Why Are the Giants Inconsistent on Offense?

It’s nearly September and the San Francisco Giants are three games back of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West. At the All-Star break, the Giants were 57-33 with a 6.5-game lead in the division race, but they now sit at 68-58. The club has struggled in all areas — starting pitching, relief pitching, hitting, and baserunning — during the 11-25 run, but hitting always stands out. Let’s make something clear, though: when a team is struggling offensively it doesn’t mean they have less energy, and when a team is thriving it doesn’t mean they’re energetic. This is their job, and they’re trying their hardest to improve and make fans happy. To assume they’re giving less effort is ridiculous.

In the second half, the club has around a league-average .309 wOBA and 94 wRC+ while scoring 4.71 runs per game. They are also leaving the fifth-most runners on base since the half and are tied for the fewest home runs. Hitting with runners in scoring position is always brought up on broadcasts, Twitter, and radio, which can sway somebody’s opinion on a team’s offense, but it’s not something that is sustainable.

Since the break, the club has scored fewer than four runs 19 times (53%) and less than three runs 15 times (42%), which is skewing some of the overall hitting numbers. While their overall numbers still say they’re league average, and while I dislike the word “inconsistent,” they are the epitome of being just that.

Here are some of the issues plaguing the club:

1. Joe Panik and Hunter Pence struggled upon their returns from the disabled list, but both have picked up recently. Panik is hitting .324/.439/.500 in his last ten games, while Pence is hitting .256/.304/.395 in his last 11 games. Both were hitting under .200 in their first games back from the DL.

2. Brandon Belt had a terrible 37-plate-appearance stretch to start off the second half, as he had a -30 wRC+, but has been himself ever since, hitting . 260/.410/.458 in 122 plate appearances.

3. The bench has been diminished. Jarrett Parker was sent down with the acquisition of Eduardo Nunez, and Mac Williamson was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder injury. Without those boppers filling the bench, they have been relying on guys like Conor Gillaspie, Ehire Adrianza, Trevor Brown, and Gregor Blanco to face elite relievers late in games. Williamson and Parker had a combined for a 120 wRC+ and 1.1 fWAR in 244 plate appearances.

4. No power. Home runs aren’t everything, but they help a lot. If you’re relying on singles to score runs, it’s going to be difficult to keep BABIP at a sustainable level. They have been a good offense since 2015, but they could be even better with more power. The front office obviously targets players with good eyes and contact skills, but it would be nice to have a couple true-outcome hitters in the order.

5. Buster Posey hasn’t been himself. His wRC+ of 120 would be his worst full season at the plate since being called up in 2010. His BABIP is down, mostly because his average exit velocity is down from last year and he is hitting fewer fly balls than usual.

6. The leadoff and second hitters (Denard Span and Angel Pagan) have a combined .344 on-base percentage, while the numbers three and four hitters (Belt and Posey) have a combined .379 OBP. Pagan and Belt need to be at the top of the lineup to ensure there are more people on base for when Posey and Pence hit. This won’t make a big difference, but it’s one thing that makes clear sense. It’s time to stop hitting your best contact hitter second.

7. It’s random, but they’re scoring less when their pitchers give up less and more when their pitchers give up more. This is similar to cluster luck, in which they rank 17th, because it’s not something players can necessarily control. They have had nine games out of 36 in the second half where they’ve scored five or more runs while their pitching also gave up five or more runs. And they have 16 games where they’ve scored four runs or less while their pitching also gave up four runs or less. That’s a total of 25 games (69%) where the scores have been similar.

8. This might not belong here, but they’ve used 11 different number-three hitters this season, including seven since the break. Manager Bruce Bochy has made it clear that he thinks the third spot is haunted, but that’s not the case. Belt had 1.000+ OPS there before he had a bad stretch after the break, and Matt Duffy just hasn’t been a good hitter this season. Changing the lineup every day can’t be good for the confidence of players.

Fans will always say their offense is inconsistent, but this club has been unusually inconsistent in the second half so far. With an 11-25 record since the break, they need to hope for “clutch” hits and put multiple hits together in an inning instead of spreading them out. It’s not something they can control for the most part, but with good plate appearances the runs will come.

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