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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A semi-random lineup; Giants leading the way in a downward offensive trend

I like the semi-randomness of today's lineup: Aaron Rowand CF, Miguel Tejada 3B, Mike Fontenot SS, Buster Posey C, Aubrey Huff 1B, Nate Schierholtz RF, Cody Ross LF, Manny Burriss 2B, Ryan Vogelsong P

For those wondering about Fontenot hitting third, it's not his first time around the rodeo, though it's rare enough: he made a few cameo appearances in the third slot as a rookie for the Cubs in 2007, going 3-for-9 with three walks (a .500 on base percentage). Since then, he's gone 1-for-5 with a double and an RBI in that spot.

He's never faced knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, which makes Boss Bochy's selection that much more random. Freddie Sanchez (0-for-4) and Pat Burrell (0-for-1) sit, as much to get a breather from their own slides as to avoid the junkballer. Schierholz is 0-for-2 against Dickey, but draws the assignment to shield Burrell from the erratic darts.

But Aubrey Huff gets the start, maybe because he actually owns a hit (1-for-6) against Dickey, but probably because he just wants to find a way out of his rut.

It's the kind of lineup that might have the Giants a little less tense. I'm predicting an offensive exlposion. For the Giants, that means four runs, maybe five.


It's true, as Giants' color man Mike Krukow pointed out yesterday, that hitting is down around the major leagues, that many of the game's stars are having rough assignments at the plate.

Pitching around the majors is better, more sophisticated, Krukow said, than it's been in years. Pitchers are throwing off-speed pitches on 3-2 counts in a way they hadn't in previous generations; they're learning different ways of throwing fastballs: two seams, four seams and cutters, taking a little off here, putting more on there; hitters have to face three, four, five pitchers a game, all of whom bring their own specialties later in games.

Maybe it's all that -- and MLB's drug testing regime is working after all.

It's still early, but a trend has emerged: Major league hitters are hitting .250, the lowest point since before the Steroids Era. The dropoff has been consistent and steady, particularly since 2006:

2010: .257
2009: .262
2008: .264
2007: .268
2006: .269
2005: .264
2004: .266
2003: .264
2002: .261
2001: .264
2000: .270

So, frustrating offensive performances abound. Purists should rejoice! Pitching is back! But it doesn't make it any easier that the Giants are at the bottom of the trend.

The Giants have sunk to 15th (out of 16 teams) in the National League in runs scored (99) and RBI (96), on base percentage (.295), walks (72). Only San Diego is worse in those categories.

They're also 14th in stolen base percentage (57 percent) and pinch hits (6); 13th in triples (4), stolen bases (12), sacrifice hits (10); 12th in hits (224), total bases, batting average (.236), and sacrifice fly balls (6); 11th in doubles (42) and pinch hit average (.150).

The few categories in which the Giants are nearly setting the league pace are not good: they're 3rd in grounding into double plays (25), 8th in hitter strikeouts (201) and 5th in caught stealing (5).


Giants hitters keep saying they've been through funks before and they know that they'll come out of it. Aubrey Huff said that some of his best years have come after horrendous starts. But, he's never done it at his age. Nor have Miguel Tejada or Pat Burrell.

It could be that we're seeing the Giants in their declining years, a point from which there is no return to better days.

Then again, there's Aaron Rowand, blissfully spraying out hits after he'd been given up for dead.

Nevertheless, the Giants enter the final stretch of the 10-game road trip today in New York and have to start out against a knuckle-baller. Typically, it's knuckleballers who throw teams into funks after hitters get all screwed up facing them. Maybe R.A. Dickey's floaters can bring the Giants out of their funk.

Giants hitters didn't get better against the likes of Pirates pitchers Charlie Morton or James McDonald, so expectations can't be too high as they head into New York.

But the three pitchers on the blotter have been eminently hittable for some of the worst hitting clubs around.

Dickey, in his last four starts has this line:

IP: 26 H: 30 ER: 14 HR: 2 BB: 12 SO: 14 ERA: 4.69 WHIP: 1.61

That was against the three offenses that are competing with San Francisco near the bottom: Washington, Houston and Colorado (yes, the Rockies have been as bad offensively, for those not paying too close attention).

Chris Capuano, a former 18-game winner for the Milwaukee Brewers (in 2005), was out of the game in 2008-09, making only six minor league appearances for nine innings in 2009.

His totals are:

25.1 innings, 34 hits, 17 earned runs, 4 home runs, 6 walks, 19 strikeouts, a 6.04 ERA and a WHIP of 1.60.

And Mike Pelfrey, the 6 foot 7, 250 pound right hander has been plain awful:

28 innings, 42 hits, 23 earned runs, 3 home runs, 13 walks, 16 strikeouts for a 7.39 ERA and a WHIP of 1.97.

If you throw out Pelfrey's one good start, on April 22, in which he gave up one run on five hits in seven innings to Arizona, his numbers have been catastrophic: a 9.43 ERA with a 2.33 WHIP (37 hits and 12 walks in 21 innings).

But those numbers won't mean a thing if Giants hitters can't loosen their cheeks.


Some final numbers: Since the final game of the Colorado series in that last road trip, the Giants are hitting .203 (72-for-355) with 23 runs in 11 games (that's barely two runs a game, and that includes the six runs they scored in their 9-6 loss to Atlanta).

Before the Giants took off for this 19-game stretch, 16 of which were on the road, there were two schools of thought: that it would be brutal because of the length of time away from home, or that it could actually be a boon because of the teams they were facing. Some -- CSN's Mychael Urban for one -- were saying the Giants couldn't see the trip as successful unless they won 12 games.

After a 4-1 start, 12 wins seemed doable. But, now that the Giants have lost eight of their last 11, there's little satisfaction that can be gleaned from this road journey. Getting out of this with a 9-10 record by winning two of three from the Mets would be slight solace, but it would have to do.


  1. I'm thankful to discover your blog through the auspices of the Cohn Zohn. I appreciate the additional coverage. Being that you have another job, I assume, how do you have time to pull this off?

    How do you find your stats, may I ask? I don't question them, just want to know your source. Thanks!

  2. Hey, Paul, thanks for reading! Yep, I'm a political reporter, cover Capitol politics. So, I make my observations from TV and radio (often, I'll riff on something Kruk or Kuip or Miller might have said).

    I used to cover the Giants in my sports writing years, and hope to get credentialed to do spot coverage at the park. But, I pick up the nuances of the game just fine from home.

    Stats: ESPN has a trove to go through. There's all sorts. For instance, I just wrote a piece laughing at Mets manager Terry Collins criticizing his players for their approach to Lincecum. So, I pulled up his stats on minor league baseball statistics site and saw he hit only .255, never made it to the majors (not that career minor leaguers can't manage. Sparky Anderson proved it).