San Francisco Giants: A Tale of 2 Teams and the Split That Separates Them
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Naturally, this sort of dichotomy would reach its peak after a series in the high-altitude bang-box known as Coors Field, but the 2012 San Francisco Giants have found two entirely different teams playing their home and away games.
Away from home, however, the Giants find their usually dominant defense quite a bit lackluster, allowing the sixth most runs of any team. Of course, the offense has more than made up for it by scoring the most runs of any team in the game on the road.
Process that fact for a second, because as anybody who has watched this team play since the supreme overlord of modern hitting left, that seems about as improbable as Barry Zito and Tim Lincecum hitting back-to-back home runs into McCovey Cove as Clayton Kershaw gets knocked out in the second inning.
From 2005 to 2009, this team averaged 337 runs away from China Basin, good for fourth worst in the game. So far this season, the Giants have already tallied 379 runs on the road, and they still have nine road games left to pad that lead.
Seemingly over night, the Giants have developed what could possibly be argued as one of the best offenses in the game, while simultaneously proving nothing has changed every time they perform in front of the usual orange and black sheathed sellout.
Now, of course, this dramatic split does point out their home's generous dimensions, fog-thickened air and harsh wind conditions, but just how much of this is the doing of AT&T Park? Undeniably a lot, but let's take a look beyond the immediate results and look at some of the differences that the ballparks can't touch.
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This starts with strikeout and walk percentages as the ballparks can't really do anything to affect that. Surprisingly the Giants offense actually walks more (8.3 percent versus 7.8 percent) and strikes out less (17.5 percent versus 17.8 percent) at home than away, while the pitching staff shows virtually no difference.
Still, this difference is relatively insignificant compared to the difference in batted ball data which, like walks and strikeouts, is not affected by the dimensions or conditions of the ballparks. On the road, the Giants offense is .1 percent below the first-place Tigers in line-drive percentage (a total which should jump to first as it does not include tonight's eight-run, 15-hit effort against the Rockies) with an incredible rate of 23.0 percent, according to FanGraphs.
At home, the offense merely has a 20.5 percent line-drive rate, which ranks below average. Instead, at AT&T those extra line drives, as well as some of the fly balls, are just being hit for grounders as the Giants have the second-highest ground ball percentage in the game at a whopping 49.5 percent (compared with a lower-than-average rate of 44.8 percent on the road), according to FanGraphs.
Unsurprisingly, but equally inexplicable, the pitching features a similar, but less startling split that features less line drives and more ground balls at home versus away.
So as much as AT&T holds a large amount of the responsibility for the startling splits between home and away (namely when it comes to home runs, which is significant despite going untouched upon here), there is clear data showing a significant difference in the effectiveness of the hitters as well as the pitchers—not just the results—when they are home versus away.
Now, of course, explaining why this phenomenon is there would be the real source of interest, but unfortunately that speculative role is left upon you, the readers.
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