If you like, I can throw another, longer title at you: Statistical Evidence: Who is killing the Giants, a team that, when attempting to score runs, resembles an infant trying to solve a Rubik’s cube.
We already pretty much know, I think, who is killing the Giants offensively. It’s Aubrey Huff and his terrible encore to his brilliant 2010. It’s Miguel Tejada–on both sides of the ball, but who’s counting? Brandon Crawford hasn’t improved the situation at all with his bat. And certainly it’s the replacements for Buster Posey (Eli Whiteside and Chris Stewart) and Freddy Sanchez (Emmanuel Burriss and Bill Hall).
But after looking into this a bit further, I discovered it’s worse than that. In fact, it’s nearly everyone. Here’s what I’ve done: I took the Giants’ slash line (average/on-base percentage/slugging) at each position and compared that to the National League averages at each position.
Let’s forget about the DH spot, but of course understand that, when playing in American League parks, they had a DH performing at the level of a good-hitting pitcher. You’ll notice that they are slightly below average at catcher, slightly above at second, decently above in left field, and well above at pitcher–What more can the hurlers do? Otherwise, they’re well below average at the other positions. First base (-.110 OPS) and shortstop (-.080 OPS) are particularly terrible. Tejada’s glove exacerbates the lack of production (and Huff is no wizard at first, either).
Here’s another thing: the Giants have been abysmal at pinch hitting. And guess what? This makes perfect sense. Why would the Giants have players on the bench that can hit? They wouldn’t; their starters, as a group, can’t hit at all. I wasn’t aware of this problem, but upon discovering it I thought: ‘Yep.’
But the first chart doesn’t go far enough. Matters are worse in San Francisco. That’s because we know that Posey is no longer around and neither is Sanchez. So, I’ve updated the chart by putting Stewart’s and Whiteside’s combined slash line for catcher and Burriss’ and Hall’s for second. Read it and weep.
We can now see that Giants are well below average at each position except for left and the pitchers’ contributions with the stick. And if you’re tempted to pull the small-sample card on me, then I think you’ve forgotten that we’re talking about Burriss, Hall, Whiteside and Stewart.
The catching position could stand to be upgraded–if you could somehow combine Whiteside’s offense and Stewart’s defense, you’d probably have a decent-ish player there. But this isn’t a video game. First base has been a disaster with Huff’s down year. I don’t think it will happen, but I can’t help but feel that Belt might be able to hit to the NL average, a .788 OPS at first, while also upgrading the position defensively. Second is an out-and-out disaster with a .158 OPS drop-off from Hall and Burriss to the league average player. Mike Fontenot should help upon his return, but he can’t play short and second, and defensively, you probably wouldn’t want to expose him at the former all that often. Shortstop yields an .080 drop from the league-average OPS, and when Tejada’s playing you have a statue on defense–a note worth mentioning thrice. The platoon of Andres Torres and Aaron Rowand in center field has not been an effective one. In fact, after an 0-6 game with four strikeouts, Torres might be the most lost of any of the Giants hitters at the plate. And I hate to point fingers at Nate Schierholtz, but at least by this measure he doesn’t look to hit enough to player right field. We mostly knew that, though, I think.
The few bright spots are left field, the pitchers and third. Left because of Cody Ross’ strong season and Pat “The Bat” Burrell’s… well, bat–when he’s been allowed to play, that is. The fact that the Giants pitchers have more than carried their offensive weight is almost laughable, when you think about it. They are a competitive bunch. And despite the Giants currently sitting at 30 OPS points below average at third, I’ll throw that in as a positive position. Pablo Sandoval missed six weeks and I expect that he’ll hit at or above (if not well above) league average from here on out. His replacements were mostly Mark DeRosa and Tejada so you can see how the position fell below average for the Giants. And his towering swat from his weaker, right-handed swing on Thursday was certainly encouraging.
So when you mom’s-basement GM’s consider which positions the Giants could upgrade at, consider this: they need help virtually everywhere.
They could use a better shortstop, second baseman, catcher, corner outfielder, center fielder, and first baseman. It’s true they have a warm-ish body at each of these spots right now, but I don’t think that should preclude the Giants from being creative and looking to upgrade however possible.
J.J. Hardy? Yes, please! Carlos Pena? Where do I sign?! Carlos Beltran? Why not? Mike Cameron? Who knows, maybe he’ll pull a Burrell. Yorvit Torrealba? Get it done! Let Belt play every day when he’s healthy? Give him a shot. Matt Kemp? Give Ned a call! While you’re at it ask about Jamey Carroll? Sure, have you watched Burriss and Hall at all?
I’m not saying all of these are great ideas. Heck, not all of them are even good. But the point is that the Giants need to “start kicking the tires” and do something, anything to improve. They shouldn’t worry about the feelings of the incumbents at each position. They also shouldn’t be in love with each one of their prospects. Maybe it’s time to say goodbye to a minor league pitcher or two, starter or reliever. After all, it didn’t take all that much for the Padres to pry away Jason Bartlett or for the Orioles to grab Hardy.
It’s nearly July, and I want me some hitters, even more so this season than in the past.
Side note: When a “Giants official” comments on player rumors and acquisitions, and he mentions RBI’s and batting average, it infuriates me.