Sunday, March 31, 2013

The line-drive Orange and Black

You have to be a true fan to know that the Giants have a line-drive rate of 22%, second highest in the majors...

I read the expanded Sports Illustrated preview just now. The mag hasn't changed its 91-71 prediction nor its forecast that the Giants will lose to the Reds in the NLDS. But there were some interesting passages to explain the lack of HR power for the team Here's the relevants part of Joe Lemire's article (boldface is mine) -- 

"Our goal isn't global," Sabean said. "We're not trying to defend being champs. We're trying to win the division again, and I think that's humbling and that's good because you know how hard it is to do. But what we've also seen is that, if you're able to do it or get into the playoffs, because of the division that we play in, the type of roster and the window that we're in, we're kind of built for playoff baseball."
The traits of successful playoff teams are great pitching -- which the Giants obviously have and will have in abundance if Lincecum bounces back -- and a lineup that puts the ball in play, increasing their chances of timely, run-scoring hits.
The Giants do hit a ton of line drives (22.1 percent of balls in play, according to FanGraphs.com), which was the second-best rate in the majors last year. That plays well in the wide gaps of the NL West ballparks where even the two hitter-friendly parks (Arizona and Colorado) are huge. No one exemplified this better than Scutaro, who batted .362 in his 61 games and made contact on 99.3 percent of his swing on pitches in the strike zone after the Giants received him in a trade.
"With hitting, it's all timing and harmony," Pence said. "Home runs just happen, and gappers happen. Just competing, being strong, being fast, having your mind ready -- the focus isn't on do this or do that and that's how you
For the architect of the team, however, there is a deliberate emphasis on constructing a lineup with a certain skillset.
"We found more and more that our ballpark is built for gap hitters and what we call line drive-down," Sabean said. "You can survive hitting singles, doubles and triples. If you're a team that puts the ball in play, doesn't strike out -- it's better as the season goes on, which we did last year with runners in scoring position."
Ultimately, the offense's production will dictate the Giants' fortunes. Last year was their first season exceeding 700 runs since 2006, while they've averaged allowing only 605 runs the past four years.



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