The Third Hitter
Literally the next area of improvement is the next batter. The third hitter in the lineup for the Giants in 2016’s slashline was really bad. Including pitchers, it was 7th in batting average on the team with a .246 (only the eighth hitter and the ninth spot had worse batting averages). That’s really bad. What’s even worse is their slugging percentage was again, seventh on the team, and only four points higher than that of the eighth hitter.
For comparison, the 2014 Giants saw the best slashline on the team, a .303/.353/.452/.845. For a visual comparison the 2016 Giants out of the third spot hit .246/.333/.379/.712. That’s absolutely horrific. So who was playing there? Posey and Belt were tied there in 2016, spending 51 games a piece in the third spot. Matt Duffy came in second with 36 appearances in that spot as well. In 2014? Buster Posey spend 117 games in the third spot in the lineup. So is it as simple as moving Posey back to the third spot? Just maybe.
Buster Posey has spent the majority of his career batting third or cleanup. He has nearly double the games logged in the clean-up spot as he does in the third spot. Even then, his batting average is nearly 20 points higher out of the third spot, and his slugging percentage there is higher than the cleanup spot.
The question then begs, who bats in the cleanup spot? Right now, the most likely candidate would be Belt. The only issue would be how much contact he made last year. That was most certainly a contributing factor to how low the batting average out of the third spot was. Buster had a .288 average there, and Belt had a .249 average there.
The third spot is different than the first and second. They need to be making contact, and positive contact. That’s why Buster excels there. Belt didn’t. But guess what! Belt had better numbers in the cleanup spot than Buster did. He also had more similar amount of games and way better production out of the fifth spot. So maybe Belt as the cleanup guy wouldn’t be the answer quite yet. But is it worth a shot? Definitely. Especially if Pence is back to being the Pence we saw in 2013 and 2014.
So that’s another issue that needs improvement. We have one area left, and it actually might surprise you.