Game Notes and Comments: at Florida Marlins May 4-6, 2010

marlinslogo-1The San Francisco Giants’ three game sweep of the Florida Marlins at the start of their six game mini-road trip to Florida and New York was an object lesson in the difference between playing Major League baseball and Major League baseball statistics.

Not in terms of the tedious civil war between the baseball establishment Neanderthals, who think that on base percentage is a stat of evil likely created by the Communist Party in the 1950s, and the sabermeticulous stat-wonks, who will mathematically prove that a walk can be more valuable than a two run homer in certain situations.

No, the Florida series showed that analyzing exactly what happens in baseball games takes an understanding of the crazy mystery of on-field player performance, as well as the ability to dissect revelatory statistical data.

For example, here are the bullpen lines for the just completed Giants/Marlins series. Not a big difference in a three game set:

 Bullpen watch

IP

ER

ERA

  SF Giants

9

5

5.00

  Florida

12.2

7

4.98

But here are the bullpen records for the series:

 Bullpen watch

W/L

Saves

Holds

  SF Giants

1-0

3

2

  Florida

 0-1

0

0

As far as starting pitching, Florida’s three starters gave up seven earned runs in the series and went 0-2 with a 3.64 ERA; Giant starters gave up six earned runs and went 2-0 and posted a 2.57 ERA.

Now here’s where the numbers become part of the inner-game colonoscopy: Florida starters pitched 17.1 innings, SF starters pitched 21 innings— a 3.2 innings difference (or an average 1.22 innings each game). But while Florida starters threw 247 pitches in the three games, Giants pitchers threw 319 pitches; throughout the series, Giants starters were doing a better job of dominating and staying in control of the defense longer.

But in this series, it is the offensive numbers that tell the tale. The Giants scored 18 runs in the three games, an average of 6.0 runs per game; Florida scored a total of 11 runs, an average of 3.7 runs per game. Counting the just completed series, here’s a look at the Giants and the Marlins offensive numbers:

Total 2010 runs scored:           
SFG  126 runs in 27 games – 4.67 runs per game.
FLA   134 runs in 28 games – 4.78 runs per game.
The current 2010 Major League average of runs scored per game is 4.52.

So far in 2010, the Giants are not only scoring more runs per game than the MLB average, they are far exceeding their absolutely dismal 2009 run production.

SF Giants total 2009 runs scored:            
657 runs in 162 games – 4.06 runs per game; 26th out of 30 MLB teams.

At their current rate of 4.67 runs per game, the Giants project to score 757 runs in 2010, 100 more runs than 2009; that would put them about 15th of 30 MLB teams.

So what did we learn from the three game series with the Florida Marlins?

1. So far, the Giants offense is scoring runs at a significantly higher rate than the past two years, and the Florida series provided a good mini-example of that. But given the limited improvement in their offense from last year, it is unrealistic to expect Giants hitters will continue to score runs at the current rate, and we should see a decline in run production over the next several months. The question is, how quickly will management respond when this happens, and what will be their response?

2. Giants pitching continues to be the best in baseball. Out of the 30 MLB teams, San Francisco has the best runs allowed per game average (3.00). St. Louis is second at 3.04 and Tampa Bay is third at 3.15. The Pittsburgh Pirates are last in the Majors with 6.63 runs allowed per game.

Sounds great, except that in 2009, Giants pitchers finished first in the Majors (tied with the Dodgers) with 3.77 runs allowed per game. And as we know, their outstanding pitching was hung out to dry by an inadequate offense which resulted in an 88-74 record and third place in the NL West.

3.  Yes, it is possible that Nate Schierholtz is having his breakout year: .381 AVG/.458 OBP/.587 SLG in 63 at bats. But there’s a problem. 

nateschierholtz2

Manager Bruce Bochy told reporters after the Florida sweep he will not move Schierholtz out of the #8 slot in the line-up because he doesn’t want to mess with his right fielder’s “comfort zone”. Yikes! If the Giants were a progressive team like Tampa, the Yankees, or Colorado, Schierholtz would be immediately moved up to the number four or five slot. The idea is to create more runs, not treat Major League players like little leaguers, or believe you can somehow “jinx” a player’s talent if he bats 5th in the line-up instead of 8th.

That’s not old school, that’s going full metal medieval…    Where is Nostradamus when you really need him?

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