by Morris Phillips
Expanded playoffs, universal designated hitters, shrinking batting averages and greater reliance on relief pitchers. Seemingly, all of baseball’s newest machinations favor the Giants and their preferred methods of competing.
Currently the Giants are bundled with three other NL clubs (Dodgers, Mets, Brewers) at the top of the standings in the first season in which six teams will qualify for postseason play in both leagues. No more roll of the dice in a Wild Card game means no one goes home after an initial, bad playoff game. When you’ve got a great shot to be in, it’s even better if you can’t all of a sudden be out.
Throughout baseball, batting averages are down, as is scoring. Trying to buck that trend are the Giants with their .248 team batting average, well above the .235 number that this season is considered average among the 30 teams. The Giants also are averaging 5.11 runs per game, which trails only the Dodgers. But those key metrics don’t mean that individual sluggers on the team haven’t had their struggles. Benefitting the Giants of course, is their philosophy to seek game-altering extra-base hits and homers at the expense of on-base percentage and playing the old-school, station-to-station game.
Given that, the Giants still draw their walks (ranking second with 144 free passes), utilize the sacrifice fly (they rank first with 20), and steal bases consistently, if not frequently with 21 steals and only six caught stealing situations. Those numbers weigh heavier given that the Giants aren’t a record-breaking, home run-hitting club this season with only 40 hit so far.
What they do is hit more than their opponent by a nice margin augmented by their league-low 26 home runs allowed. And when those home runs are hit, it’s usually in a close, low-scoring game. That combination, as it was in 2021, is a real weapon for the Giants: they win close games.
A major piece of that formula is the team’s bullpen which is currently loaded with standouts from closer Camilo Doval with seven saves to Taylor Rogers, John Brebbia and Jarlin Garcia as the key, setup options. With so many returners from last season in the team’s bullpen, comparisons are easy. And so far, this year’s group’s been that much better than last’s.
The Giants have won 8 of 11 leading into Friday night’s meeting with the Padres. In the coming weeks the Giants will see the Padres, Mets and the Dodgers, teams they need to measure themselves against in preparation for a possible, postseason appearance.
On Friday, Jakob Junis gets the starting nod in a matchup with San Diego’s Sean Manaea.