Opening Day is steadily approaching, although not nearly quick enough for my taste, but it’s the time of year when I want to gather all of my thoughts about the off-season and talk about the smaller details that will bring teams wins and not just the big things that will need to happen. The San Francisco Giants have a lot of smaller details and smaller roles that will need to be “on fleek”. I think that’s what I’m supposed to say in order to seem “hip” and “fashionable” to these youngsters with their Star Wars’s and vacuuming robots.
*shakes fist at sky*
Anyways… ON TO BASEBALL!
Eduardo Nunez‘s Speed
I think this is going to be one of the biggest factors for the Giants to put runs on the board in 2017. Nunez swiped 40 bases last year and lost his helmet on almost every single one. When was the last time the Giants had a 40+ stolen base guy on the team? 1996. 21 years ago, Barry Bonds swiped 40 bags and is also steadily gaining ground in the Hall of Fame voting this year. When was the last time the Giants had a 30+ steals guy on the team? Dave Roberts in 2007 stole 31 bases. Yes, the same Dave Roberts who manages the Los Angeles Dodgers. That tells you how often these types of speedy fellas come into the Giants organization.
Fun history lesson aside, whenever you have someone with that much speed in your lineup, taking advantage of every chance to advance 90 feet is incredibly important. If Nunez really wants to take advantage of his speed, he’s going to have to learn to be more patient at the plate. He had a 4.9% walk-rate in 2016, and for someone who will most likely be batting in the lead-off spot or (more likely) the 9-spot behind the pitcher, that number is going to definitely have to be higher. If he can get that number up and maintain his speed numbers, we can be looking at a lot of runs being added to the scoreboard for the Giants.
Joe Panik‘s BABIP
Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) – basically when a hitter makes contact with the ball, how often does it end up being a hit. For some perspective, in 2015, Panik’s average was .312 and his BABIP was .330 in 100 games, so that’s a .018 difference and that’s above average in a league where the average hangs right around .300 BABIP. In 2016 Panik hit .239 and had a .245 BABIP, a .006 difference. Yikes. Talk about bad luck. This might be completely biased because of my major fan-boy-man-crush on Panik, but when you see numbers like that, you can’t help but think it might have just been season long bad luck, but the culprit might more likely be balls just not being hit very hard, line-drives and hard grounders are more often going to end up as hits, so if the Giants are going to make a run at another World Series championship, they’re going to need their gold glove 2nd basemen to raise those numbers.
Hunter Strickland‘s Secondary Pitches
I know what you’re thinking – Hunter Strickland has secondary pitches?! WHAT! LIAR! That’s what I thought too until I saw the stat sheet. Strickland actually threw a handful of curveballs this season (0.8% of the time), and if he wants to turn into a dedicated set-up man, he better be spending this offseason developing that curveball. Strickland has a hard slider that acts more like a cutter in terms of movement, if he wants to generate more swings and misses, he’s going to need to add a softer off-speed pitch to keep hitters on their toes. He doesn’t have the Aroldis Chapman style of velocity, although he touched 100 mph once or twice, he mostly hung around 95-98, while still very fast, it’s not quite enough to rely on your power alone. If Strickland can indeed make a fool of me by developing that curveball into a wonder of the baseball world you can expect the Giants to have – dare I say – an effective bullpen? That can’t be right.
*Thinks of the Balk-Off — starts crying*
We’ll just have to wait *sniffles* and see.
All in all, my friends, colleagues, coworkers, dumpster diver guy who looks at me funny when I talk to myself out loud about the Giants, those are the 3 small details, that will play a large role, but will most likely get overlooked by the bigger stories of the Giants in 2017.