SAN DIEGO – By now you’ve heard it a billion times: The Giants won the World Series last year despite hitting the fewest home runs in the major leagues.
Guess what? They’re on pace to hit even fewer this year.
They’ve hit 80 in 139 games following their 3-2 loss at Petco Park on Tuesday. If that pace holds, they’ll end with 93 – 10 fewer than their regular-season total of 103 from a year ago.
So what, you say? The Giants won without the long ball last year, so why should it matter this year?
Well, it does matter. That’s because the Giants expected to hit more home runs this year. They planned around it. They were getting a full year of Hunter Pence. They were, presumably, getting a healthy Pablo Sandoval, with no more hamate bones to break. They had Buster Posey coming back, of course.
In their view, which we now understand to be flawed, it didn’t matter that they planned to quilt together left field between Gregor Blanco and Andres Torres. Sure, there was no way those two players could approach what Melky Cabrera did in four months before he got suspended. (He was leading the majors in average, hits and runs, in case you’ve purged him from your memory banks.) But the other guys – Pence, Sandoval and a full year of Marco Scutaro, especially -- would pick up the slack.
It hasn’t happened that way. At all.
Posey, Pence and Sandoval have hit five home runs between them since the All-Star break. Pence has three of those, and that’s after going from July 13 to Aug. 18 – a span of 101 at-bats -- without hitting one.
Posey’s stretch of homerless at-bats is at 126 and counting.
Scutaro, although it’s not what he’s paid to do, has hit just two homers. The last one came June 9.
Sure, the Giants continue to bemoan a lack of clutch hitting. They were 3 for 15 with runners in scoring position in another one-run loss Tuesday, they stranded 11 and that led to all kinds of postgame philosophical arglebargle (to use a Rattoism) about whether clutch hitting can be taught or what the Giants must do differently from a coaching/preparation standpoint next year or what they say to one another as they sit cross-legged in a circle around the fire pit.
Put that blather and blovium and nature vs. nurture pablum aside for a moment and focus on these three hard facts:
--The Giants are fifth in the league with a .259 average.
--The Giants are 14th in the league with a .374 slugging percentage.
--There are 15 teams in the National League.
No dreamquest necessary. Here is the answer: The Giants need some of their singles to become doubles, some of their doubles to become homers, and hey! If the triple becomes fashionable again, all the better. They sure hit a lot of those last year, more than any club in the majors, in fact, when Angel Pagan wasn’t hurt for three months and Melky was … well, inspiring grown men to dress like dairy deliverymen.
Hey, singles are nice. They’re like samples of pizza rolls in the Costco frozen food aisle. If somebody in a hairnet went to the trouble to heat ‘em up, you don’t turn ‘em down.
Posey’s single sure was nice in the first inning Tuesday, after Pagan singled and stole second base. It was the kind of hard-struck line drive to right field that he hoarded in his garage last year, when he won a batting crown. But it was hit so crisply that Pagan had to hold at third. He didn’t score.
Nor did Pagan score after a leadoff triple in the seventh. (Okay, so a single gets the job done that time.)
Point is, the Giants don’t need to get more hits. They don’t even need to get more hits with runners in scoring position. They’re hitting .252 in those situations – sixth in the NL, and not far off their overall .259 mark.
They just need their hits to be harder, more destructive, more damaging.
So throw another log on the fire and sing Kumbaya if you want. But banging some baseballs off the wall, or over them, would be a better use of your time. And theirs.
Quotes! We’ve got quotes. In case you’re interested:
Buster Posey: “It really falls on our shoulders. We’re the ones responsible for it. I’ve said it 100 times this year: Sometimes we try to do too much instead of go up there like we’re leading off an inning.”
And Bruce Bochy: “Well, it’s been an issue for awhile. It’s reared its head tonight. For some reason, we didn’t want to get Pagan in. … We didn’t execute. It cost us the game. … What were probably most disappointing were the at-bats.”
More Bochy, channeling Alfred E. Neumann, on whether he’s concerned since many core hitters will be returning next year: “Worry? No, I don’t worry. These guys are talented. They’ve done it before. At the same time, these are things we talk about – how we can make it better.”
And Madison Bumgarner, who has a 2.67 ERA since the break yet the Giants are 1-8 in his starts because they can’t score for him: “Hitting is hard. Everybody is working hard and we’re having a tough time. And it’s not just hitting. We’re having a tough time pitching and with defense. It’s just been a tough year all around.”
Finally, Bumgarner, who loves to swing big, on not having an extra-base hit all season: “I don’t think I’ve seen a fastball in a month. Maybe I should learn to hit the slider.”