Thursday, October 08, 2009

San Francisco Giants 2009

The Giants had a pretty good season. They were in contention for a playoff spot until the final couple of weeks. But they didn't make it. Folks around here are busy talking about what the Giants need to do to take the next step. The answer is obvious all at once: they need better hitting. However the problem is that the Giants don't actually know how to evaluate hitting talent. So they really don't have any chance at getting good hitting without paying a huge price for it. Let's take a look at some numbers to understand this.

One easy way to evaluate the Giants is by looking at the players who have come up through their farm system. Of their homegrown players that had at least 200 plate appearances, on average they saw 3.62 pitches per plate appearance and walked in 7.2% of their plate appearances. To be fair, Fred Lewis has very good plate discipline (and his plate appearances went way down this year.) If you take him out, then the numbers are 3.52 pitches per plate appearance and a 6.8% walk rate. For comparison's sake, if you look at the top seven teams (in terms of runs scored), they average a walk in 9.8% of their plate appearances.

So the Giants farm system sucks. Maybe they can sign good hitters? Nope. If you look at their top hitters that they signed from other teams, they see 3.58 pitches per plate appearance and a 5.9% walk rate. That's right, they see a few more pitches, but they walk even less. The Giants even made a "big" trade at midseason, for Freddy Sanchez. Everyone is concerned that Freddy might have become injury prone suddenly. What they should really be worrying about is that Freddy sucks. He sees 3.81 pitches per plate appearance, which is not too bad. However, he only walks 4.5% of the time. Further, his 0.417 career slugging percentage is just awful, even for a second baseman (which is generally a strong offensive position in modern baseball.) So he doesn't swing at everything (he also has a low strikeout rate) but yet he still does not try to get a good pitch to hit and winds up playing for a single. This is your blockbuster trade material? This is what you get in exchange for the second best pitcher in your farm system?

Yeah, so clearly the Giants front office has no idea what makes a good hitter. People like to say that the Giants home park is a great pitchers park, as it is a tough place to hit home runs. That does not make it a tough place to take a bad pitch or take a walk. In fact, you would think that in such a park, they would an even higher premium on hitters who can get on base any way they can. It's funny, you often hear that the reason that the A's are no longer a good offensive team is because other teams figured out what they were doing. If you look at the Yankees and Red Sox, or for that matter the Rays and the Rockies, you can see evidence of this. However, clearly there is one team that has not figured things out and that is the Giants.

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