Who needs home runs when you have triples?


Who needs home runs when you have triples?

PHOENIX Barring a fairly seismic collapse andor an unanticipated power surge, the Giants are on the verge of accomplishing something unprecedented in the live-ball era.

They would become just the fifth team in the last 78 years to reach the postseason despite hitting the fewest home runs in the major leagues.

The 1987 St. Louis Cardinals were the last team to do it. Whitey Herzogs 82 Cardinals, too. Then you have the 1965 Los Angeles Dodgers and the 1959 White Sox.

And thats it. After the Go-Go Sox, you have to go back to the 1924 Washington Senators -- and thats when the ball was deader than dead.

So what makes these Giants unprecedented, you say? Well, those other four teams led their league in stolen bases. By a wide margin, too. The current Giants, by comparison, have stolen just six bases above the NL average.

The Giants do not have Vince Coleman, who swiped 109 bases in 87, or Lonnie Smith, who stole 68 in 82. They do not have Maury Wills, who led the majors with 94 steals while scratching out all the runs Koufax and Drysdale would need. Luis Aparicio also led the majors with 59 steals in 59, when he and Nellie Fox legged the Go-Go theme all the way from the South Side to the World Series.

So how are the Giants doing it with just 89 home runs? How are they scoring enough not only to support their pitchers, but to bail them out as their arms have softened up a bit in the second half?

Well, Ive got to give a lot of credit to the guys at the top of the order, said cleanup Buster Posey, who was too modest to mention that hes hitting nearly .400 since the All-Star break.

Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro, since he came over here, have been huge, and you cant forget how (Gregor) Blanco and (Ryan) Theriot contributed, especially earlier in the season. And with Pagan, youre talking about a guy who set a triples record. Hes not just getting on base. Hes hitting the ball with authority. Hes in scoring position and were getting him in. That has something to do with it, I think.

After tying and passing Willie Mays on the last road trip, Pagans 13 triples stand as the most in the Giants San Francisco era. Its one more than the New York Yankees have hit as a team this season.

As you might suspect, the Giants 51 triples lead the major leagues. That partly explains how, despite their major league-low 89 home runs, have a respectable .392 slugging percentage just a shade below the .401 average for NL clubs.

But those home runs.oh, those home runs are nice, arent they?

The Giants, as mentioned, have hit just 89. The only other team with fewer than 100 home runs is the Dodgers, and theyve hit 99. So itll take some doing in these final 16 games for the Giants to avoid bringing up the rear in roundtrippers when the season ends.

That only tells part of the story, of course. The Giants arent so power-deprived on the road. Theyve hit 67 in grays -- more than the Dodgers, the Rockies and seven other major league clubs.

At home? Well, everyone knows that part by now. The Giants have hit just 22 home runs in 71 home games at AT&T Park, and if that sounds paltry well, it is. The Padres have hit the next fewest at home, with 42 homers at Petco Park almost doubling the Giants total.

More perspective on that: Detroits Miguel Cabrera has hit more home runs at Comerica Park (24) than the Giants have hit as a team at home. (And in case you were curious, those triples-averse Yankees lead the majors with 121 home runs in the Bronx.)

But heres the interesting part: The Giants have come to terms with this. Whereas past players (and some former coaches, too) grumbled over the 420-foot crown in right-center field, the heavy air and the breeze through the archways, this lineup has made its peace with China Basin.

Sure, its the ballpark, said Posey, who has hit six of his 22 home runs at AT&T Park. It is what it is. Your goal as a ballplayer, wherever you are, is to be consistent. Another goal is to control what you can control. Thats half the battle in this game.

The other half is waged from 60 feet, 6 inches. And on that front, Bochy likes what hes seen.

You look at the club and were more athletic, Bochy said. Were quicker. In 2010, sure, we hit more home runs. But this team can go first to third, first to home. And the other thing that needed to happen is were getting quality at-bats and executing. Its been our best year as far as getting guys over and getting them in. The timely hits in the second half, were getting them. Thats the only way its gonna work when you dont hit home runs.

They found a way to amplify those skills even after Aug. 15, when Melky Cabrera was suspended for a positive drug test. Cabrera was leading the majors in hits and runs at the time. He was the poster child for the Giants offensive philosophy. The poster came down, but the Giants found a way to wallpaper it over.

Ive never been on a team thats been through something like that, Posey told me. I didnt know what to expect, to tell you the truth. So I think everybody should be happy with how they handled it. I mean, really, what choice did we have?

There might be no better choice to hit cleanup on this team, as its constructed, than Posey. Hes not a masher in the typical mold of a No. 4 hitter. But home runs, strange as it sounds, have a way of stopping rallies. Posey is more likely to serve an RBI single to right field or line a double to the gap -- and keep the pitcher in the stretch, the better to wear him down a little further.

Were having lots of rallies, said No. 5 hitter Hunter Pence, who owns 34 RBIs on 38 hits. Crazy, crazy rallies.

The Giant dont have electrifying speed like those Cardinals teams. But special assistant Shawon Dunston, who saw an awful lot of Ozzie Smith, Willie McGee, Tommy Herr and Co. during his playing days for the Chicago Cubs, sees some resemblance between them and these Giants.

Defense, for one, Dunston said. Nah, they didnt make errors. A ball in the gap was cut off. They covered ground. And they were a team you feared, power or no power. They werent all slap hitters, either. And going first to third thats a beautiful thing. Thats how they played. It was runners at first and third every time.

They knew what they were about and they were not embarrassed because they did not hit home runs.

Know thyself. Its not just a macram wall hanging.

Somehow, this years Giants team has found acceptance where so many other clubs found frustration. They arent trying to overpower the big yard at Third and King or gobble up numbers on the road, knowing they cant hit for power at home.

They are not hot to trot.

You know, I just think the goal is to win ballgames and weve got a good group of guys who have that common goal, Posey said. Thats what makes this game fun.

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

Durable Longoria ready for additional boost from ballpark, Giants fans

SAN FRANCISCO — The field at AT&T Park is covered with patches and small piles of dirt right now, showing the signs of a winter hosting holiday parties and concerts, and a week with plenty of rain. 

For Evan Longoria, though, that grass was a beautiful sight.

A month after a trade that had him switching coasts, Longoria was introduced at a press conference at AT&T Park and ran the usual gauntlet with team employees and season-ticket holders. He spent some time this week looking for housing in the Bay Area, but soon he’ll be back in Scottsdale, getting to know new teammates and preparing his body for the 2018 season. 

Longoria said his workouts have been a bit different with a new staff, but the goal remains the same. He is a player who prides himself on taking the field every day, and that’s one of the traits that drew the Giants to Longoria. He has played at least 156 games in five consecutive seasons, and 160 in four of those seasons. 

It’s no accident that Bruce Bochy has mentioned durability during every media session this season. Andrew McCutchen has a similar track record, and the Giants lineup certainly could use some stability, especially at third base, where seven different players made double-digit starts last season. Longoria will change that. 

“I have a desire to play every day, and I think that that is infectious,” he said. “Players that may feel the grind of a long season or might be in a little bit of a funk offensively or defensively or with pitching, something like that can give you a boost when you have guys around that you know come to play and compete on a daily basis, no matter what the circumstance is.”

[RELATED: Just a number? Longoria says slow down with concerns of Giants' aging roster]

For Longoria, who turned 32 early in the offseason, the circumstance has changed for the better. After years on the unforgiving turf at The Trop, he comes to a park and division featuring nothing but natural grass. 

“I hope it helps,” he said. “Going on the road (with the Rays), my body definitely felt better when I played on grass. I’m sure that it will help. It’s definitely not going to be a negative. Not playing on the turf anymore is something that crossed my mind as soon as the trade happened.”

Longoria expects to benefit from another aspect of AT&T Park, too. The Rays finished dead last in the majors last year with an average of 15,670 fans per game. Even though their sellout streak ended, the Giants still had an average of more than 40,000 per night. Asked about playing outdoors, Longoria smiled and added, “in front of fans.”

“The environment here is obviously much different, so it’s going to be nice to step into that on a daily basis and play in front of a fan base that’s obviously very storied,” he said. “It helps with energy. It helps with motivation.”

McCutchen ready for more conversations with 'Steve the Seagull' at AT&T Park

McCutchen ready for more conversations with 'Steve the Seagull' at AT&T Park

Andrew McCutchen has been one of the best players in the National League for years now. The 31-year-old is a five-time All-Star and was named the 2013 NL MVP. 

Not only do his stats stand out, McCutchen is also one of the most entertaining players in baseball. And that's clearly going to continue in San Francisco. 

On Thursday, McCutchen was asked about the famous seagulls of San Francisco flying around the outfield at AT&T Park. 

"I definitely made a few friends out there over the years. Steve the Seagull out there, I know him," McCutchen said on KNBR. "He comes in every now and then. We have a little pow-wow when I come to San Francisco. Yeah, we get along well, me and the guys, me and the birds. They know when to come in that's for sure." 

Denard Span, who the Giants traded to acquire Evan Longoria, had a much different relationship with the seagulls. 

McCutchen is clearly the opposite of Span in this regard though. He seems about as calm as can be when it comes to the birds paying him a visit. 

"They chill, we have some conversations. It's all good," says McCutchen. 

One other aspect McCutchen can't wait for in the outfield at AT&T Park, is getting to know all the fans. Specifically, not being a part of a special chant Giants fans have for opposing outfielders. 

"I'm lookin' forward to fans not callin' me bums anymore," McCutchen said with a laugh. "I'm glad I'm on the winning side. I'm glad I'm on the San Francisco Giants side. I can't wait to meet all the fans."