Prepare for a bold statement: The Giants’ offense isn’t very good.
I hope you were sitting down but it’s true, the Giants offense has done more sputtering this season than anything else. A graph and then a bunch of words.
This basic graph shows how many runs the Giants have scored thus far in their first 25 games. On the year, the offense has scored an average of 3.6 runs per game as indicated by the red line. The Giants have a total of — before today’s 6-2 win against the Cubs — 84 runs scored on the year. That number is the lowest total of runs scored for any team in baseball. If we use a linear weights stat like wOBA, things don’t improve much. The Giants have a team wOBA of .299. The only team with a worse wOBA is the struggling Oakland Athletics. The A’s wOBA is currently at .291. The biggest problem with Giants is that they don’t hit for any power, they strike out a lot, and they don’t walk much. The team ISO (.119) is ranked 29th in baseball. Team K% (23.7) is ranked 26th in baseball. And the team BB% (7.5) is ranked 29th in baseball. Piling up strikeouts isn’t really a bad thing if you’re doing other things well — drawing walks and hitting for power — but the Giants aren’t doing either of those two things.
Or, to put it in simple terms: We don’t make a lot of contact, but when we do it’s not very likely to go for extra-bases, and we don’t walk.
The season is still young — only 15% of the schedule has been played — so things could get better. But, losing games 1-0 can get frustrating quick. Let’s check out some of the individual hitters who are doing well — all two of them — and the ones who are struggling.
.338 wOBA / .227 ISO / 0 BB% / 12.5 K% / .301 BABIP
You didn’t read the above stat line wrong, Molina has a zero BB% on the season. In 90+ PA’s Molina has yet to draw a walk. Molina has never been one to walk a lot — his career high is 27 walks in a full season with most years being in the teens — but not one-single-walk in almost 100 PA’s is almost impressive. He’s hitting for a career high ISO on the young season and when you consider his position, a .330+ wOBA catcher is a valuable thing to have. Stay hot, Bengie.
.378 wOBA / .104 ISO / 13.5 BB% / 36.4 K% / .490 BABIP
Meet your team wOBA leader, Fred Lewis. Fred truly has a weird stat line. The Giants had visions of shuffling Fred Lewis to the #3 spot and turning him into some sort of power hitter — but dreams of power have been put on hold. Fred’s ISO is nearly 40 points lower than his full season ISO in 2008. His BB% is solid but his K% is in the top five for the MLB. The BABIP is unsustainable but hopefully Fred will cut his K% some while hitting for more power as the season goes on. Still, despite the large number of K’s, Fred has been the best hitter on the Giants thus far.
.372 wOBA / .178 ISO / 4.3 BB% / 15.6 K% / .365 BABIP
Pablo is actually seeing less pitches in the strike zone this seasons — 39.6% this season to 46.6% in ’08 — but he’s still hacking. Pablo still profiles as a swing-at-everything hitter with slightly above-average power. He will most likely go through frustrating slumps — ie: when his hits aren’t falling and his BABIP is — but when the hits are falling, everything will look fine and dandy. At just 22-years-old, Sandoval still has some upside to reach and despite some early season struggles, he’s having a fine start to his first full season in the big leagues.
Not Doing Fine
.239 wOBA / .065 ISO / 4.6 BB% / 32.3 K% / .310 BABIP
Maybe the most depressing thing about Ishikawa’s struggles this season is his BABIP of .310, indicating that he’s been slightly lucky. His defense has been quite good, but alas, this is a post on offense. His .239 wOBA is reminiscent of Omar Vizquel’s collapsing wOBA from previous years. He’s hitting for no power and he’s striking out a bunch. There’s a ton of baseball left, and I’ll give Ishikawa more time to figure things out, but for a prospect with a rocky development path this isn’t the start you want to see.
.257 wOBA / .026 ISO / 8.4 BB% / 19.7 K% / .262 BABIP
Oh, you poor rushed prospect. You can’t fault Burriss for not hitting for power because it’s not in his toolset. Burriss is a contact-oriented hitter than needs to whack balls on the ground and his near 20% K% is troubling. Ideally, Burriss would still be honing his craft between AA/AAA and not struggling in the majors. But, this is the Giants, and we live by the moves they make. Like Ishikawa, I’m not ready to give up on Burriss just yet — mainly because the options to replace him are lackluster — but when you’ve got a struggling young player in the MLB who probably shouldn’t be there, things can get ugly quick. He’ll add value with his legs and defense at second base, but he’s got to get a lot closer to the .300 wOBA mark.
.296 wOBA / .133 ISO / 8.5 BB% / 22.7 K% / .268 BABIP
Rowand hasn’t been one of the worst hitters on the team but he hasn’t exactly been good either. His lame 2008 was mostly written off on a rib injury and if this is the best Rowand can do fully healthy, the Giants are in trouble. He broke out of an 0-20 slump in today’s game with a 2 RBI double, so maybe he’s heating up. The further the Giants head into his 5-year deal, the less comfortable I feel.
Comment Starter: Your early season MVP? Early season LVP?