And Then The Giants Did Say, “Let There Be Offense”
Hello again everyone, I’ve returned from my brief vacation and found that I’ve missed some strange goings-on. I leave the state for four days and Aubrey Huff plays second base, Brandon Belt gets to play, Barry Zito is still amazing somehow, and the Giants managed to win on the road in New York. All that still wasn’t as surprising to me though as one thing that caught my eye.
Go to the Giants team stats page. Go on, I’ll wait. Now see anything strange? Well you should, because with Huff out of the lineup, no one in the 2-7 spots in the lineup has an OBP under .345. Nate Schierholtz is hitting .372/.404/.744 and is tied for the team lead in home runs with Pablo Sandoval. Somehow Manny Burriss is hitting .293/.341/.293. Sandoval has a hit in every single game so far this season, tying Willie Mays’ franchise record. Weird things are happening right now, and a lot of those things don’t seem to make sense.
Given how abysmal the Giants have been with runners in scoring position this season, it’s surprising to see how successful these hitters have been in the opening weeks of the season. Right now they’re averaging 4.14 runs/game right now, something they didn’t do in any month last season. So what in the name of Xenu is going on right now?
A lot of this can be attributed to the return of Buster Posey, the health of Pablo Sandoval, the patience of Melky Cabrera, and the red hot bat of Nate Schierholtz. Posey has spent the better part of the last couple weeks throwing duck snort pop-ups between outfielders for hits while recovering from shingles. Now he’s hitting the ball squarely and taking great at-bats. Sandoval could easily have had 30 home runs last year had he stayed healthy the whole season, and now it appears as though his issues with his weight are under control.
But Sandoval and Posey were supposed to hit well, and really there are no surprises to be found there. Where things get weird is with Cabrera and Schierholtz. Right now Melky has 10 walks to just 6 strikeouts. While this of course falls under the banner of “small sample size,” it also seems to be something of a statistical anomaly. Last year in his indisputably best season, his best BB/K in a month was 9/14. Now he’s turned into a mega patient walk machine who’s taking long, drawn-out at-bats.
Finally we get the strangeness that is Nate Schierholtz. After tweaking his swing last year, Schierholtz saw immediate success as he began hitting for more power, eventually earning his way into a starting job. This year he’s getting on base, not striking out, and has effectively ended the great “Aubrey Huff in Left Field” experiment as once again he’s played himself into an everyday job.
I can’t rightly say if I know the Giants will continue to hit this well; a competent offense hasn’t been seen in San Francisco since Barry Bonds patrolled left field. It’s an unfamiliar feeling to go into a game expecting runs to be scored early and often, but that’s been the case so far this season. Sure, this could be small sample sizes playing with our heads and regression could be right around the corner. We’ve been conditioned to err on the side of pessimism as Giants fans and rightly so. But if this continues and the Dodgers regress like they should (A.J. Ellis can’t have a .412 OBP forever) then the Giants may find themselves in the thick of a division race with a group of hitters that may actually be a shade above average.