Throughout the 2010 MLB post season, the San Francisco Giants have been carrying a very large elephant across a thin and extremely wobbly tightrope wire. On Sunday October 17, in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series against the Philadelphia Phillies, that elephant sneezed and the tightrope snapped as the Giants tumbled to a 6-1 loss. Lack of offense will do that to you.
In four games with the Atlanta Braves in the National League Division Series, the Giants scored a total of 11 runs– an average of 2.75 runs per game. In two NLCS games with the Phillies, the Giants scored 5 runs, or 2.5 per game. During the 2010 regular season, the Giants were 9th in the National League with 697 runs scored, good for 4.30 per game. In the 2010 post season, San Francisco has so far scored 16 runs in six games, or an average of 2.67 runs per game.
In contrast, Philadelphia scored 772 runs during the regular season, 2nd among all NL teams. If your toes are currently unavailable, that’s an average of 4.76 runs per game. In their three-game NLDS sweep of Cincinnati, the Phils plated 13 runs; add the 9 runs they’ve scored in two games against the Giants and the favored Phillies are pretty much on target with an average of 4.4 runs scored per game in the post season.
For the statistically challenged, what all of this means is the Giants are not even meeting their own normally lackluster offensive objectives. The pitching-over-power mantra has been mandatory for all Giants fans entering the magic kingdom since 2005; and after five years of wandering through the desert (’05- 3rd place, ’06- 2nd place, ’07- last place, ’08- 4th place, ’09- 3rd place), the thirsty faithful are drinking at the post season well, and it’s cold and it’s wet and it tastes damn good.
Now all this stuff about scoring runs comes up again. We know it needs to change soon. Really very soon.
The good news? So far, Giants outfielder Cody Ross is not only hitting home runs, he’s among the top hitters of all eight National and American League teams making the 2010 post season. Tops with 4 home runs, tied at second with 6 RBIs, a .350 average, a .435 OB%, and leading the post season world with a whopping 1.435 OPS. Add to that list Ross’ dynamic base running, that maniacally toothy grin, and the fact that he’s doing most of this damage from the 8th spot in the batting order.
More good news? Sure, the pitching is absolutely coming through. Out of eight post season teams, the Giants are currently third in team ERA at 2.45 (Atlanta is second at 1.95, and [whoops] Philadelphia is first with a 1.60 team ERA). Giants pitchers are second with 68 strike-outs (Texas has 70), and SF and the Yankees are tied with 3 saves each. And, by the way, the Giants are 4-2 in the 2010 post season, with the next three games coming up at AT&T Park.
There’s no doubt the Giants’ bats have to come alive, and this amazing group of home-grown talent and retread patchwork toss-aways are more than capable of getting the job done at the plate. Even if they just come back up to their 2010 season average of 4.30 runs per game.
But if there’s one thing we’ve learned after getting back into the National League Championship Series after eight long years, it is this: even with the kick-ass pitching staff San Francisco trots out on the field every game you need to have at least one legitimate All Star power/average bat in the middle of the line-up. Otherwise you might just find yourself carrying elephants across a tightrope wire.