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Five stats that define Giants' shocking first half of season

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The best team in baseball had an extremely quiet All-Star Game. Brandon Crawford was the only Giants player to see action Tuesday night at Coors Field and he was hitless in one at-bat with a fielding error. 

It wasn't a big night for the organization, but nobody at Third and King is going to sweat it too much. 

The most important statistics and accomplishments came over the previous three-plus months, as the Giants got out to a shocking 57-32 start and hit the break with a two-game lead in the NL West. They have been in first -- ahead of two preseason World Series favorites -- for 68 days. 

How exactly have the Giants done it? Here are five stats that show how they got to first place in the NL West and have managed to stay ahead of the Dodgers and Padres for so long:

4.03 Pitches Per Plate Appearance

What does this odd collection of pitchers have in common: Walker Buehler, Joe Ross, Cole Irvin, Merrill Kelly, Kwang Hyun Kim. Those are the only five starters to complete seven innings against the Giants this season, and only Ross and Irvin got through eight innings. 

The Giants lost all five of those games, so it's clear that the easiest way to beat this team is to have a starting pitcher who can carry a heavy load -- but it just hasn't been easy this season. The Giants rank first in the National League and third overall (behind the Yankees and Tigers) with 4.03 pitches per plate appearance. 

 

Gabe Kapler wanted his team to win time of possession, and this lineup is grinding every single night, having long, quality at-bats, many of which end with homers. It's not just the big names leading the way, either.

Darin Ruf is averaging 4.55 pitches per plate appearance, which would easily lead MLB if he had enough plate appearances to qualify for leaderboards. Before he got hurt, Mike Tauchman was at 4.58, a big reason the Giants kept him around despite an overall lack of production at the plate.

Steven Duggar (4.17), Curt Casali (4.12) and LaMonte Wade Jr. (4.11) are also among the standouts, and Alex Wood, who is hitless, deserves some credit for seeing 4.19 pitches per plate appearance, taking some bullets out of the opposing starters' arm. 

305 1/3 Innings From Top Three

The Giants avoided any long-term commitments to starters in the offseason, giving Kevin Gausman the qualifying offer and adding Anthony DeSclafani, Wood and Aaron Sanchez on one-year deals. It was a boom-or-bust strategy, and so far it's worked out beautifully.

Gausman is a legit ace and a Cy Young candidate, and looking back, the Giants really should have given him whatever he wanted last November. There were questions about the others coming into the year, and while Sanchez has been hurt most of the first half, the Giants are thrilled with what they've gotten from the other two. 

DeSclafani had a 7.22 ERA last year and finished the short season out of Cincinnati's rotation, but he is 10-3 with a 2.68 ERA. Wood made just nine starts the previous two seasons but has made 15 this year, posting a 3.67 ERA.  The Giants have gotten 305 1 /3 innings from Gausman, DeSclafani and Wood. They wouldn't be anywhere near first place without them.

Two Qualified Hitters

The only Giants hitters who currently qualify for the batting title are Brandon Crawford and Mike Yastrzemski, which is partially by design, but mostly because of all the injuries. Yes, the Giants like platoons, but this season they have had to dig deep with so many regulars going down, and they have been phenomenally effective with their "next man up" approach.

Fifteen different Giants have already gotten more than 120 plate appearances and 19 position players are in double digits. Basically, everybody who has played has contributed, too.

The guys who rank 12th through 15th on the team in plate appearances are Mike Tauchman, Ruf, LaMonte Wade Jr. and Curt Casali. Tauchman saved two games with his glove, Ruf has a .959 OPS, Wade is at .819 and has made huge contributions at first, and Casali's well-timed hot streak helped the Giants go 4-2 over the last week without Buster Posey.

132 Home Runs

The 2001 Giants hit 235 homers, but they had a cheat code. Barry Bonds hit 73 that season and when you throw in Rich Aurilia's 37, you have two players accounting for nearly half of the homers the team hit.

Twenty years later, a much more balanced group is threatening to break that franchise record. The Giants have 132 homers at the break and are on pace for 240. Only five teams in franchise history have even hit 200 homers in a season, and four of them won at least 90 games. 

 

The most amazing part of the barrage is just how deep this lineup goes. A dozen Giants have at least five homers and all 19 position players who have gotten at least 10 at-bats for the team this season have gone deep. Crawford leads the way with 18, getting him just three away from his career-high. Posey (12), Yastrzemski (12) and Brandon Belt (11) are also in double digits. 

The Giants lead MLB in total homers and have 77 on the road, 12 more than any other team in the big leagues. With the weather heating up, pitchers losing spin, and 10 more road games at Coors Field and Chase Field, they have a good shot at taking down the franchise mark. 

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184 Pinch-hit At-bats

Kapler has brought a hockey term to the clubhouse, making the "line change" a regular part of games. It's not unusual for him to unveil two or three pinch-hitters in an inning, and sometimes he takes it to extremes, like when he brought Wade Jr., Yastrzemski and Alex Dickerson off the bench in succession last Monday against tough Cardinals right-hander Giovanny Gallegos.

Dickerson was the third one to the plate and homered. 

That blast was the ninth pinch-hit homer of the first half, the most in the majors. The Giants are second with 26 pinch-hit RBI and 22 walks. Kapler has gotten this production with aggression, using an MLB-leading 184 pinch hitters. The Diamondbacks (172) are the only other team above 150.

"I really like the aggressiveness. I think it kind of gives us an identity," president of baseball operations Farhan Zaidi said earlier this season.

"I think being that aggressive, while it puts the manager under the microscope, it can put the opposing team on the defensive. Suddenly when teams are doing their advance work and thinking about how to set up their pitching, they have to account for the fact that Kap is going to be aggressive."

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