The Giants’ record is one thing, some operatic tragedy that has the gentle people of San Francisco seriously worried the team won’t win the World Series this year. I could talk about that, but I’ll throw maybe three extra views Grant Bisbee’s way over at McCovey Chronicles: he covered their second-half collapse just a few days ago. Instead, I want to focus on a single aspect of their performance: the home run.
That is not to say the hitters are the chief culprits in this debacle. Over the entire season the lineup has failed to go deep, but in the first half the lack of home runs was overcome, the offense scored runs above the National League average. All was going according to plan, the plan enforced by the ballpark in San Francisco, where fly balls die in the wind and the cold night air. But even on the road, with record heat all over the country (climate change is going to be great for the longball), the Giants could not find a power stroke. With 74 home runs on the road, the Giants rank 24th in baseball; with 50 at home, they rank 29th.
Those 124 home runs in total are more than only the Marlins (121) and the Braves (111). Yet those teams have true sluggers in Giancarlo Stanton (27 HR in only 448 plate appearances) and Freddie Freeman (31 HR in 656 PA). Freeman, incidentally, is having one of the great years for an awful team in recent memory. He is .002 OBP-points away from what I like to call a 3-4-5 season, wherein a player posts figures at or better than .300 for batting average, .400 for OBP, and .500 for slugging percentage. Only twelve people have pulled it off since the 2010 season.
The Giants have no such top-shelf power hitters; their best hitters, Posey and Belt, succeed with plate discipline and a line-drive approach to all fields. Belt leads the team in home runs with 16, the lowest team-leading total in the league and the only one under 20. Six other players have at least 10. Hunter Pence, the hitter with the most raw power on the team, has 12 in just under 400 PA, the best ratio of any regular batter: one home run every 33.2 plate appearances. Home runs across the league, however, are up so much that the league average (including the Giants, let’s note) is one home run every 32.6 plate appearances. In other words, at this late point in the season, the Giants’ best slugger hits home runs less frequently than the league-average player.