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The San Francisco Sports Media and the Legend of RISP

The search for answers in the tragic disappearance of the San Francisco Giants' ability to win baseball games continues.

Since the start of the 2013 season the local Bay Area sports media has come up with a series of theories in their attempt to explain exactly why the Gigantes' 2013 season ended faster than Lindsay Lohan's attendance at a rehab class.

Trouble is, the local Bay Area baseball media consists of old school dudes who gave up trying understand advances in Major League Baseball statistical access and analysis about twenty years ago.

For those guys, "sabermetrics" somehow equates to "computers", which then equates to "get off my front lawn you damn kids!"

That's why we have SF Chronicle Giants beat writer Henry Schulman proudly posting the following recently: "You can throw all the stats you want at me to suggest otherwise, but there is something intangible that makes some hitters better in the clutch than others".

So even if we do "throw all the stats you want at me" it matters not to Mr. Schulman. He has given clear notice that facts and measurable data have no chance of dissuading him from heading directly to Crankyville via the Irrational Interstate Highway.

Crusty old sports writers know clutch hitting when they see it– they just can't explain it. Like the Supreme Court and pornography, it's apparently a matter of observing something walking and talking like an extremely sexy duck.

The problem here of course is that "clutch" hitting and the players who do it best have been definable and measurable for years: Baseball-Reference.com and Yahoo Sports.com are just two of many sites that detail the exact situational hitting Mr. Schulman apparently hears quacking but can't quite get his arms around.

Which brings me to the Legend of RISP and the baseball media hobbits on the upper battlements of AT&T Park.

Throughout the 2013 season the San Francisco sports media went through what I am clinically labeling "The Three Stages of Explaining Why the 2013 Giants Are Bad– But it Has Nothing to Do With Hitting" syndrome.

It started in April-May with Stage #1 - "This is the best hitting team the Giants have had in maybe ten years!"

Why that was wrong: The Giants signed Andres Torres to platoon with Gregor Blanco in left field, which killed any chance of the position producing runs in 2013. Torres, who was never a defensive standout,  has also been embarrassing in the field all year. Oh, and Blanco didn't hit and Pablo Sandoval didn't hit, and Hunter Pence wasn't going to be driving in 100 runs, and 1st baseman Brandon Belt took four months before he finally started hitting.

June, Stage #2 – "Wow, Giant hitters seem to be in a slump. Well, don't worry, they'll work through it and then be great hitters once again!"

Why that was wrong: The 2013 San Francisco Giants line-up has maybe 2 1/2 "great" hitters: Buster Posey and Marco Scutaro, plus 1/4 each of Hunter Pence and Pablo Sandoval. Let's see, that leaves, what,  5 1/2 batters in the everyday line-up who aren't "great" hitters.

Oops! Maybe that "slump" was actually those other guys just taking their regular at-bats.

July-August Stage #3 - "Hey, it's not the hitters– they're still great! The real problem is hitting with runners in scoring position. You know, clutch hitting (quack!). I mean driving in Runners In Scoring Position!"

Why that was wrong: Contrary to what we read and hear in the San Francisco sports media, the San Francisco Giants aren't the worst team in baseball as far as RISP.

But who knew? Well, apparently not a single baseball reporter this side of the Golden Gate Bridge. And so was born the legend of the San Francisco Giants and RISP– the final excuse for coughing up the 2013 season.

As of August 13, 2013, the San Francisco Giants were 19th out of 30 MLB teams in RISP average (.248) — driving in runners from second or third base.

Not great but not the worst. But if you watched Comcast Sports and read the SF Chronicle you would have thought the Giants were the worst team in baseball history in RISP, which conveniently explained their poor offense and losing ways.

And there's also this: in their 2010 World Series season the Giants finished 25th of 30 MLB teams in RISP; in 2012 they were 13th out of 30 MLB teams.

But wait! There's more, gang!
Amazingly, here are some winning teams right next to the Giants in 2013 RISP:
1)  the Arizona Diamondbacks are 20th in RISP average (.247);
2) the Cincinnati Reds are 18th in RISP average (.248);
3) the Texas Rangers are 17th in RISP average (.249).

So it turns out:
A) the Giants aren't the worst team in baseball in driving in runs in scoring position;
B) other winning teams en route to the 2013 playoffs have virtually the same RISP stats as the Giants; and,
C) much of what the Bay Area baseball media has put out about the Giants offense throughout the 2013 season has been bovine bull-fluff.

Bottom line: San Francisco's offense has been really terrible throughout the 2013 season and will continue to be terrible until the following happens:

1. the Giants either trade for a #3-4-5 left fielder, or pick up a free agent left fielder, who can produce runs with extra base hits;

2. the team straightens out their offensive issues at 3rd base and 1st base;

3. Brian Sabean decides to create an MLB-ready bench that can actually produce; and,

4.  San Francisco stops bleeding runs after the 5th inning by fixing the bullpen they torched in the 2013 season. That means putting Chad Gaudin back in the pen and bringing up Heath Hembree from Triple A Fresno. Just for starters.

After that, it's off to the 2014 playoffs and a chance for the Giants to get into their third World Series in five years. Right?

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