Sports blogs the way they were meant to be

Sign In

The Giants' Offense: Don't Try This At Home

Vote 1 Vote
Let's go back to the back of the napkin, my favorite place for doing what you might call "math," if you happen to be hanging by your ankles and sucking down nitrous oxide.

In 2012, the Giants hit a well-advertised 103 home runs, last in the majors. It was the first time in 30 years a World Series champ could make such a claim . But they also scored 718 runs, good for 12th in the majors. They were last in home runs but among the top half in runs. Weird!

Their MLB-leading 57 triples certainly made up some of the gap. (They were also 10th in doubles.) Last year's Giants also ended 8th in OBP, no doubt shocking for those who eternally equate the team's approach with nightly brain-dead slop-hacking. They were also fast baserunners, although their stolen-base success of 75% wasn't phenomenal. Many teams fared better.

So the Giants' run production last year was definitely odd, perhaps even lucky (they ranked third in BABIP). Let's just say you shouldn't try this at home, and I'd rather the Giants didn't put it to the test again.

But that's essentially what they're doing. Bruce Bochy says he expects more home runs this year, but it's not an obvious proposition. (In response, Grant today has an excellent historical breakdown of many things Giant and home run.)

The only easy power upgrades in the projected 2013 lineup are a full season of Hunter Pence, replacing Nate Schierholtz and the 2012 Hunter Pence; and a full season of Marco Scutaro, good for a handful of dingers, replacing a half-season of Ryan Theriot and Manny Burriss. Then again, on the negative side of the power ledger, the Giants propose to replace Melky Cabrera's .516 slugging percentage over 500 plate appearances with the slap-happy combo of Torres and Blanco. I'll squint and call all that a wash.

You could argue that the Giants should also expect power upgrades at the infield corners. Brandon Belt is due a big step forward from his .421 SLG in 2012 (or, if you prefer, his .146 ISO). Pablo Sandoval has no more hamate bones to break, and he's poised for reasonably full health and big numbers. I won't argue back too hard, but neither of those situations seems to hold great odds for really big power strides forward, the kind that move the team-statistic needle over the course of thousands of plate appearances.

But let's not quibble. This is why we have napkins. As I do every off-season, I'm going to plug the projected lineup and their projected statistics into a lineup simulator, from which will emerge a projected number of runs per game.

I normally use an old wheezy Internet thing-a-ma-bob called the Lineup Analysis, hosted by long-time blogger David Pinto. There's a fantastic and nerdy debate about its merits and demerits here. But Pinto's site hasn't loaded in my browser for weeks now, and I'm tired of waiting. I'm using this instead.

We have a pretty good idea of the Giants' batting order going into 2013:

CF Pagan
2B Scutaro
3B Sandoval
C Posey
RF Pence
1B Belt
LF Blanco/Torres
SS Crawford/Arias
P (I'll use Matt Cain)

We'll probably see Joaquin Arias at shortstop against left-handed starters, and we might see a full Blanco/Torres platoon. Maybe a bit of shuffling among Sandoval, Pence and Belt. And of course Hector Sanchez filling in behind the plate, with Posey either at first base or getting a full rest.

Now let's take the projected batting numbers for each player and see what kind of run production the system predicts. Remember, this is the Internet equivalent of math on the back of a napkin, plus the napkin has half your drink spilled upon it and one corner ripped off to wrap up your gum.

There are many projection systems: Zips, Marcel, Oliver, Steamer, etc. I usually just use one, that of Bill James, because Bill James is awesome. I have no idea if his projection system is also awesome, but I need to be consistent.

First, let's do this lineup. Let's call it the World Series lineup:

CF Pagan
2B Scutaro
3B Sandoval
C Posey
RF Pence
1B Belt
LF Blanco
SS Crawford
P Cain

Runs per game: 3.88

Next, the Torres/Arias platoon lineup:

CF Pagan
2B Scutaro
3B Sandoval
C Posey
RF Pence
1B Belt
LF Torres
SS Arias
P Cain

Runs per game: 3.89

Now, the Buster-Posey-at-1B lineup:

CF Pagan
2B Scutaro
3B Sandoval
1B Posey
RF Pence
LF Belt
C H. Sanchez
SS Arias
P Cain

Runs per game: 3.80.

These are crude projections. Please do not use them to make yourself look smart in mixed company. They don't account for wise platoon use, pinch-hitters or health variables.

It's not shocking that the Hector Sanchez lineup is projected to score sixteen fewer runs over 162 games -- 632 to 616 -- than either scenario with Belt at 1b and Posey behind the plate. More notable, though, is the drop-off from this year to last year. Last winter, I plugged in various Giants lineups that included Carlos Beltran and Freddy Sanchez and got projections to score between 4.5 and 4.65 runs per game, or between 729 and 753 for the season. Turns out the Giants scored 718 runs -- the most since 2006. Not too far off.

This winter's permutations roughly the peg the 2013 Giants about 100 runs shy. Is that because I'm using a new lineup-thingie-ma-bob, or because of the players themselves? I'm not sure. Not having Beltran in the mix certainly doesn't help.

I think we can say this, though: The Giants think they have a good formula and they're sticking to it: Hope for adequate offense led by a guy who squats a lot on a reconstructed ankle and leg and needs to rest once or twice a week; give the ball to an above-average starting pitcher most nights; and ask the bullpen to nail down a bunch of low-scoring wins. It works (2010, 2012) until it doesn't (2011).

What do you think? 630 runs this year? More? Less?


blog comments powered by Disqus

Search

Loading





Header photo courtesy of Flickr user eviltomthai under a Creative Commons license.