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SF Giants 2020 Statcast Review: Home Run Luck

September 25, 2020; San Francisco, California, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Mike Yastrzemski (right) hits a two-run home run against San Diego Padres catcher Austin Nola (left) during the fourth inning of game one of a double header at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
September 25, 2020; San Francisco, California, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Mike Yastrzemski (right) hits a two-run home run against San Diego Padres catcher Austin Nola (left) during the fourth inning of game one of a double header at Oracle Park. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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SF Giants, Austin Slater
SF Giants outfielder Austin Slater. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

Looking back at the SF Giants 2020 season, Marc Delucchi dives into Statcast data on expected home runs to see which players had the best and worst luck on big flies.

As we look ahead to the 2021 season, it’s still important to reflect on the SF Giants’ performance in 2020. Baseball Savant has a treasure trove of Statcast data that opens interesting pathways into analyzing individual players’ seasons. One of the lesser-known statistics available on their site estimates how many home runs each player would hit had every ball in play been played in an average MLB stadium. By diving in, it can illuminate trends in how Oracle Park played for certain players and which hitters played better (and possibly worse) than they performed.

Luckiest SF Giants Home Run Hitters

Austin Slater (+1.7), Wilmer Flores (+1.5), Brandon Crawford (+1.4)

While other players had career years in their own right, Austin Slater easily had the biggest breakout season of any Giant player. After flashing mediocre fourth outfielder play over part of the previous three seasons, Slater hit .282/.408/.506 and even led the league in stolen bases for much of the season. He lost substantial playing time while he dealt with an elbow injury though, and ultimately only played in 31 games.

Slater’s ability to maintain his breakout would be a massive development for the Giants. However, Statcast seems a bit skeptical of his jumps in power. If two of his home runs were caught on the warning track, his triple-slash falls all the way down to .259/.385/.412. Still a potentially productive outfielder, but not a game-changing piece.

Wilmer Flores is probably the least surprising player on this list. He’s hit double-digit home runs in the past, but the 12 he hit in 55 games this season was easily the most productive rate of his career. Previously, his best rate of home runs per game was in 2017 when he hit 18 in 110 games. Still, even if you adjust for the luck Statcast estimates he had, Flores was still expected to record 10.5 homers on the season.

The most concerning name on the list, Brandon Crawford is slated to be an everyday player next season without a viable alternative. As a left-handed hitter playing home games in Oracle Park, Crawford should be expected to underperform by metrics like these. Instead, his overperformance of expectations suggests he might have been one of the luckiest hitters on the team. If he’s slated to regress next season, it could create some difficult decisions for manager Gabe Kapler.

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