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San Francisco Giants: How to Quantify Success in Spring Training

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 20: Mac Williamson #51 of the San Francisco Giants poses on photo day during MLB Spring Training at Scottsdale Stadium on February 20, 2018 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 20: Mac Williamson #51 of the San Francisco Giants poses on photo day during MLB Spring Training at Scottsdale Stadium on February 20, 2018 in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The San Francisco Giants have had a success at the plate so far in Spring Training. But how much can we read into the early success?

The San Francisco Giants have hit a lot of home-runs in Spring Training this year, 25 to be exact. That leads all of MLB for Spring Training. They also have the second highest batting average, 10 points lower than the Kansas City Royals. But outside of home runs, they are first in the following offensive categories: Slugging, OPS, Hits, and Runs.

We’ll see if this can actually carry over to the regular season, but the early returns on the Giants’ offense have been good in spring. But how should we value it? Unfortunately, for your sake, there isn’t a short answer to this.

Spring Training is complicated. It’s usually a crap shoot when it comes to actual results. Managers and players aren’t looking at wins and losses, but the individual things coming together. They care more about Madison Bumgarner‘s mechanics getting locked into consistency than they do that loss to the Texas Rangers yesterday.

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At the same time, positive results are positive results. It means someone is doing something right. That’s why it’s hard to ignore guys like Mac Williamson, Steven Duggar, and Kyle Jensen, who are hitting the cover off the ball in Scottsdale. But there’s always the Kruk or Kuip sounding voice in the back of your head telling you, “It’s only spring training.”

So how do you quantify positive results in spring? You have to look at who their at-bats have come against. And for pitchers, you have to look at who their appearances on the mound have been against.

If Tyler Beede strikes out seven guys in three innings, but they were all guys who likely won’t sniff anything above triple-a this year, does it matter? Not really. Especially when the first time he faced a real lineup (the KC Royals game early in spring) he got lit up by a team who is “rebuilding.”

That doesn’t entirely bode well for him considering there are much better big league lineups than what the Royals are going to roll out. These are the things you have to take into account when quantifying spring training results by guys who are yet to be proven big leaguers. So let’s take a closer look at some of the hitters who have excelled.

Kyle Jensen, Mac Williamson, and Steven Duggar are the top three, in that respective order, in homers on this Giants team. Here are their stats so far:

  • Kyle Jensen: 5 homers in 11 at-bats
  • Mac Williamson: Three homers in 24 at bats, 12 RBI
  • Steven Duggar, 3 homers in 17 at bats and a .474 OBP.

Those are all very nice looking. Now, let’s take a look at who their homers have been against:

Duggar has the highest ratio of success against real big leaguers to minor leaguers. Williamson has homers against two guys who have pitched in the big leagues before. However, Moscoso hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since his 2013 appearances with the Giants, and Ramirez should be oh so fondly remembered by Giants fans from last year. Moving to Jensen, he only has on homer against a guy who will likely be on a big league roster when Spring Training breaks.

So how do you read into that? You can’t. That’s why Kyle Jensen still only has eleven at-bats. Jensen was a career minor leaguer with 130+homers in the minors, but struggled to get to the big leagues. He’s raking now, and if he continues to rake when he inevitably goes to Sacramento, then the Giants might consider it. But right now, you have to take success there with a grain of salt.

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Now, proven big leaguers is a different story. For them, success is success, especially when we’ve seen success at the big league level from them. So should we be worried that Joe Panik has a .214 average?

The easy answer is no.

Should we be worried that Hunter Pence is at .111?

Again, the answer is no.

They’ve earned the benefit of the doubt. Many times we’ve seen guys be ice cold in April after tearing up Spring Training, and vice-versa.

So what’s the over-arching point of this? Pay attention to who these fringe players are having success against. If it’s a name you don’t know, then don’t overreact when someone who isn’t a proven big leaguer does something big against them.

Steven Duggar absolutely crushed one off of Kenta Maeda. That’s something you should very much read into. Mac Williamson hitting one off of a guy who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2013 is something you shouldn’t read into. Very simple here folks.

Next: A look at the starting pitching through two starts

None of this isn’t to diminish their success either. I’d hate to tell you all to ignore what Mac Williamson is doing, especially when it’s good. He has a new swing and it’s working.

But, until these guys do it against proven big league guys, you have to take it with a grain of salt. They’ll get more opportunities as spring training goes on and the big time guys play a larger role in games. But for now, don’t get too ahead of yourself.

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