Finding Positives (and Negatives) in the Dark Malaise of a Bad Baseball Season

Finding Positives (and Negatives) in the Dark Malaise of a Bad Baseball Season

S.F. Giants

Finding Positives (and Negatives) in the Dark Malaise of a Bad Baseball Season


Some Good Numbers

It seems like the 2017 season for the Giants has been an unending litany of negative performance stats, historic numbers in the loss column, and the sight of over-the-hill players predictably underperforming.

Looking to find any amount of encouraging data amidst the wreckage of a lost baseball season is a dangerous mission.

Because it’s easy to rationalize every loss, every bad start, every unproductive at-bat as they happen. And we’re increasingly hearing more mindless rationalizing on a daily basis during Giant broadcasts and on post-game TV and sports radio programs (more on that below).

To actually discuss positives, there have to be actual positives to discuss. I believe Yogi Berra said that shortly before he came to the fork in the road and took it.

I get that the San Francisco Giants are 28th of 30 teams in runs scored (484), compared to #1 Houston’s 682 RS. And itinerant farmers in northern Finland know the Giants are 30th in home runs hit this season with a paltry 96. (Naturally the Astros lead the Majors with 189 HRs.)

So can we move on? To pitching.

The Giants’ team ERA is a semi-respectful 4.51, which places them 17th overall in the Majors. Even their cumulative WHIP is a quasi-respectful 1.41–  24th of 30 teams. Keep in mind the average WHIP for all National League teams is 1.35.

One very positive measure of Giants pitching is their 2.49 strikeouts to walk ratio (K/BB), which ranks them 13th in baseball as of this moment. The NL K/BB average is 2.53.

So Giant pitchers may not move the MPH needle on the mound, but they are doing a decent job managing individual at-bats in a key pitching category.

San Francisco’s much-maligned bullpen has a 4.11 ERA which is 14th overall in the Major Leagues. The MLB average for bullpen ERA is currently 4.09.

All of which tells me that the pitching staff is, a) relatively ahead of the offense at this point; and, b) can be legitimately improved this off-season with some key moves.

Some Bad Announcing

Manipulating and managing the sports media is a difficult challenge for professional sports owners. It’s one thing to have your team perform poorly on TV, it’s another to convince viewers that what they’re seeing is just incorrect.

It’s the classic Richard Pryor line: “Are you going to believe me, or your lying eyes?”

In the final game of this week’s three-game set with the Florida Marlins, here’s what the Giants had as the middle of their batting order:

#2 Hunter Pence, RF – .673 OPS (I start with the #2 hitter because progressive teams understand that their best hitter should bat second in the line-up, not 3rd or 4th).
#3 Jarrett Parker, LF – .640 OPS
#4 Pablo Sandoval, 3B – .543 OPS
#5 Brandon Crawford, SS – .627 OPS

Yikes. San Francisco lost two of those three games in South Florida, getting smacked in game three 8-1 and dropping their season record to 48-74, a .393 winning percentage.

But watching that series on the Giants TV network, and listening to the post-game show, you’d think what you saw was a series of lucky Marlin hits, a bunch of bad umpire calls on Giants hitters, awesome pitching by Giant starters, and a long list of other embarrassing excuses for mediocrity.

And this sad pattern is beginning to take over the narrative on every Giants media outlet.

Credit Giants Chief Operating Officer Larry Baer, who is slowly changing the way Giants fans get information about their team’s performance from the local media.

The Giants own large shares of the local TV and radio media in San Francisco and have a huge influence on who broadcasts their games and post-game programs and what is said during those broadcasts.

Understand, the Giants have a great tradition of outstanding broadcast professionals: from Baseball Hall of Fame announcers Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons, to Hank Greenwald, and currently Jon Miller (also in the Hall) and Dave Flemming.

The ex-player announcer component has also been excellent, especially with the early work of former MLB players Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper.

But slowly, the radio and TV booths and the post-game shows are being populated with ex-Giant players from the recent past. Players that the Giants organization worked hard to bond with the fans, who now return as beloved media broadcasters.

And here’s the problem: those ex-players aren’t there to analyze, deconstruct, or create smart and insightful conversations about the game. And they usually don’t know (or care about) MLB history or what’s happening in the greater world of baseball.

They’re there because they’re “homers” for the San Francisco Giants. They won’t criticize Giants players no matter what happens in a game, and they won’t remotely reference any real problems facing this franchise now or in the future.

In fact, ex-Giant players do the opposite. They rationalize mistakes, they ignore bad managing moves, and they blame umpires, groundskeepers, game schedules, and whatever for poor performances by Giants players.

Ex-player announcers also happily recite useless, traditional stats (pitcher wins, saves, RBIs, batting average, etc.) that bring zero relevant information to viewers.

What they do bring to the broadcast table is an endless recitation of the Giants party line.

Here’s one recent example of the kind of dishonest broadcasting now occurring during Giant games.

During the 7th inning of game 2 of the just concluded Florida Marlins series, a Giants hitter smashed a vicious line drive up the middle that the Marlin’s pitcher grabbed and turned into a double play. The Giants ex-player/announcer on the television broadcast sneered, “Well look what I found in my glove, happy birthday”.

The idea was that since the play was made by the other team, it was lucky or cheap. If the Giants pitcher had made the same play it would have been described as awesome and a testament to that pitcher’s amazing athleticism.

This kind of media hypocrisy is taking over Giants broadcasts and is obviously highly valued by Giants ownership—fans, just check your brains at the door and we’ll tell you what you’re seeing.

And guess what? Forget about the Giants actual performance, win/loss record, and all those misleading “numbers”. Because now, it’s all good.

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