Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Giants pulling it together despite a bad Panda

Sometimes things click, and sometimes they don't. For these Giants, the offense has once again come back to life, and the bullpen has been excellent. Despite the loss in Pittsburgh on the the play at the plate (today I hate replay), we're looking at a first place team 8 games over .500.

How are they doing this? Well, it's really Giants baseball at its finest give or take.

At AT&T Park thus far, these Giants have managed to earn a 10-5 record, but lest we forget that it could easily be a 5-10 mark. Along the shores of the Cove, they're only managed a middling .251 average, with a 7th worst mark of only 40 extra base hits.

How then have they managed such a solid record? Winning one run games with great pitching.

Even when our starters have been less than stellar, these guys are managing to put up just one more run than the opposition-- the averages tell exactly that. The offense is putting up 3.9 runs a game. The pitching has allowed a league low 44 runs at home, and yes, that equals 2.9 r/pg.

One run games at home you say? Well I never!

On the road though, despite what it seems, these guys have an even worse team average (.236), but surprisingly score almost one more run per game (4.8 r/pg), and their opponents score about 4 runs a game.

That's actually about right when you think about how AT&T Park affects the numbers.

What's just odd about these guys is that they've had hitting that to the eyeball appears to be vastly improved-- and yet the averages are middling, the RISP is only .246, and the power production at home is weak.

This is just one of those cases when averages aren't telling the entire story and a case when the sum of this team's parts add up to something better than you'd expect.

Essentially this lineup has a dead spot or two (excluding pitchers) every time it rolls out there. It's the creaky spot in the floor and the ungreased hinge that wakes up your parents at 3am when you try to sneak back into the house drunk in high school.

Those dead spots are essentially Pablo Sandoval and any non-regular that plays that day.

How bad are these non-regulars? They are terrible. More on that later.

I'm not going to give too much crap to Brandon Hicks, whose been a nice surprise with the longball, but he's still hitting just .208-- very Mark Reynolds-ish. But as long as we're looking at him, let's note that he hits .150 at home, .270 on the road, and has a .313 average with RISP. Curious, but still a decent replacement for Old Man Scutaro and his bad back.

Sandoval meanwhile...

Seriously dude, what the hell? I've seen you in bad streaks before, but this... this is something else entirely. Everything seemed to align nicely for you to have a massive contract year. But alas, you've changed too much. Your smaller waistline hasn't helped you at the plate, and now your mental problems stemming from pressure have gotten the better of you.

I refuse to believe that this contract situation has not affected him, because even he is normally incapable of such consistent ineptitude. It's as plain as day though, he quite simply has sucked, and isn't doing any of the things he normally does.

Thankfully, while trying to figure out his 2014 patterns, Eno Sarris over at Fangraphs had already figured it all out.

His conclusions? Panda is no longer swinging at the first pitch.


Seems crazy that the guy who we drill into the ground year after year for swinging at the first pitch could have possibly slowed his roll to his own detriment. But maybe his most maddening habit was helping him after all.

From Sarris at Fangraphs:

So he’s swinging less and reaching less, but unfortunately, he’s also swinging at pitches inside the zone less, too. But it turns out, *when* he’s swinging is much more important than *which pitches* he’s swinging at. Look at his swing percentage on the first pitch over the course of his career: 

Credit: Eno Sarris from
That's good work, Eno.

This is more than an anomaly. This is a guy trying to overhaul his entire approach at the plate and failing miserably.

You're seeing him force himself into taking pitches and starting off more often with an 0-1 count. Throw in a couple lousy swings, and you have yourself a .168 average with a 22% strikeout rate-- a full 7 points higher than his mark last season. He's not swinging, then swinging, missing, or making outs too consistently for this to keep itself up. Instead of that $100 mil his slimewad agent is looking for, he's going to end up on the free market with an unsightly qualifying offer looming over his head and a career worst year to his name.

Other dead spots? How about the entire bench? Arias, Perez, Blanco, Adrianza? Horrendous. Not sure, but if they keep this up, we're probably talking historically bad.

With the lone exception of Hector Sanchez, who's shown signs of life recently and has done a nice job behind the plate, we're talking about one of the worst-hitting benches in baseball.

Luckily they're all slick with the glove, because this is bad news. Arias, Perez, Blanco, and Perez are a combined 17-123 for a nauseating .138 average, 3 extra base hits, and 0 HR (as of 5/6).

No one expected any of these guys to put on a Pink Floyd Dustin Pedroia laser show, but Jesus, this is bad.

Lord knows Bochy tries to get these guys in there to kickstart them and give their main guys a breather, but at some point, I'd rather have a tired regular than a sub .200 hitting bench guy making routine plays then routinely grounding out. At some point, we're going to have to think about pulling up a hot bat from Fresno like Nick Noonan and rolling the dice.

As for pitching, it has been all about Tim Hudson and The Bullpen (which should be a band name immediately). Huddy has been worth every penny and then some, and the bullpen has been huge. While Bumgarner has been hit or miss (mostly hit in his last few starts), and Cain, Timmy, and Vogey are all a coin flip these days, Hudson has allowed more than 2 runs only once, and has been an absolute pillar of strength every fifth day. He's one of those guys that I just wish we'd had on our team earlier in his career-- not that it even matters, because he's pitching like a Cy Young candidate.

The only guys in the bullpen with an ERA over 1.88 are Gutierrez (3.60), (Huff, DL, 3.86) and Petit, who got lit up as an ill-prepared spot starter for Cain. His ERA before that start was 2.61 as a mostly bullpen oriented swingman.

Casilla has been a monst, and Jean Machi has been unbelievable. And in case you didn't know, Machi and his 5 wins (I know, I know) are leading Major League Baseball.


I honestly like the way things are going with this team. There's always room for complaint and improvement, but with the run production they've managed, plus a stalwart bullpen, I think this team will be in 1st place a good chunk of this year or bare minimum knocking on the door.

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