, though, it is an uncomfortable feeling to note that the only pitchers on the team with WHIP below 1 are Javier Lopez, George Kontos, and the newly promoted Hunter Strickland (only 8 innings, but hey, no homers). Both Jeremy Affeldt and Santiago Casilla are on or over the bad side of 1.5, and while ERA is often a misleading stat for a late-game reliever, no one wants to see numbers like 4.86 from one of our celebrated "Big Four." We don't have stats for inherited runners scored, and we haven't the time to comb through box scores to get them, but when Affeldt and Sergio Romo combine for a negative WAR one-third of the way into the season, that is a cause for genuine concern. 

Bullpen nerves (not in the bullpen, wise guy, about the bullpen) may be the reason Bruce Bochy has been carrying 13 pitchers since Casey McGehee was demoted and Hunter Strickland elevated last week. Lord knows, we've railed against even 12 pitchers on a roster until our lungs bled, and it wasn't all that long ago we gave up on our "Ten Is Enough" campaign, but "Boch" may be looking at the combination of short starts (six innings or less) and close games (16 one-run games out of 55, or 29%) and concluding he really needs that extra arm. As we feared, this gives the club a paper-thin bench; excluding catcher Andrew Susac, only Gregor Blanco, Justin Maxwell, and Joaquin Arias are available for pinch duty. A trademark of Bochy's management over the years has been aggressively getting everyone involved in the action; no one sits for long on this team. But lately it seems the same guys have been getting a lot of playing time, with the above three starting to rust a bit. Perhaps in response, Arias, Susac, and Maxwell all started the last game of the Pirates series. We'll see if "Boch's" trademark flexibility reasserts itself over the next couple of weeks, even with diminished opportunities. 


And When It's Time for Leavin',  I Hope You'll Understand

On the road the Giants lead the league in the grand trifecta: batting, OBP, and slugging (and therefore also in OPS). Overall, they're still first in the league in batting average and in hits, second in OBP, and fifth in slugging.  Buncha studs, that Giants lineup, hey? Except they're only eighth, right in the middle of the pack, in runs scored, which is kinda the purpose of the whole thing, right? So... exackly howzat happen?

You know that creeping feeling you get when something you've suspected, but not wanted to believe, becomes more and more likely the harder you look? Well, the Giants have put 692 men on base this year via the hit, the walk, and the hit batsman, well ahead of the next-most-proliferous team. They've grounded into 43 double plays already, well above the norm (the just-departed Pirates have only 28). They've also had 14 runners caught stealing, which is about average (consider the woeful Padres; one thing they can do is steal bases-- 36 steals and only caught 9 times). We may then have a rough estimate of how many men have been left on base by subtracting those totals, plus runs scored, from the baserunner total. And-- oh yeah, there are our Giants, with 412 LOB, far more than any other team. The Washington Nationals, for example, have 70 fewer hits than do the Giants, but have outscored Our Boys by ten runs while stranding only 351.

Of course, leaving men on base is an indicator, at least in gross, of a team that scores runs, since you need to get men on base in order to leave men on base and the most basic rule of baseball is that if you get men on base you will score runs. Nobody wants to be the Milwaukee Brewers, for example, who are next-to-last in the league in runs scored and lowest in LOB, but it'd best to be near the middle of the pack on this stat, and not leading the league in it.  The Giants would be served by hitting with a lot more efficiency, and perhaps now that Casey McGehee, aka The GIDP Machine, is off the active roster things will start to improve.  And maybe we'll develop a Offensive Efficiency Record-- runs scored divided by hits and walks, for example-- similar to DER on the other side of the ball, in our copious spare time, whatever that is,



This 'n' That

Speakin' of efficiency, the Giants are second only to the Cincinnati Reds in DER-- Defensive Efficiency Record-- the percentage of balls-in-play that are converted into outs. Is anyone at all surprised?...  Meanwhile the pitching staff is sixth in the league in ERA, but with a brutal, 1.5-run, home-road split.  A 4.60 road ERA? Since the boys are averaging .286 in away games, the runs/runs allowed per game split still favors us at 5.1/4.6, while at the 'Bell it's only 3.2/3.1. That scans like two completely different teams, don't it?... Nori Aoki, 9th in the league in batting, is third in hits. Brandon Belt, who wasn't hitting at all a month ago, is ninth in slugging and fourth with 16 doubles. Along with Pagan's three triples (tied for second) and Crawford's 37 RBI (seventh), those are the only leaderboard spots for the Giants at the moment... On the pitching side, Tim Lincecum has dropped to 14th in ERA after hovering around the top for awhile... Santiago Casilla's 15 saves are tied for fourth. He's blown three... Lincecum, as usual, is up there in most walks allowed, and Madison Bumgarner finally cracks the leaderboard with a 1.11 WHIP, tied with Cole Hamels for 14th... James Shields, whom the Giants pursued vigorously but who signed with the rival Padres, is 7-0 despite allowing a league-high 15 homers in 75 innings so far...  Y'all can look at the standings as easily as we can, and maybe someone out there can explain the Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins, and Oakland A's. At least the NL makes sense, sort of, assuming the St Louis Cardinals slow down a bit and play only. 600 ball for awhile. 


Housekeeping

While everyone was asleep, we stole quietly into the midst of our back pages and completed the "Giants Teams", "Giants Players", and "Giants Transactions" by adding information, and our usual inimitable colorful commentary, for every player and deal going all the way back to the team's 1958 arrival in San Francisco. Yes, you Hobie Landrith fans may rest assured; your guy's in there at last. For the rest of you--  well, you know what to do.