NL West offense rankings -- No. 3: Giants

NL West offense rankings -- No. 3: Giants
February 5, 2014, 12:30 pm
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Unfortunately for the Giants, they play half their games at AT&T Park. And that’s not the most compatible place to set up shop when your personnel appears better at thumping in runs than manufacturing them.
Andrew Baggarly

In just 71 games last season Angel Pagan hit .282 with five home runs, 30 RBI, and 44 runs. (USATI)

Over his final 56 games last season, Buster Posey hit .238 with one home run and 13 RBI. (USATI)

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SAN FRANCISCO – Last week’s tour through the NL West looked at the arms race between the five division rivals, with the Dodgers emerging as the strongest on paper ahead of the experienced Giants.

This week it’s all about the O.

The Padres, who scored the fewest runs among NL West clubs last year, checked in at No.5 in our rankings. The road-woeful Rockies, now in the post-Helton era, came in at No.4.

We’re continuing the countdown with the projected No.3 offense in the division:

SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

- Who’s new: OF Michael Morse
- Who’s gone: OF Andres Torres, 1B Brett Pill, OF Francisco Peguero, C Johnny Monell, OF Jeff Francoeur, IF/OF Kensuke Tanaka.

- 2013 average (NL rank):                                     .260 (4th)
- 2013 on-base percentage (NL rank):                 .320 (7th)
- 2013 slugging (NL rank):                                   .381 (12th)
- 2013 runs/game (NL rank):                               3.88 (10th)
- 2013 home runs (NL rank):                                 107 (14th)

Projected lineup: CF Angel Pagan, 2B Marco Scutaro, 1B Brandon Belt, C Buster Posey, RF Hunter Pence, 3B Pablo Sandoval, LF Michael Morse, SS Brandon Crawford.

OUTLOOK:

Who cares that the Giants hit the second fewest home runs in the NL last year? They finished dead last in that category in 2012, and that didn’t stop them from winning the World Series. (They were the first team to do so since the 1985 Cardinals.)

[BAGGARLY: Position battles: Bullpen, utility infielder, fifth outfielder]

Ah, but the power-challenged Giants had two things going for them in 2012 that were missing last season: A healthy Pagan atop the lineup, and Melky Cabrera’s chemically enhanced talents in the No.2 spot. They lacked that dynamism as defending champs, and their fortunes dropped like a ski jump the moment Pagan went to the DL with a major hamstring injury following his walk-off, inside-the-parker May 25.

Pagan’s health will be just as critical this year (he’s played 125 games in a season just twice in his career, by the way), but the Giants do appear to have the personnel for a different offensive philosophy. Morse and Pence should put on a golfing gorilla exhibition in batting practice, a fitter Sandoval should be capable of at least 25 home runs and it’s not impossible to think that Posey and Belt could approach 90 doubles between them.

More extra-base power is a good thing because the Giants don’t feature a lot of speed, although Pence can be opportunistic on the bases and Pagan looked to be recovered from his hamstring surgery in an impressive September return.

It’s a pretty safe bet that Posey won’t repeat his second half (.244, two home runs) from last season, either.

Unfortunately for the Giants, they play half their games at AT&T Park. And that’s not the most compatible place to set up shop when your personnel appears better at thumping in runs than manufacturing them.

[REWIND: Giants like sight of slimmed-down Sandoval]

It’s easy to overlook that the Giants had the NL’s best road offense in 2012, and they still ranked fifth despite coming back to earth last year. At home, they’ve ranked 12th in the NL in runs per game each of the past two seasons. That was good enough when they had the pitching to win 2-1 on the shores of McCovey Cove. It didn’t fly so well last season.

ANALYSIS: The Giants have a pretty solid middle with Posey, Pence and a potentially monster walk year from Sandoval. But it’s the lack of depth that places the Giants’ offense below the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. Marco Scutaro seemed to age a decade last season, and if that trend continues, the Giants probably wouldn’t relish the thought of Joaquin Arias or Tony Abreu in an everyday role. Morse is coming off a wrist injury, and you don’t need to be Mark DeRosa or Jayson Werth to know what a specter that can be. It’s never a good idea to bank on Pagan playing 150 games. And if the Giants do sustain injuries in the outfield … well, Gregor Blanco is a terrific role player but you don’t want to ask too much of him. Don’t look for help from the farm, either. Poseys don’t grow on trees.

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