With a 59-34 record, the SF Giants have the best winning percentage in MLB. There are plenty of reasons for this, but they are excelling in a key metric that tends to correlate with a team’s overall record. In fact, they are excelling in just about every facet of the game. However, there’s one category that has stood out among the rest since president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi joined the organization in the winter of 2018.
The SF Giants offense has made huge strides in one stat.
Walk-to-strikeout (BB/K) ratio is an obvious indicator of how well an offense controls the strike zone. Since Zaidi took the helm of the front office, the offense has consistently improved in this metric. In 2018, the last season under Bobby Evans, the Giants finished with the 28th-best BB/K ratio in MLB, posting an abysmal 0.31 ratio. In Zaidi’s first season with the Giants, the offense recorded a 0.33 BB/K ratio, jumping to 23rd-best in MLB. Last year, that mark took another significant step forward, reaching 0.39 BB/K (18th-best in MLB) as the team barely missed the postseason. Now, in 2021, as strikeouts around the league continue to spike, the Giants are posting a 0.42 BB/K ratio, which is the sixth-best rate in the league.
It’s easy to see why Zaidi might have prioritized this metric so much. There remains a significant contrast between the teams who control the strike zone well and the ones who do not when it comes to win-loss records. For example, below are the five teams with better BB/K ratios than the Giants:
- 1. Houston Astros, 0.49 BB/K
- 2. Los Angeles Dodgers 0.47 BB/K
- 3. San Diego Padres, 0.47 BB/K
- 4. New York Yankees, 0.44 BB/K
- 5. Chicago White Sox, 0.44 BB/K
The worst record from the five teams listed above is the Yankees with a .522 winning percentage. Many would argue their roster is far stronger than their roster suggested. Two of the five teams (Astros – AL West, White Sox – AL Central) lead their respective divisions. The Dodgers (.611 winning percentage) and the Padres (.573 winning percentage) would be at the helm of nearly every division in baseball but are stuck behind the Giants in the NL West.
On the opposite side of the coin, the five worst teams in terms of BB/K are listed below:
- 26. Chicago Cubs, 0.33 BB/K
- 27. Baltimore Orioles, 0.32 BB/K
- 28. Detroit Tigers, 0.32 BB/K
- 29. Los Angeles Angels, 0.32 BB/K
- 30. Miami Marlins, 0.30 BB/K
Of the five worst teams in this category, none currently have a .500 record or better. The Angels (.495) and Cubs (.489) are hovering around that mid-level mark, but the remaining three teams are significantly below .500. In the case of the Marlins (NL East) and the Orioles (AL East), they are sitting comfortably in last place in their respective divisions.
Fans have talked a lot about Zaidi’s penchant for players with high walk rates and, relatively, low strikeout rates. It looked like a key reason the franchise was so excited to acquire players like LaMonte Wade Jr. and Jason Vosler this offseason. After three seasons of roster moves, the Giants are finally approaching Zaidi’s vision. In 2020, they posted an 8.6 percent walk rate, and that mark has increased to 10.3 percent in 2021, helping them finally post one of the ten best BB/K rates in MLB.
The SF Giants continue finding ways to win. They have relied on depth and it seems like someone new is the hero every night. For that person to become the hero, it requires a selective eye and control of the strike zone. The Giants have done that better than most teams this season and the results have followed.