Champion Giants’ offense much better than it seemed
BY JOHN GROCHOWSKI For Sun-Times Media October 29, 2012 8:56PM
Buster Posey and the Giants scored 308 runs at home and 410 runs on the road during the regular season. | Getty Images
Updated: December 1, 2012 6:25AM
The San Francisco Giants had an amazing road run on the way to their World Series title, with three consecutive road victories against the Cincinnati Reds, one to avoid elimination against the St. Louis Cardinals and two more to put away the Detroit Tigers.
The Giants were a good road team all season, with a 46-35 record during the regular season that was only two games off their 48-33 mark at home. What’s eye-catching is the way they went about it. At home, they scored 308 runs and allowed 272; on the road, they scored 410 runs and allowed 377.
At first glance, that’s Jekyll-and-Hyde stuff. Just double their home totals, and their 616 runs scored and 544 runs allowed would be far below the league averages of 683 and 690 (the discrepancy between average runs scored and average runs allowed is because of interleague play). Just double their road totals, and their offense would be far above average at 820 runs, but their runs allowed also would be above the norm at 754.
The difference between calculating Jekyll at home and explosive Hyde on the road is mostly the effects of their ballpark. On ESPN.com’s list of park factors, AT&T Park rates as the second-toughest hitters’ park in baseball, with a .737 park factor. That means the Giants and their opponents score only 73.7 percent as many runs there as in other parks. (Safeco Field in Seattle is the toughest with a .687 factor.)
The dimensions at AT&T are part of the difference, with the 421-foot distance in right-center a challenge for power hitters. Looking strictly at home runs, AT&T had a .522 park factor, making it the toughest home-run challenge in the majors. But tricky winds and cool San Francisco nights, even at the height of summer, also make a difference.
That there’s more than dimensions to park effects is a familiar concept to Chicagoans, who are used to Wrigley Field being a home-run haven when the wind is blowing out and easier on pitchers when it’s blowing in. But even when the wind is blowing in, Wrigley has short foul territory, meaning hitters get more second chances than in other parks.
Park effects are among the things sabermetricians take into account when trying to express player value in numbers. OPS by itself is just on-base percentage plus slugging percentage, but OPS-plus adjusts for park effects and normalizes to league average.
For example, the Giants’ Buster Posey posted a .957 OPS, which was 30 points behind the Milwaukee Brewers’ Ryan Braun, the National League leader among qualifiers. But the park adjustment works in favor of Posey, and his 172 OPS-plus tops Braun’s 159.
So it goes for the Giants’ offense. They scored 35 more runs than a league-average offense, but they were a much better hitting team than that reflects. Their home park just kept their offensive Hyde under wraps.