The defending World Champions roll into town Tuesday, bringing with them electric arms, weak bats and painful memories.
It was this (mostly) same San Francisco Giants squad that defeated the Phillies in six games last October, preventing the Phils from being the first NL team in 60+ years to reach the World Series in three consecutive years. Those Giants were an orgy of overachievers who proved once and for all that the major league baseball playoffs are as much a crapshoot as any pro draft. We tend to think that baseball rewards the most talented, consistent teams – the sport plays twice as many games as basketball and hockey and ten times more than football – but in reality, the law of large samples only affects the regular season.
Dinks and dunks, bloopers and bleeders with a big-time blast every now and again led the light-hitting Giants past the Phillies in 2010. San Francisco will need similar luck and execution to repeat, because this year’s team is somehow worse offensively than last. It’s not close, either.
The 2010 Giants scored 459 runs through the first 102 contests for an average of 4.5/game. This year’s team has scored exactly 90 fewer runs for an average of 3.6/game. That team had a run differential of +85. This one is at a mediocre +19.
Buster Posey‘s season-ending injury obviously crippled the Giants. Posey, as young as he is, is more important to his team than even Chase Utley is to the Phillies, when you factor in team context and positional value. The less publicized issues have been the struggles of Andres Torres and Aubrey Huff. Torres has been hurt and ineffective in 2011, posting a meager .692 OPS that is below average in even a watered down offensive environment. On this day last year, Torres was batting 38 points higher, getting on base 5% more and slugging an additional 126 points.
After experiencing a resurgence in 2010, Huff looks like he’s cooked in ’11. .240/.295/.363 from a slow-footed player in a premium offensive position? Yuck. Huff has 9 home runs, but three of them came in one game in St. Louis earlier this year.
Each night, the Giants are getting nothing offensively from two positions – catcher and shortstop – and are receiving very little from two outfielders. Shortstop particularly has been a disaster, as both Miguel Tejada and Brandon Crawford have struggled to hit their weight. Collectively, Giants shortstops have hit .217, worst in the National League and second only in the bigs to Tampa.
Giants second basemen haven’t been too thrilling either, driving in the second fewest runs in the NL. This is a lineup with multiple holes every single night and not much internal hope on the horizon. A few weeks back, Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow (who are seriously brilliant and a joy to listen to) attempted to convince fans that help was on the way … for Mike Fontenot would soon be returning.
As always, pitching has made up for San Fran’s offensive woes. Lincecum, Cain, Romo and Wilson are still around, and Ryan Vogelsong has been a revelation.
But the triumphant return of Mike Fontenot tells you all you need to know about this team’s offense.