San Francisco Giants: 5 Creative Ways Bruce Bochy Can Produce Runs in 2012
In Moneyball, Johah Hill's Peter Brand character tells Billy Beane that in order to win games, a team needs to buy runs. In 2008, the Giants played their first season without Barry Bonds, the housing bubble burst and the market for runs in San Francisco went in the toilet. While definitely not a fresh topic, offense remains the key to Giants' hopes of another World Series run.
The 2011 Giants were 55-9 when scoring more than three runs. The Yankees averaged 5.3 runs per game, which means if the Giants had the Yankees' offense, they would have gone 149-13. Or something like that.
There are usually two options when a team struggles to score runs:
1. Get better players
2. Don't score more runs
Bruce Bochy can't do a whole lot to improve this situation. This isn't basketball or football, where a coach can squeeze points out of his team with the right combination of scheme and motivation. During the game, a baseball manager leans against the dugout rail, slaps on his lucky shades and tosses out the occasional "Get 'em next time."
There are small ways in which a manager can affect in-game results. Often we only notice these when they go horribly wrong. Here are some suggestions that might help Bochy improve the Giants' run-scoring ability in 2012.
Move Buster Posey Up in the Lineup.
Lineup structure is a tradition with which surprisingly few managers tweak. It goes a little something like this:
1. Fast guy who gets on base.
2. Not as fast, no power, drops flares into right field
3. Best hitter, whatever that means
4. RBI Machine
5. Like 3 and 4, but not as good.
Luckily for Bruce Bochy, he can break the stale chains of tradition because the Giants possess neither of 1, 3 or 4. It's a lineup full of 2- and 5-hitters.
Why not move Buster Posey, the guy most likely guy to get on base, into one of the top two places in the batting order? Moving Posey into the 2-hole will give more plate appearances to a guy who sported a Triple-A OBP of .431. That's like two Huffs and a Burriss.
If likely leadoff man Angel Pagan finds a way on base, Posey was built for the hit-and-run. The Giants were inept at putting together multiple-run innings last season. Posey is a run producer. A move up higher in the lineup will allow Bochy to utilize him more effectively.
What's wrong with this lineup? 1. Pagan, 2. Posey, 3. Sandoval, 4. Huff, 5. Cabrera, 6. Belt, 7. Sanchez, 8. Crawford.
The Giants 1-2 hitters combined for .248 and 156 runs last season, or only 20 more than Curtis Granderson. It's time to shake things up.
Bunting. That old-fashioned, mutually beneficial bargain struck by two teams during the course of a game. One team, itching to get a man in scoring position, trades one of their 27 outs to make it happen. Yes, I know that smart guys and their run expectancy charts say that sacrifice bunts are often statistically inadvisable. But the Giants offense is often statistically inadvisable as well.
The Giants were 13th in the NL in sacrifice bunts last season. That's not a terrible place to be. When your lineup is stocked with sluggers, you should let them hit rather than speed up the "game clock" by giving away outs. This train of thought won't get Bruce Bochy off the hook, though. He, more than anyone, knows the Giants lineup combined makes up about half a slugger.
The mindset needs to be different for a team like the Giants, who grounded into 117 double plays (fourth-most) and only managed 427 extra-base hits (14th). Turn a few of those double plays into runners on second, and the Giants can bring them home with their .219 batting average with runners in scoring position.
Wait, .219? Really? A full 12 points below the next-worst team. I guess we can hope that bunting will force a few more errors.
Start Brandon Belt. All Season
The Giants essentially have 10 professional hitters on their rosters. Sure, Mike Fontenot and Manny Burriss are adequate weekday fill-ins; but once you start penciling those guys into the everyday lineup, championship dreams sink proportionately.
This season, it seems easy. Brandon Belt starts. Nate Schierholtz comes off the bench. This isn't to say Schierholtz might produce more than Belt short-term. But he is pretty much a known quantity at this point. If the Giants are going to make the leap from mediocre to championship-worthy offense this season, a breakout from Belt is required.
Belt was pretty awful last season any way you look at it. However, after starting 15 of the Giants' first 16 games, life got turbulent for young Giraffe. Belt was injured or in the minors off and on for the next three months. When he came back, he was in and out of the lineup for a month, before settling into some late-season, post-playoff chase playing time.
Belt was heralded as a Posey-like prospect. He needs to be a regular. Perhaps a simple rule for 2012: As long as Belt keeps his average over .230, he remains in the lineup. No matter what. It's hard to tell if the future is bright if the future can't stay on the field.
Attend Veterans Anonymous
One of Bochy's amusing and simultaneously maddening habits is his irrational loyalty to veteran players at the expense of youth. The Bochy era is littered with veteran retreads who had to be shipped overseas, forced into retirement or traded for a sack of beans. Benji Molina, Randy Winn, Omar Vizquel, Aaron Rowand, Miguel Tejada—these guys remained in the starting lineup all the way up until they were sent packing.
This year's top candidate? Aubrey Huff. No fewer than six other Giants will be directly affected by whether Huff finds a way to recapture his 2010 production. If Bochy lets an ineffective Huff coagulate at first base, we may never see what Brett Pill, Brandon Belt or Nate Schierholtz can do with regular time.
If a guy hits, he needs to play, regardless of salary. The $10 million committed to Huff should not be a free pass when he continually goes 1-for-5 with a bloop single and three rollers to second. Pill, Belt, Schierholtz, Pagan and Cabrera should all be legitimate candidates for starters' playing time if they produce. The Giants cannot let Huff get in the way. We will know Bochy has crossed the line if Huff is traded mid-season to the Pirates for a 25th-round draft pick in 2018.
Move to the American League
Hey, the Astros did it. Maybe Brian Sabean could call up the Astros front office to get a reference. Who do we need to talk to? Those American League teams and their newfangled designated hitter are run-producing automatons.
Plus, more ABs for Nate Schierholtz and less need to delve into the dumpster fire that is the Giants bench.