Brandon Belt is flourishing with regular playing time.
The San Francisco Giants are often labeled in the media as an old-school organization that ignores the wave of new statistics that have overtaken baseball since the publication of Michael Lewis' book Moneyball in 2003. However, the Giants are actually using the main theme of that book, the value of on-base percentage, to revitalize their offense this season.
Take a look at the seasonal on-base percentages of the first six hitters in the Giants' lineup Sunday against the Mariners:
- RF Gregor Blanco: .366
- 3B Pablo Sandoval: 368
- LF Melky Cabrera: .398
- C Buster Posey: .356
- CF Angel Pagan: .349
- 1B Brandon Belt: .364
The average major league hitter has an on-base percentage of .319, so the Giants' first six hitters are well above average so far this year. The Giants' fourth outfielder, Nate Schierholtz, is also right around league average at .317, and second baseman Ryan Theriot is up to .306 after an injury-plagued slow start to the season.
Unfortunately, the Giants only scored one run on Sunday because they left 12 on base, and went just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position. Hector Sanchez, the backup catcher who has walked just one time all season, was the main culprit today, leaving five men on base while going 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position from the No. 7 spot in the lineup.
A boneheaded move by manager Bruce Bochy backfired in the eight inning when he pinch-ran for Posey despite already having one out in the inning. In the ninth, Posey's spot came up with the bases loaded, and all he do could was watch as Schierholtz grounded out weakly to end the threat.
The Giants are 15th in the league with an on-base percentage of .319, which is exactly league average. Sanchez (.261 OBP), middle infielders Brandon Crawford (.286), Manny Burriss (.274) and Joaquin Arias (.273), and first basemen Aubrey Huff (.296) and Brett Pill (.271) have dragged the overall offense down.
However, now that Sandoval has returned from injury and Belt has finally been given the every day job at first base, the Giants have their optimal lineup on the field consistently for the first time all season.
While the A's of the early 2000s emphasized the importance of the walk to fuel their on-base percentage, the Giants are doing it with hitters that rely on putting the ball in play to get on base. Cabrera, Sandoval, Posey, Pagan and Blanco have batting averages over .270, which is well above the league average of .253.
A hit is actually more valuable than a walk because a hit can go for more than one base and drive in multiple runs. Therefore, the Giants' approach of hitting their way on base is likely to yield more success than a team of passive hitters waiting for walks.
The Giants' newfound Moneyball approach already has them in the middle of the pack offensively despite injuries to Sandoval and Theriot, as well as Bochy's failure to give Belt the everyday job until last week. Now that the Giants have their best offensive players lined up correctly, the offense is going to move up to the top of the league by the end of the season.