The Giants’ offense was supposed to be punch-less this year and for the most part is has been. Let’s take a quick look at how the offense has performed so far, courtesy of The Hardball Times team statistics page.
R/G OPS GB% LD% BABIP SF 3.15 .655 47% 20% .286 League 4.53 .739 45% 19% .289
The average team in the NL is scoring 1.38 more runs per game than the Giants. Team OPS is also below average, not shocking, but we’re slightly above with LD% and our BABIP is pretty close to league average. The Giants offense is-what-it-is, hitting a lot of singles with a few doubles sprinkled in — we’re 7th in the NL for doubles hit with 39. A good portion of those doubles are the product of speedy guys hitting the ball in the right place: Lewis, Velez, and Randy Winn have combined for a third of the doubles output with 13. Jose Castillo has been a doubles monster with 9 already, on pace for a yearly total of 79, which something tells me he won’t reach.
The Giants are tied with the Mets for last in the NL with 10 HR’s. We’re 15th in OBP, only ahead of Houston, and 14th in SLG, ahead of San Diego and Washington. We’ve also scored the fewest runs in the NL. If you wanted to get even more accurate, you could use EqA as a measure, a BP stat that I’m fond of. EqA is a offensive metric that is adjusted for park effects and league environment and is contextualized as a batting average. For example: .260 is league average, .200 is a terrible performance, .300 is a very good performance, and .400+ is tremendous performance. EqA is useful for the Giants because it also takes into account baserunning in it’s calculations, something that the Giants are planning to do a lot of this year.
Top 5 Teams by EqA
1. Arizona (.287)
2. Boston (.286)
3. Atlanta (.284)
4. Florida (.280)
5. St. Louis (.280)
Bottom 5 Teams by EqA
1. Kansas City (.234)
2. San Francisco (.236)
3. Washington (.238)
4. Minnesota (.239)
5. San Diego (.240)
Even with baserunning factored in, the Giants are next to the Kansas City Royals as having the worst offense in baseball. Again, this is nothing surprising but I just wanted to throw some numbers out there.
As veterans Rich Aurilia and Ray Durham receive less and less playing time, there is some room for slight improvements because when you produce as badly as Durham and Aurilia have so far this season, there aren’t many ways to go but up. One of the prospects that’s show some ability in the early part of this season has been John Bowker. The Giants have liked his bat so much that they’ve even stuck him at first base to get him in the lineup, a position that Aurilia hasn’t done jack at. No one expects Bowker to carry his torrid pace over a full season but his swing is nice and he’s been making solid contact. He’s even drawn a couple of walks, which is unheard of for a Giants hitter.
Lets take a look via MLB’s Gameday at the pitches that Bowker has hit out of the yard this year.
Home run #1 – April 12th vs St. Louis
Pitching: Todd Wellemeyer
Bowker jumped on a first pitch fastball from Todd Wellemeyer for his first career home run. Wellemeyer started the at-bat with a 89mph fastball in the middle of the plate, slightly in on Bowker, and he turned on the pitch quite nicely, showcasing his quick and compact swing. The ball was pulled to RF for a HR. You’ll start to notice this trend as we look at his other two HR’s. Bowker is quick on the middle-to-inside part of the plate and has shown no problems getting around on pitches in that area.
Home run #2 – April 13th vs St. Louis
Pitching: Joel Pineiro
Bowker homered again against the Caridnals — he’s terrorized them this year, hitting all three of his home runs against them — the very next day. Once again, the pitch was middle of the plate and slightly in. The pitch in question was a 84mph slider from Joel Pineiro in the middle of the plate. Not a good pitch to throw and right in Bowker’s happy zone. Once again, he pulled the ball to RF and out of the park.
Home run #3 – April 20th vs St. Lous
Pitching: Braden Looper
This was definitely a mistake pitch, a 90mph fastball down the pipe that Looper threw as he started to get knocked around by the Giants. Once again, it was in Bowker’s happy zone in the middle of the plate. He pulled the pitch down the RF line and into the stands. All three of his home runs have been pulled to RF. Why was the pitch a mistake? We know that Bowker has done all of his damage against the Cardinals and they’ve obviously become aware of where not to pitch Bowker — middle of the plate and even slightly inside to him — and the game plan was to pitch him on the outside and work him upstairs occasionally. Let’s check out the rest of Bowker’s AB’s from the April 20th game, the successful ones for the Cardinals and see how they pitched him.
2nd Inning, Braden Looper pitching
This was the game plan. Work Bowker away with an assortment of fastballs and off-speed pitches. Looper threw three changeups in this AB — pitches 1,2, and 5 — and the rest were fastballs. Each pitch, except for the 1st pitch changeup, was down and away. On the 5th pitch of the at-bat, Bowker hit a changeup that was down and away on the ground to 2nd base for a groundout.
4th inning, Anthony Reyes pitching
Bowker actually saw more pitches in the middle of the plate during this AB and it might have something to do with the score of the game. At the time the Cardinals were down 8-0 and Reyes obviously didn’t want to walk anyone. The count was 2-1 when Bowker got two hittable pitches, 4 and 5 both fastballs, which he fouled off. Bowker eventually flied out to left field on the 7th pitch, a fastball, but you can still see that Reyes attempted to work Bowker away some in the early stage of the at-bat.
7th inning, Ron Villone pitching
In the 7th the Cardinals brought in lefty Ron Villone to face Bowker. Villone worked Bowker away in pitches 1, 2, and 4 but then went inside on him in pitches 5, 6, 7, and 8. Lefties are probably more likely to work Bowker in than a right handed pitcher because a lefty is already throwing to that side of the plate. You can also see that Villone also worked Bowker up and in more with pitches 8 and 6. Bowker struck out swinging on pitch 8, a 92mph fastball.
9th inning, Ron Villone pitching
Bowker’s final at-bat of the game and his second against Ron Villone. Villone struck out Bowker again and worked him away in pitches 1 and 3 and up in the zone on pitches 2 and 4. All four pitches that Villone threw were fastballs.
Theres no doubt that Bowker has quick hands and a good swing. His swing isn’t long, or loopy, and he seems to be able to get around on the ball with some authority when it’s middle to the inside of the plate. This is apparent by all three of his home runs being mostly located in the same area and pulled into RF. I believe that Bowker’s hot start has made teams more likely to pitch him either up and in or away, so that he’ll have more difficulty in pulling the ball to RF where his pull power is. It’s possible that Bowker is going to have to make some adjustments and look to hit the ball the other way on occasion when he’s pitched away and to lay off the high hard stuff.
He’s an interesting player to keep an eye on as the season progresses and one of the reasons that the Giants offense could get better. Players like John Bowker that display smatterings of talent are the entire reason to watch the 2008 San Francisco Giants.