How the scrappy Giants outperformed the Dodgers’ vaunted offensive lineup

How the scrappy Giants outperformed the Dodgers’ vaunted lineup originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

LOS ANGELES — The Giants’ first hitter on Sunday spent most of April in Triple-A, with two others who were bottom of the roster against the Washington Nationals. The No. 5 hitter was picked up in a minor trade with the Seattle Mariners on Saturday and found himself out of first base a day later. You can argue that if Gabe Kapler had a perfectly healthy squad, Brandon Crawford and Joey Bart were the only members of Sunday’s roster who would have been automatic starters against a right-handed pitcher.

The Los Angeles Dodgers leadoff hitter on Sunday was Mookie Betts, a former MVP who is on the way to the Hall of Fame. Their No. 9 hitter, Gavin Lux, was the No. 2 prospect in the minors two years ago. Between those, even with Max Muncy taking the day off, the Dodgers had five former All-Stars, the 2019 NL MVP, the 2020 NL MVP and a player who finished fifth in last year’s run.

Coming off a 107-win season, the Giants have retained a roster built around resurgent veterans, underdogs and depth that has recently been decimated by injuries. and an outbreak of COVID-19 at the clubhouse. After a 106-win season, the Dodgers spent $162 million to Freddie Freeman and put together a lineup that is widely considered one of the best in MLB history.

In 22 games, the Giants have scored 109 points. In 21 games, the Dodgers have scored 102 points.

It hasn’t always been pretty, but as the Giants headed to Los Angeles for the first game since the playoffs, they ranked first in MLB in points per game, a jaw-dropping stat considering their situation.

“It’s a bit crazy because – again, I don’t know if our standards have been raised unreasonably from last year – but I don’t really feel like our offense clicked. on all cylinders,” said Farhan, president of baseball operations. Zaidi said on the Giants Talk podcast on Monday. “Like, I don’t think, ‘Hey, that’s the best offense in baseball right now.’ I guess that might be a good sign that we think there’s more in the tank for both the squad guys and the returning guys.

“It kind of came in spurts – we got kicked out or held to a run or two a few times and then we had bigger blowouts, but hopefully we get some consistency. I think that it’s more important, not the total number of points you score, but the fact that you make at least four or five in every game. That’s how you really get started.

The Giants are 14-8 in those 22 games, which puts them half a game behind the Dodgers and the San Diego Padres, who rank second and third among the Majors in points per game. For Zaidi, 12 of those 14 wins have come after scoring at least four points, and there has been some inconsistency in how they got here.

They’ve already scored less than three points in six games and overall the roster ranks only 11th in the league in OBP (.315) and 13th in slugging (.379). A year after leading the NL in home runs and averaging 1.49 per game, the Giants have fallen to 1.09, although power has been removed in MLB so far, possibly due to changes in baseball.

It’s a different offense than the Giants last year, an offense with a little less patience and less pop, but they’ve mostly been able to pinpoint the needs of their pitching team. Even during lose two of three over the weekendthe lineup — which at times seemed worthy of Triple-A Sacramento — totaled 18 points.

“Our cavities were excellent, obviously”

Asked recently how the Giants have kept the line moving, manager Gabe Kapler pointed to a number of small things his group does well, then concluded: “We’ve been a little trickier this year.”

This was evident from the very first homestand when the Giants started putting on cavities and squaring up in all sorts of situations. The group that topped the teams last year currently lead the Majors with eight singles, which is halfway to last year’s total. The Giants are partly trying to get teams out of their shifts — Kapler says he’s seen plenty of evidence of this already during games — and partly taking advantage of free base runners when third basemen play or stand. move.

After a win last month, Kapler was asked what part of his team’s all-around performance stood out. “I thought our cavities were great, obviously,” he said. Zaidi compared the bunting to the change of finding “a $20 bill on the sidewalk”.

“I think getting players to buy was the biggest hurdle,” he said. “I think a lot of guys feel anxious about giving up one at bat. ‘What happens if I just make a few fouls and end up retiring?’ I think the fact that the players accept the pros rather than the cons has really helped us.”

The staff has been pushing the strategy on the players all spring, but it’s not hard to get the whole team on board when your best players are leading the charge. Belt, the team’s leading hitter, scored one on the opening day of the first inning of the season. In the first inning on Saturday, Brandon Crawford — after a fourth-place finish in the MVP race — came into the first inning with two outs and a runner first and missed the first pitch he saw. This piece showed another element of being “more cunning”.

Wilmer Flores was first at the time and ran around third as Crawford’s bunt was thrown down the right field line by pitcher Joan Adon. Flores was eventually ejected at home plate, but it was the latest example of a team being more aggressive on base.

Speaking of being more aggressive on the bases

The Giants are on pace with 103 stolen bases after just 66 last year. They’ve been aggressive in taking extra bases, even when they’ve built a solid lead – they’re among the league leaders in going first through third and scoring from second in singles – and several rallies have been extended by the players come down the line to beat the fullback for a double play. The infusion of more athleticism (Thairo Estrada, in particular, stands out) added another tool to the toolbox.

“It’s fun to watch,” said Zaidi, who noted the coaching staff’s preparation helped the Giants pick up the pace. “You like to feel like the aggressor in any game.”

Last year, the Giants sometimes felt dependent on the circuit, but this year they are stringing together more rallies. They are third in MLB in OPS with runners in scoring position (.846) and lead the Majors with a .294 batting average in those situations. Kapler said the roster had “added more elements” at the start, but he mostly sees nothing but a good approach, either from the veterans or from the many calls that have been completed recently.

“We’re probably not near the top when it comes to batting average,” he said of a group hitting .237 overall, “But I think we worked and played our baseball style for the most part.”

Help is on the way

Kapler should soon be able to manage in a more comfortable way for him. Absences have sometimes prevented him from getting squad advantages and having dangerous options off the bench – after setting an MLB record with 18 hits last year, the Giants have just two hits sure, both singles, so far – but the band isn’t far from complete.

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LaMonte Wade Jr. (knee) is in Los Angeles and could be activated as early as Tuesday night. Mike Yastrzemski (COVID-19) will be back by Thursday, and Brandon Belt (COVID-19) is eligible to return after the Dodgers series. Evan Longoria (finger) and Tommy La Stella (Achilles) will begin rehab assignments later this week.

When they all return, Kapler will have its full line of options for the first time, adding some of last year’s standouts to a lineup that was punctuated from the start by off-season addition Joc Pederson. The former Dodger has spent most of his career as a squad in some of the league’s top rosters, and while the Giants’ names aren’t as well-known, he sees the same concepts.

“There’s so much talent in this piece,” he recently said. “No one thinks they have to do all the work themselves. There’s a lot of trust in the person behind them to take them over if they don’t get the job done.”

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