Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The single truest statement in baseball is that if you get men on base, you will score runs. The Giants so far have seemed bent on testing the outer limits of that truth. They have scored six runs in five games, by a considerable margin the worst total in the league. The runs created method, simple version, expects the Giants to have scored 13 runs based on their OBP and SLG. In other words, even with the worst OBP (.244) and fourth-worst SLG (.319) in the NL, the Giants have underperformed their expectation by over 50%. 
The good news? This can't last, and it won't. 
But it's entertaining. For instance, the Giants have stranded 33 runners on base in 5 games; opponents, 23. The Giants are 2-for-31 with RISP. And-- get this-- neither of those hits drove in a run. Brandon Belt and Kelby Tomlinson are the guys who delivered, and in each case they advanced a runner from second to third. One did eventually score: Gregor Blanco, last night on a sacrifice fly. We stranded the other one, Hunter Pence, in the opener at LA.
Our collective opponents are a robust 9-for-28 with RISP. Yes, the Giants, pathetic offense and all, have advanced more men into scoring position than have their opponents so far. We just can't drive 'em in.
Again, this is a statistic that always trends toward the middle as time goes by. Don't give up the ship. Yet.
Pitching? The Giants have surrendered 20 runs; against those 6 runs scored. By rights they should be 0-5 according to the Pythagorean projection. Yet using the runs created method, their projected runs allowed is only 13. By runs created, the Giants should be around .500, exactly where they are.
The Giants pitchers have allowed the second-lowest OBP in the league-- a paltry .292. Their opponents' SLG is a pathetic .305, second only to the Cubs (who are also 2-3, sports fans). Between some critical errors in LA and opponents hitting .321 with RISP, the pitching stats are skewed the other way.  In general, our pitchers have done better than their runs allowed and 3.77 ERA would indicate.
For those of you who think we hit into too many double plays, the Giants have grounded into 6-- but opponents have hit into 7.
And if you like base stealing, take heart-- only Washington, Milwaukee, and Colorado have done better on the bases than our two intrepid speed demons, Brandon Belt and Buster Posey, who are a combined 2-for-2. 
All of the above may be taken with as many grains of salt as needed to fill a shaker that's labeled, "Small Sample Size."

We cheered the last-minute inclusion of Reyes Moronta onto this patchwork pitching staff because the guy just turned 25 years old and he throws 99 MPH apparently without much effort. But the oft-stated caveat was that he had better learn how to control that stuff, and so far the returns have been mixed. 
In three appearances, all in the last three games, Moronta has had one good outing and two bad.  
Against LA on Saturday he had mop-up duty in the eighth inning of a 5-0 game, and retired the three men he faced. Low pressure situation.
In the Sunday series finale, he came in for the first time with men on base. It was in the eighth, replacing Roberto Gomez, who had allowed four straight hits to open the frame and turned a 5-0 game into an 9-0 laugher. No real pressure, the game is all but lost, but something of a "let's see how he handles it" moment. Second and third, nobody out, the toughest defensive situation in baseball. Moronta needs a strikeout; he gets a ground ball to short, the runner on third scoring. He gets a popup for the second out, runner holding second. Then he gives up a RBI base hit. Both inherited runners thus score on his watch. Tough way to go on that first run allowed, since the first out of any inning is the most important one, and he did get that out, after all. 
Last night Moronta relieves Ty Blach with one out in the fifth. It's 5-1, Seattle, men on first and second, still plenty of innings left. His job is to keep the score where it is. What happens? He walks the first batter he faces on four straight pitches to load the bases. And, instead of a harmless fly ball, the second out of the inning becomes a RBI sacrifice fly. The Mariners, now with a five-run lead, are confident enough to let their starting pitcher bat after Moronta pitches around the #8 hitter for his second walk. That one run allowed means the Giants' subsequent rally falls two runs short instead of one, with all the strategic differences that implies.
There is nothing more damaging a relief pitcher can do than come into a game with men on base and issue a walk. We've noted before that some pitchers are better when they start an inning fresh, while others are better coming in with men on base. Your heat-throwing types (think Hunter Strickland) tend to fit the first category; the finesse guys (think Javier Lopez) the second. Few can do both effectively. One part of a savvy manager's job is to determine which is which. For Moronta, his job is to throw enough strikes so he can stay in the bullpen long enough for Bruce Bochy and Curt Young to decide it's worth their while to evaluate where he stands instead of just sending him back to Triple-A. 

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