The Giants numbers you need to know from April
One month in the books
At one point in April, the Giants had their top three starters on the DL and watched rookies make their MLB debuts on back-to-back days. So, as Bruce Bochy said many times, they’ll take their current record. It’s not the start they were looking for, but given the injuries, it could have been much worse. May will be a tougher test, starting with a sneaky-difficult three-city trip. Before that kicks off, here’s a deep dive into the numbers you need to know from April (and that season-opening series in March):
Is this the year Brandon Belt puts it all together? He’s certainly off to a hot start. Belt’s .995 OPS through the end of April was the third-highest in the National League and sets him up nicely. Historically, April has been his second-worst month. He tends to really heat up later in the year, around August, and if he can avoid any freak injuries, this should be the season Belt flirts with 30 homers.
Speaking of homers, the Giants hit 30 through the end of April and scored 47.2 percent of their runs on the long ball. They entered May tied for sixth in the NL in homers after finishing a distant last in 2017 with just 128. A year ago, Giants third basemen combined for nine homers; Evan Longoria had six by the end of April. No Giants left fielder hit more than three homers last year; Mac Williamson had three in his first five games.
Swing and Miss
For years, other teams have embraced homers while essentially shrugging at the strikeouts that come with them. Are the Giants now doing the same? They entered May ranked seventh in the majors with a strikeout rate of 24.6 percent. Last season, they ranked 25th at 19.6 percent and the year before they were 29th at 17.7 percent. They don’t appear to be slowing down, much either, as Tyson Ross showed on the first night of May.
Digging a little deeper, you find some concerning trends. Hunter Pence struck out 36.1 percent of the time before going on the DL, which would be the highest rate of his career by 12 percent. Brandon Crawford was at 28.9 percent in April, way up from his 19.8 percent strikeout rate last season. Austin Jackson (36%), Gorkys Hernandez (36%) and Pablo Sandoval (30%) also piled up the whiffs. Then there’s Longoria, who struck out 27 times in 102 plate appearances and walked just three times. This is a trend worth watching.
Chris Stratton is still near the top of the class with his curveball. Stratton has an average spin rate of 3,147 revolutions-per-minute on his go-to pitch, trailing only Garrett Richards (3,249) and Ryan Pressly (3,147). Sam Dyson (3,060) ranks fifth, too. By the way, Pablo Sandoval averaged 2,549 on his curveball last Saturday, which incredibly ranks him seventh among pitchers who have thrown a curve for the Giants this year.
During spring training, Gregor Blanco said he thought he’s faster than ever. He certainly still flies on bases. Blanco went home-to-third on Sunday in 11.12 seconds, the third-fastest time recorded this season, trailing only Dee Gordon (10.86) and Billy Hamilton (10.89). Throw in a .300 average and Blanco is certainly making good on that non-roster invite. Blanco’s average sprint speed is the same as it was in 2015 when Statcast started tracking players, and that’s one reason it’ll be so tough for the Giants to find an open spot for Pence.
Not to Worry
Andrew McCutchen finished his first month with the Giants with a .212 batting average and 96 OPS+, but dig a little deeper and you see a guy who should be fine. McCutchen was 14th in the majors in hard-hit rate in April and led the team in average exit velocity. At 92.6 mph, he’s hitting the ball harder than he has in any other season during the Statcast era (since 2015). You need some luck in this game, and McCutchen hit into a ton of hard outs in April. He so far has done the same through two games in May, but it should even out soon enough.