Inside the San Francisco Giants’ Struggles, Part 1

The Major League Baseball season is three-fourths complete, and the San Francisco Giants find themselves a mere half-game out of first place in the National League West—and in the top Wild Card spot. The flip side of that, as Giants fans are well aware, is that a little more than a month ago they held the best record in the Majors but have been the worst team since.

Why is that? Well, let’s take a look at what the offense has been doing lately, both in August and overall since the all-star break. (We’ll get to the pitching another time.) To emphasize that this is a team-wide issue, no individual player will be named in this indictment.

The Giants have been shut out eight times this year. That’s just one more than the league average, so not an egregious number. It’s never fun to get shut out, but hey, it’s part of baseball.

What’s worrisome, however, is the number of times the Giants have been shut out in August: three. And all of those have come over the past two weeks. So, in their first 110 games, the Giants suffered five shutouts—one every 21 games. In their past 14, they’ve been blanked three times—roughly once every five games.

Eduardo Nunez has been a nice addition to the Giants offense. But was he what they needed? (Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports)

But a team doesn’t just have to get shut out to prove its offensive ineptitude. Also in August, the Giants have lost a game in which they scored just one run and another in which they scored two. They have also won a game by the binary score of 1-0.

That means that in six of their 19 games this month, they have scored a combined four runs. The good thing is that they have scored a combined 79 runs in the other 13 games in August, which is basically six runs per game. Overall, they are averaging 4.4 runs/game in August, which is a tad below their season average of 4.5 run/game.

Of course, they were scoring 4.7 runs/game prior to the all-star break. But at least that they’re doing better than during the 14 July games after the break, when they scored just 3.5 runs/game.

So, the bats do work. They’ve just short-circuited on too many days this month. The problem is that, as the season goes on, offense is picking up around the league. So, keeping steady, or slightly declining, effectively means they are falling way behind the curve.

And it’s those days that the Giants’ offense fails to show up that are the reason why they are near the bottom in most offensive categories during the second half of the season—and why the are 7-12 in August and 11-23 since the break.

In case, you were wondering, here’s how the Giants rank in the NL in some pertinent categories—in the first half of the season, since the all-star break, and in August (Keep in mind, the NL has 15 teams):

  • First half: 4th in runs,14th in home runs, 9th in slugging percentage.
  • Second half: 14th in runs, 14th in home runs, 12th in slugging.
  • In August: 12th in runs, 15th in home runs, 12th in slugging.

Here’s where they generally do well or at least aren’t flailing:

  • First half: 3rd in combined doubles/triples, 3rd in OBP, 5th in average.
  • Second half: 9th in combined doubles/triples, 6th in OBP, 8th in average.
  • In August: 1st in combined doubles/triples, 5th in OBP, 6th in average.

What can we make of this? Generally, the Giants get runners on base, and they even hit their way into scoring position. But they lack power. In other words, they’re a team of top-of-the-order guys but lack middle-of-the-order thump. This, of course, is no surprise, as they have been constructed this way for a long time. But since that is the case, the offense is sensitive to any other deficiencies.

Giants fans want to see more swings like this out of Buster Posey and his fellow hitters. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)

That has come to fruition in the second half, the situation has improved somewhat in August.

The second-half dropoff can be partly explained by a moderate dip across the board; since the Giants aren’t home run hitters, they need to keep to excel in singles, doubles and walks—they have slumped in these areas. The other issue, as mentioned earlier, is the offense has stagnated compared to the league’s overall increase in offensive output.

Of course, getting runners into scoring position doesn’t do much good if the team is only going to hit .250 with runners in scoring position—which is what the Giants have done this season. It also doesn’t help that this power-deficient team is middle of the pack in stolen bases. (Then again, if they stole there way into scoring position more often, it wouldn’t make that much of a difference on a team that doesn’t hit well with runners in…well, you know.)

That’s what the offense is doing. Check back later for a scintillating analysis of the what the pitching staff has been doing lately.