San Francisco Giants 2013 Statistcal Preview: Hitting
The San Francisco pitching has already been taken care of, but really, that's the part that you know is going to be fine. If Matt Cain or Madison Bumgarner have a complete meltdown, then you're welcome to say "I told you so!" Statistically, though, it's just not likely.
About 15,000 times more likely is that the Giants starting lineup holds them back. Having finished last season dead last in home runs but eighth in OBP, the team clearly has its strengths and weaknesses.
Will those weaknesses manifest into a poor season? I decided to break down the projected Opening Day lineup piece-by-piece, fresh with numberFire projections for each player.
Will that .338 OBP from San Francisco Year 1 continue? I'd think so: if you can sit between a .322 and .350 OBP for four straight seasons with whatever curse is currently battering the Mets, then you can succeed anywhere. His stolen base numbers should be equally sustainable: Angel Pagan has averaged between 80 and 82 percent stolen base success each of the past three seasons.
The stat that might not be sustainable, though, is Pagan's 95 runs scored from last season. 35 percent of his hits last season went for extra-bases; he only hit 29 and 28 percent for multiple bags in the two seasons before. Without those free bags in his back pocket, we think his run-scoring total will decrease just a bit.
It's not too often that somebody leaves Coors Field and it's a good thing for their numbers, but Marco Scutaro finished with a higher OBP in San Fran by .061 and a higher slugging percentage by .112. It's easier to hit when you're not in a place with lax marijuana laws, huh? (Sorry, the spirit of Justice Scalia overwhelmed me for a second.)
The truth of Scutaro's true ability probably lies somewhere between his Colorado and San Francisco splits from last season. His career OBP lies at .340, in between his Rockies .324 and Giants .385. Same with his .391 slugging, stuck in the middle of the Colorado .361 and San Francisco .473. This equals out to a solid, although unspectacular, two-hole hitter for the Giants.
It's tough to figure out exactly what to make of Pablo Sandoval's home runs. As a percentage of plate appearances, his last four seasons have seen him hit homers on 4.0%, 2.1%, 4.9%, and 2.7%, respectively. His percentage of fly balls for home runs follow the same pattern: 10.4%, 5.5%, 12.5%, 7.1%. It's the least fun roller coaster ride ever.
Which Sandoval will we see this season? The statistical rule of regressing to the mean indicates that it'll be somewhere in the middle. For Kung Fu Panda, that means roughly 20 dingers and a paltry 71 RBIs. They aren't bad projections, but they aren't middle-of-the-lineup-for-World-Series-team numbers, either.
I already talked a lot about Buster Posey in our fantasy catchers preview, but there's one overarching point that bears repeating: Posey's statistical increases from 2011 to 2012 scream, "FLUKE!" at the top of their lungs.
As a percentage of plate appearances, Posey hit 1.7 percent more home runs and 5.6 percent more extra-base hits. Seven percent more of his balls in play were line drives, and he walked on 1.4 percent more plate appearances than he ever had in his career. It's the makings of an MVP season, yes, but that type of growth often isn't sustainable. While it would be unreasonable to expect him to regress to 2011 levels, it would also be unreasonable to expect 2012 once again.
Think Marco Scutaro, but in reverse. (oratucS ocraM?) Hunter Pence performed markedly better in Philly than he did with the Giants during the rest of the regular season, falling .049 points in OBP and .063 in slugging percentage. I guess something about not having to be scared for your life after a bad game really lets a guy fall off.
But there's a silver lining for Giants fans: you're much more likely to get the Philadelphia Pence than the San Francisco Pence. Never before had Pence posted as low stats as the .287 OBP or .384 slugging percentage he did in 59 games with the Giants. His career-lows in that category were .318 and .447, respectively. And while his .339 and .475 career averages may be behind him, he still can act as a serviceable five hitter due to regression to the mean.
He's young, so there isn't as much historical data to go off of with Brandon Belt. However, let me be the first to be a tiny bit skeptical about a .360 OBP repeat. Belt has one really good and one really bad trait. He happens to swing and miss a lot: 22.5 percent of his plate appearances last season resulted in the Big K. But when he did make contact, it was solid: 23 percent of his balls in play were line drives.
Here's the rub, though: a high K rate is much more likely to be sustained than a high line drive rate. He's likely to hover around 20 percent K's once again this year, as it's not a highly variable stat. Line drive percentage, though, will fluctuate a bit more from year to year. That's why it wouldn't surprise us to see that average and OBP drop just a tiny bit.
Yeah, I know that Gregor Blanco is in the Giants' starting lineup this year more for his speed and outfield range than his batting ability. But considering the lack of pinch hit options available to the Giants (enjoy semi-retirement, Aubrey Huff!), Blanco's bat is something that San Francisco will have to live with this season. And it's not pretty.
Blanco's 21 percent line drive rate from last season was a career-high, but so was his 23 percent strikeout rate. He won't provide much power (7 career homers), and his .333 OBP is decidedly meh. Sure, he's good at scoring runs once he gets on base (scored 30 percent of the times he reached last season), but when he barely gets on base, how productive is that stat, truly? We're about to find out.
Brandon Crawford is the 55th-most valuable shortstop on our 2013 Fantasy Draft Kit this season. For those of you who may have forgotten since last fall, there are 30 MLB teams. Sure, that list includes multiple position guys (including Marco Scutaro), but it also means that such offensive wizards as Angel Sanchez, Jordany Valdespin, and Adeiny Hechavarria are all seen as more valuable offensively.
That's not exactly surprising, though. Crawford has never hit .250 in his major league career. His home run power has increased... from three to four. And I guess there's something to be said about a shortstop who can steal bases, except that Crawford is 2-7 in stolen base attempts in his career. Giants fans should just hope and pray for a statistically-unsound stat increase, because that's all the help the Giants will be getting at SS this season.